BY OUR EDITOR
In 2005, travel and tourism expert, Ikechi Uko, hosted the maiden edition of the Akwaaba Africa Travel Market. An international travel, tourism and hospitality event organised yearly in Lagos, the event is aimed at businesses, investors, governments decision-makers and buyers in the industry, providing business opportunities, industry news and showcasing products in Africa and around the world.
But in what seems like a deliberate effort to promote domestic tourism in Nigeria, Uko established the Abuja Jabamah, which is now in its second edition. The idea is to create another platform for stakeholders in the travel and tourism sector to see ways of collaborating with each other, as well as encourage travels within the country.
Jabamah is a Fulani word for welcome.
The seventh edition of the event, which held November 18, at the Exhibition Hall of the International Conference Centre, Abuja, saw stakeholders reinstating their commitment towards the promotion of domestic tourism in Nigeria.
In his opening remarks, the founder, Ikechi Uko, thanked practitioners and stakeholders in the tourism industry for their support to the initiative, adding that their efforts were gradually yielding results.
“I want to specifically thank my wife and partner in this business for her understanding over the years. I also want to thank Otunba Olusegun Runsewe for his love and support for the industry. He remains the first government official to issue the first endorsement for Akwaaba. As the DG of NCAC, he’s been of great support to us. Chief Amakiri is the father of tourism in Nigeria and I’m happy that he’s here with us today. I’m grateful for all the support,” he said.
He pointed that one of the reasons for organising the event was to seek out leaders in the different aspects of the tourism industry in the country that can be relied upon by the government to make input in the tourism sector.
He said: “Nigeria has not had the benefit of grooming leaders in the sector, we decided to seek out leaders in different aspects of the industry. The day Nigeria decides to do tourism there is a pool of people to call to lead in the tourism sector.”
The event, which was attended by the High Commissioner of Ghana, his counterpart from Namibia, members of NATOP, DG National Park Service and others, also witnessed the induction of 100 deserving Nigerians into the Tourism 100 Club. It also featured B2B speed networking sessions, while specifically showcasing the tourism attractions of northern Nigeria.
Meanwhile, tour operators in Nigeria’s tourism industry and the Nigerian Park Service are cooperating to rekindle the enthusiasm for ecological sightseeing for tourists in the country.
With seven national parks located in different parts of the country, Nigerians are yet to fully utilise these facilities and explore the wildlife animals that could be seen in these parks.
Speaking at the event, Conservator-General of Nigeria National Park Service (NNPS), Ibrahim Goni, said wildlife lovers in the country need not travel to other African nations for their relaxation but only need to take advantage of the numerous recreational centres and wildlife parks in the country.
He stated that with the induction of the new awardees, National Park Service in the country is resolved to work with them to ensure that the parks in the country get maximum patronage from Nigerians.
“The young men and ladies here today have shown that they are desirous of promoting the Nigerian tourism sector. This is a new leaf in the arena of tourism and particularly ecological tourism. I am most encouraged by the commitment and pledges you have made during this event. You have all pledged to promote ecological tourism in Nigeria’s national Parks and I am assuring you that on the side of the National Park Service of Nigeria, the park will be open to anyone of you at any time. We look forward to you in promoting and packaging your tours to these parks.”
In his remarks, the Namibian High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency Humphrey Desmond Geiseb, commended the organisers for putting the tourism fair together adding that the continent can only do well if African countries collaborate amongst each other.
He said Namibia had in the past donated some wildlife animals to some Nigerian parks saying that country is looking forward to further strengthen the cooperation between Namibia and Nigeria.
“I want to tell the audience how happy I am as a Namibian, in the company of the leaders of the Nigerian Park Service. A few years ago, Namibia donated a few animals to Nigeria, and the head of the park service just told me that those animals are doing well in the Wangari Park. I am most definitely going to visit the Park and see some of those animals that Namibia has donated – the Zebras and Giraffes. Africa can only do well if we are working together. I look forward to see how we can further strengthen cooperation between our two countries,” Geiseb said.
Director General, Nigeria Council for Art and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, while commending the organisers for a successful event, said they have been able to put Nigeria on the tourism map over the years, adding that more countries will be participating next year as the event expands.
With a vision to drive domestic tourism in Nigeria, the initiative plays host to a huge travelling population, hotels, tour operators and travel agents, some of who were inducted into the 2019 batch of Nigeria’s Tourism 100 Club. With key focus on emerging leaders within the youth population, the 2019 inductees were made up of exceptional tourism promoters, including CEO’s, government officials, the media and exceptional employees of companies positioning Nigerian tourism to the world.
Supported by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Cabo Verde Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, NIHOTOUR and the Nigerian Park Service, this year’s Abuja Jabamah started with a special tour of the city of Abuja, which gave participants the opportunity to see the leisure part of the capital territory.
(with THE GUARDIAN)