Akwaaba 2016 brings new dimension to the African travel industry with its series of conferences and new offerings. ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA writes on the preparation for this year’s travel and tourism trade exhibition in Lagos. Preparation for this year’s Akwaaba Africa Travel Market, a yearly travel and tourism trade exhibition, is on top gear as the organisers of the event strategise to deliver on its 12th edition, which comes with a lot of promises and new offers for the travel industry in Africa, which is its fulcrum. The event, which is a three-day affair is billed to hold between October 30 and November 1 while the Expo Hall of the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, its traditional home since inception remains the venue where exhibitors, destinations, buyers and suppliers of travel and different stakeholders and experts of travel from across the Africa continent would gather to network and feast on the rich and vast tourism broth of the continent. Largely promoted as the spot where the world meets Africa, the organisers, Akwaaba Travel Market (ATM), are confident and upbeat about the potential of this year’s event, which they said would be a great improvement on past editions as it would be dedicated to celebrating the best of Africa travel even as it has introduced a new dimension to the three days event.
Besides the exhibition this year by the different exhibiting destinations and companies, which promises glitz and excitement as the exhibitors compete for the attention of the buyers and travelling public attending the event, the organisers have introduced a new dimension to the conference aspect of the travel market, which usually attracts a lot of interest from the people. Headlining the newly improved outlook of the conference is what they have tagged the maiden edition of Africa Travel and Tourism Conference, which is aimed at delivering knowledge and exposing the people to the new trends and different aspects of the travel industry globally with a series of conferences and noted speakers from across the industry expected to share their experiences and knowledge of the industry. Speaking on this new development, the head of Akwaaba Travel Market organising team, Mrs. Rita Ikechi-Uko, expressed delight over the prospects of the conference session. She said that it would hopefully be a catalyst that would propel the industry to great heights and galvanise the operators to taking advantage of the benefits of the shared knowledge and exposure to the new trends in the industry. “I am delighted about the prospects of this new dimension we are adding to the travel exhibition this year. We are passionate about catalysing change in the tourism and travel landscape in Africa. This new aspect will definitely be an eye opener for many of the delegates and guests and will position Africa on the path of global relevance on most current information in the sector,” said Ikechi Uko.
According to her, “speakers during the Travel and Tourism Conference will be addressing topics dealing with issues such as Travel in Africa: Aviation and Immigration a needed Symbiosis, Immigration as a Catalyst for Growth of Travel and Tourism in Africa. “The state of aviation in Africa, the state of tourism in Africa, the internet and future of travel in Africa, Tourism Planning: a needed tool for sustainable tourism development, hotel standardisation and classification as a tool for tourism growth, and meeting, incentives, conventions and events in Africa, among other topics.” She also said that the series of travel conference that would hold on the second day of the exhibition would be opened only to hosted buyers, delegates and tourism practitioners. She explained that the restriction was because it is an industry based conference only meant for the practitioners as this is an opportunity for all knowledge seekers in area of tourism, travel, aviation and hospitality to satisfy their quest. Given the trend of Akwaaba since its first debuted, Ikechi-Uko said that it had grown from been just an exhibition platform only but rather an encompassing platform offering people different options from display, marketing and promotion, networking, dispensing knowledge and empowerment.
“Akwaaba is emerging as not only an exhibition but also a learning and empowerment opportunity. Global experts, like Dr. Auliana Poon of Tourism Intelligence International, one of the biggest names in travel and tourism research in the world, Eran Ketter, an Israeli communication and media expert and a guru on destination branding, Paul Cohen as well as Bob Bamgboye, a hotel digital exponent, have in the past been lead speakers at Akwaaba.” Furthermore, she revealed that African Travel Market is the only international travel fair in West Africa, with a population of 270 million people; 15 countries; numerous airports; and the largest number of travellers in Africa. “Over the years, Akwaaba Travel Market has grown to become the most important travel marketing platform in the region drawing attendance from over 7,000 to 10,000 visitors from 20 countries. “This Travel Fair not only boasts a large amount of visitors but also excels in the promotion of the exhibitors from the region’s leading hotels, airlines, travel agents, tour operators and similar industry suppliers who participates in the event. “A vibrant must attend three days Business to Business (B2B) event presenting a diverse range of destinations to Africa and international travel professionals. It is a unique opportunity for African travel trade market to meet, negotiate, network and conduct businesses with players from elsewhere,” she said.
Akwaaba enjoys the official stamp of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) as the only government approved travel exhibition in Nigeria, listed by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a partner event of Africa Travel Association (ATA) and the only member of ITTFA in West Africa with Tour Operators Union of Ghana, the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents, African Business Travel Association and the Nigeria Association of Tour Operators, all endorsing it.