By Emeka Anokwuru
The Akwaaba African Travel Market has continued to provide the plank for tourism stakeholders to do realtime business with their counterparts in West Africa, in other to sustain the leading role of the industry as an important economic indicator. Director General of the National Council of Arts and Culture, Olusegun Runsewe said while declaring open the 13th edition of the travel market at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos that the brand has become a reference point by practitioners in the continent. Runsewe applauded the organisers of Akwaaba for building and sustaining a big brand in Africa while calling for support for the Akwaaba Travel show in future, and the need for travel and tourism stakeholders to tap into the even to grow the sector.
He stated that Nigeria will soon give oil a break as culture would now become the country’s new oil power. Runsewe disclosed that the NCAC, will be taking the country’s culture commissioners to Dubai to understudy how the country was able to reposition their culture as foreign exchange earner, as part of efforts to deepen Nigeria’s cultural offerings.
The event opened with an exciting Jollof rice contest between chefs from Nigeria and Ghana who slugged it out to determine the country that cooks the best Jollof rice in West Africa.
Speaking also, the permanent secretary, Lagos state ministry of tourism, Mr. Ashimi Jamiu Adewale, stated that Lagos state government is investing a lot in the area of tourism, environment and improvement of infrastructure to promote the growth of tourism in the state.
Mr Jamiu said the strategy wss aimed at promotion which is why the state is also participating in the Akwaaba African Travel Market.
He explained that the proposed post-event city tour of Lagos is aimed at showcasing the beauty of Lagos and to take guests to places of interest to enable them discover, first hand, the hidden treasures of the city of Lagos.
In his opening remarks, the organiser of the event, Ikechi Uko said the need to create a tourism brand in Africa informed his decision to start Akwaaba African Travel Market.
Uko explained that Akwaaba which started 13 years ago with only six exhibitors has remained the only travel trade event that is solely private sector driven and without hosted buyers, taking place in Nigeria annually.
He commended Lagos state government for staging a come back at Akwaaba after a long absence. Uko said that Lagos state will be taking the guests and others visitors at the event on a city tour to show them places of interest in the state on Wednesday after the Akwaaba event on Tuesday.
He said the jollof rice contest is not actually a competition, but designed to create something unique in that staple food eaten and prepared in various ways in West Africa.
He said that there are 25 versions of jollof rice in West Africa.
Uko said for the Jollof contest, nine of the chefs came from Ghana while 17 camefrom Nigeria. The event featured beautiful dance steps from the energetic Rwandan dancers who added glitz and glamour to the evening.
The beautiful Calabar carnival queens who performed all through the 3-day exhibition added beauty to the event with their exquisitely colourful costumes and the Jollof contest where the judges who were not from both Nigeria and Ghana went round to taste the rice from the chefs from the competing countries.
Although the organiser said the Jollof rice contest was not a competition indeed, guests and others at the event eagerly awaitedfor the result of the contest, to find out the champion or the country whose recipe won popular votes. Kenyan Captain Irene Muting, first African flight Captain was appointed the chief judge of the unique event. The Aviation Day recorded a large turnout as guests sat to listen to Mr. Gbenga Olowo, and other experts discuss current issues affecting the sector in relation to safety of travel. For them 2016 was the safest year in Africa as it did not record any accident. There was also a youth segment where Youth Tourism was ex-rayed and unlike the challenges faced by upstaters, today’s opportunities provide soft landing for the youth to carry on tourism business. Some of the countries that exhibited at the fair include Kenya, Dubai, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Nigeria.
The 13th edition of the Akwaaba African Travel Market opened on Sunday, September 10 and ended on Monday September 12, in Lagos at the Eko Hotel and Suites with a colourful ceremony attended by stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry in West Africa.