Africa: Top Promoters of Tourism and Travel in West Africa honored at Accra Weizo

By Renn Offor

In an event that attracted the crème de la crème in tourism in West Africa the organizers of Accra Weizo, an ECOWAS region travel expo has unveiled Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa at Accra, Ghana. The ceremony was held on Friday, May 26th 2017 at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana.

“The Top 100 Tourism Personalities was set up to recognize individuals who have distinguished themselves and through their efforts or that of their organizations have impacted positively on the travel and tourism sector across the West African sub region, whose efforts have stimulated and helped to achieve their individual country’s tourism goals and forging interactions among stakeholders and customers across the region”, says Mr. Ikechi Uko, organizer of the awards.

While the Balafon Awards was instituted 2009 by the publishers of ATQNews, the Balafon Awards Committee made up of Travel Professionals and Journalists from across West Africa had earlier met and shortlisted Nominees. The award was set up to recognize individuals and organizations that have excelled in Tourism and Travel and who also have contributed to the growth of Hotels Business, Tourism and Travels in West Africa.

The event was graced by his royal highness, Nene Nagai Kassa VIII, Honourable Mike A. Gizo, Chief of Agomeda, and President of Shai Traditional; members of the diplomatic Corps in Ghana and which included high commissioners and ambassadors, among whom are Lulu Xingwana, High Commissioner, South African High Commission in Accra – Ghana; Mr. Thomas Okyere, the Honorary Consul, Botswana Honorary Consulate in Accra – Ghana; Ambassador Pavelyn Tendai Musaka, Zimbabwe Embassy in Accra – Ghana and Mwansa S. Rowland, Deputy High Commissioner for Zambia High Commission in Accra-Ghana. The Namibian Ambassador and the Nigerian High Commissioner were also in Attendance.

The ambassadors and high commissioners were honoured with the Awards of Recognition for their outstanding roles in driving travel and tourism between their countries and West Africa.

Ghana’s former tourism ministerThe Chairman of the event is one of Ghana’s finest and most versatile former tourism minister, Nene Nagai Kassa VIII, Honourable Mike A. Gizo, Chief of Agomeda, and President of Shai Traditional.

In his speech he called on stakeholders and practitioners in the travel and tourism industry in Ghana to seek progressive knowledge towards moving the industry forward by attending travel fairs, while urging them to support Accra Weizo, an ECOWAS travel fair which holds in Accra, Ghana annually.

Honourable Mike Gizo made this remark as he was concerned about the low turnout of Ghanaian tour operators and travel agents  at the 3rd Accra Weizo.

“Every great tree started as a small seed. People should learn to appreciate and associate with great gestures while it is still very small or in its formative stages.

We used to have the African Travel Association (ATA) based in America. For most of our events we have to travel to America. When we get to their office, all the correspondents are from America. I got worried and began to write to fellow Africans to stimulate it in Africa. But many of them were not participating.

The royal father appreciated the support of the Ghana Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts towards this year’s event. “We need to encourage ourselves as Africans to develop Africa”, he concluded

The winners include  Leeford Quarshie, General Manager, La Villa Boutique Hotel Accra – Ghana, Hazel Gumpo, General Manager, Oak Plaza Hotel, Accra Ghana; Dr. Felix Anyah, General Manager, Holy Trinity & Spa, Accra Ghana.

Top 100 PersonalitiesThe list also included Nana Dwomoh Brobbey, Chief Executive Officer, Capital View Hotel Ghana; Mr. Nicolas J. Gebara, Fund Manager, Busac Fund Ghana; Gilbert Abeiku Aggrey, Chief Executive Officer, Strategic Communications, Ghana; Mrs. Bella Ahu, Managing Director, Bella Travels Ghana; Manish Nambiar, General Manager, Kempinski Gold City Hotel Accra Ghana; Nancy Sam Quartey, Chief Executive Officer, Staples Travel & Tours, Accra Ghana; Daniel Mckorley, Chief Executive Officer,  McDan Shipping Company Accra Ghana; Roman Krabel; General Manager, Accra City Hotel, Accra – Ghana, and Sajid Khan, General Manager, Tang Palace Hotel, Accra – Ghana, among several others.

They also include Dr. Michael Pinder, Managing Director, Sun Heavens Hotel & Resort, Stella Fubara – Obinwa, Director Africa International Operations of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing, received the Balafon award of the Travel Personality of The Year in West Africa and also the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa.

Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, Accra – Ghana carted away the Balafon’s Best Hotel in West Africa while ASKY Airlines received the award for the Best Airline in West Africa.

Others awardees on the list of Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa includes Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Chairman, SAHCOL; Mr. Chike Ogeah, Vice Chairman, SAHCOL; Mr. Rizwan Kadri, Managing Director, SAHCOL; Pastor (Mrs.) Silifat Omolaja Lawal, Managing Director/CEO, God’s Power Travel Agency Limited, and  Mr. Gabriel Olowo, President/CEO, Sabre Network NMC, West Africa.

Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, Chairman, Remlords Tours & Car Hire Services; Mrs. Uloma Egbuna, Managing Director, Tour Brokers International (TBI), and Mr. Okata Allwell, Managing Director/CEO, Planet Resources Limited; Mr. Samson Fatokun, Regional Manager IATA South – West Africa

Also Mr. Simon Grindrod, General Manager, The Wheatbaker Lagos; Judith N. Ogedengbe, Managing Director/CEO, HBC Resort Jos;  Mr. Lehlohonolo Pitso, Regional Manager West Africa, South African Tourism; Mr. Daisi Olotu, Managing Director/CEO Dees Travels and Tours Limited Lagos – Nigeria; Mr. Gabe Onah, Chairman, Cross River State Carnival Commission, Cross River – Nigeria;

Mr. Frank Nneji, Managing Director/CEO, ABC Transport PLC, Nigeria; Mr. Abiola Lawal, Managing Director,; Mr. Kola Olayinka, Regional Commercial Manager West Africa, British Airways; Mr. Steve D. F. Isokariari, Chairman, Board of Trustees, NANTA; Ohaeto Street, by Sovida Hotel, D/Line, Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Funmi Rotiba, Special Tours and Travels Limited.

Chiquita A. Johnson, CEO, West Tourism Management, Liberia; Mr. Henock Teferra Managing Director, ASKY Airlines, Togo; Mrs. Olanma Ojukwu, Managing Director GOTA Voyage Travels, Benin Republic;

“We started Weizo to promote seamless travel in West Africa”, says Mr. Ikechi Uko, the organizer of the event, in his remarks. “ECOWAS started in 1973 with similar vision. And 40 years after, not much have been achieved in that regard.

Ikechi sited that East Africa has launched a single passport that enables people from that region to travel round the region. Ghana has instituted visa on arrival. Benin has just joined. The problem with the development and growth of tourism in the sub region is the governments and the policy makers.

“The region has over 340 million people across 15 countries and about 40 airports yet the region remains far behind East Africa in development in the areas of travel and tourism. Entebe – Nairobi is the most route to travel in Africa; and Lagos – Accra is one of the most expensive routes to travel within in Africa”, Ikechi maintained.

Mr. Ikechi thanked the royal father for honouring the event as he also recognized A-Bay Tours, based in France but promoting tourism to West Africa and Nigeria and the Tour Operators that came from Outside West Africa from Uganda and South Africa.

Ambassador Nancy Sam Quartey the President of TOUGHA and Weizo Representative in Ghana, in her opening remarks took out time to appreciate all the various persons and organizations which partnered with the organizers to make this year’s event a very successful one. She specially thanked the various ambassadors and high commissioners representing foremost countries which have been at the forefront of driving sustained travel and tourism business in West Africa.

The high point of the event was the unveiling of the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in West Africa, the Balafon Award Winners and the Award of Recognition for the ambassadors and high commissioners.

Mr. Gabe Onah, Chairman of the Carnival Calabar Commission of Cross River State explained the need to create and explore new tourist attractions. Mr. Onah explained that as tourism practitioners, “We need to breat new grounds..

“Carnival Calabar could be that gateway for the development of tourism in Nigeria. Calabar Carnival could be the door of return for Africans in diaspora. Calabar is an acronym for Come And Live And Be At Rest”! Mr. Gabe ended his speech.

Carnival Calabar Queens, from Cross River State Nigeria sent the audience wild with excitement as they entertained. Ghanaian Drum dancers equally entertained too.

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