Tourism: Again, West African travel business pushes ahead at Accra Weizo
Once again, the annual Accra Weizo, a two-day travel expo, has taken the campaign for seamless travel, vibrant tourism exchanges, trade integration, and open skies across the West African region to a new achievable height.
For the first time in the history of aviation in West Africa, Accra Weizo, was able to get the top three airlines in the region to discuss and commence action on interlining process.
Now in its fourth edition, the travel expo, which held at La Palm Beach Resort, Accra Ghana, took off on a good note with earlier tours to the Volta and Eastern regions of Ghana.
Sponsored by the Ghana Tourism Authority, the tours exposed over 50 guests, including tour operators from across West Africa, travel media, tourism marketing boards and government officials to Ho, a tranquil and scenic city; Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, where nature, wildlife and man live in harmony; the humongous Akosombo Dam that presents itself as a construction wonder, among other destinations.
However, June 22, 2018, the first day of the expo, which happened to be the aviation day, witnessed a fantastic opening by Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Ghanaian minister for Aviation.
In line with the theme of the day “Harnessing the Opportunities in Aviation Value Chain in West Africa”, the minister noted that the theme was a reflection of collective responsibility of the ECOWAS region to advance the frontiers of the aviation industry through air connectivity. “Air connectivity is key to unlocking a country’s economic growth potential, as it enables the country to attract business investment and human capital. An increase in air connectivity also spurs tourism, which is vital to many countries’ economic prosperity”, she said.
While commending the organisers of the event for offering travel professionals in the region the platform to brainstorm, the minister urged for the implementation of key initiatives such as the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) on “Open Skies” as well as ECOWAS Treaty on Free Movement of People among others.
Later, panelists at the Aviation Day gave participants reasons to be proud of their participation as they discussed and proffered solutions to topical issues affecting the aviation sector in the region. From Alex Nwuba, managing director, Smile Aviation, Richard Kyereh, managing director, African World Airlines (AWA), Ghana, Ado Sanusi, managing director of Aero Contractors Airlines, Chike Ogeah, vice president, SAHCOL, to others, the aviation experts called for the review of aviation charges and implementation of open skies across the region.
But the biggest gain of the first day and probably of the entire travel expo was the agreement by some of the airlines to give the interlining process a second chance.
“I think interlining is the way to go. We are interlining with Arik now, I have also started interlining with Med-View, I hope to interline with African World Airline and with a lot of airlines in the region. I am talking with the bank, particularly Zenith Bank to see if they can create a platform for airlines to accept tickets from passengers from other airlines, and seamlessly payment reconciliation with the all parties including the guaranteeing bank”, Aero Contractor MD said.
On the other hand, Alex Nwuba blamed the lack of interlining to issues of trust, but promised to offer a platform that will help ease the process of interlining and payment reconciliation as IATA Clearing House barely works in the region.
As well, the hospitality section of the event, which paraded industry giants such as Paul Kavanagh, general manager, Golden Tulip Accra, Didier Bayeye, marketing executive at Sun International South Africa, among others, called for the need to improve on hospitality services and products offering and equipping hospitality professionals with the right skills and certifications.
The second day, June 23rd, offered more highlights as panel of discussants tackled issues on the theme, Travel, Tourism and the Internet. They delved into the effectiveness of travel bloggers, travel writers and influencers in the promotion of travel destinations in West Africa. The panelists, who truly challenged themselves and after objective arguments, agreed that influencers, bloggers and travel writers are very important in promoting destinations in the region.
But they unanimously agreed that the future of travel in West Africa lies online, hence stakeholders should rebrand, retool and get all it takes to play online in order not to be left out. For them, online offers cheaper publicity, wider reach, global networking and easy entry for starters in travel business.
Another highlight of the event was Balafon Awards given to personalities and organizations that distinguished themselves in their services across the region.
The 2018 winners include; Stella Fubara Director Africa, Dubai Tourism as Travel Personality of the Year in West Africa, Air Peace as Best Airline in West Africa, Cecilia Dappah, Minister of Aviation Ghana as Aviation Minister of the Year West Africa, Uloma Egbuna, MD, Tour Brokers international Nigeria as Tourism Man of the Year in West Africa among others.
Speaking on his impression on this year’s event, Ikechi Uko, publisher of African Quarterly Magazine, the organiser of the travel expo, noted Accra Weizo 2018 lived up to expectation as over 300 participants graced the two-day event not just for attendance sake but gained, networked, and sealed some business transactions with many follow-ups.
For him, one of the biggest gains of the event was the discussion and commencement of action on interlining process by top three airlines in West Africa on the platform of Accra Weizo.
Uko promised a better and bigger event next year and even more exciting tours to other regions in Ghana.
Some of the entertainment packages at the event, which hosted Lagos State from Nigeria, for the first time, are the breathtaking performances by Carnival Calabar, Accra Queens among others.
by OBINNA EMELIKE