Tourism: Finally Akwaaba Has Fully Matured – Ikechi Uko
To put together an annual programme in the magnitude of AKWABAA the African Travel Market is no mean feat! Ikechi Uko can tell you that much! But he has been doing it over the years. Few hours after the successful hosting this year, we cornered Ikechi Uko to tell us his view of AKWAABA 2018.
What can you say about this year’s AKWAABA?
We are excited that it went well and it was a big success.
Why do you think that it was a big success?
The truth is that I don’t know. I can’t claim to know but maybe it is because we continued with the things that we know how best to do.
This year one noticed a bigger level of government participation. What can you say about that?
Yes, I think that is one part of the success for this year’s AKWAABA. We had government participation, more people, more excitement and I think that the market is more ready for Akwaaba, it has matured on both sides, the exhibitors are more excited and the buyers that is the visitors are even more excited. Let me just say that the market is more martured and ready for AKWAABA now. That is the way to see it.
There was also the participation of Dubai, South Africa and other countries, what does the traffic between Nigeria and Dubai look like these days?
Dubai is still the biggest bloc for Nigerians. From what we know, it is said unofficially that close to 300,000 Nigerians visit Dubai. More than 20 flights from Nigeria terminate in Dubai. There is no flight to Dubai from Nigeria that doesn’t have good number of passengers. So it is only wise for Dubai to come and get more feel of the travel market in Nigeria. But this time around, they said that they came to do courtesy call on their customers which was okay for us.
What do you think the outcome of AKWAABA will be on Calabar Carnival, do you see the good outing rubbing off on the carnival this year?
It is not just calabar carnival, there were a lot of tour operators and youth travel organizations this year at AKWAABA and most of them sold off their different tour and travel packages. You know when you do your sale pitch today, there will be fall out later on. So what we got this time around was that, for the first time, we were engaging and engaging properly.
So definitely we are going to sit back, follow up and expect our results. We had a big response from many Nigerian tourism operators. You know before, we used to have the international exhibitors outnumber us, but this year, we had more Nigerians to show some balance.
One also noticed that there is now a lot more young people in tourism today, at least AKWAABA revealed that…
Yes, these are the future of tourism in Nigeria so I am excited that the youths have taken up AKWAABA as their own product. When we started, we had the opportunity to go to World Travel Market but most of these youths have no opportunity to go to the World Travel Market, so AKKWABA provides them that opportunity to meet the people and expose themselves. It is indeed very gladdening to see that they have taken advantage of this opportunity.
This time around you added a tour to the programme. Any special reason?
Last year we did a city tour, usually when visitors come to your country, it is necessary to show them around. So what we are doing is to make the visitors know more about Lagos and this is courtesy of the Lagos State Government.
So your last word?
I am happy that the people of Nigeria have finally found the need to embrace a travel expo that is taking place in their own country. And I am happy that finally we can claim that we have created a real international travel expo in Nigeria.
I am also happy that Lagos State has shown that it is possible to create tourism in Nigeria. Usually, it is only Cross River State that shows interest in tourism. But this year, we had other states showing interest. So there has been improvement and change in AKWAABA this year.
By Paul Ukpabio