The glitz and glamour of the World Travel Market held in London may have come and gone, but the event was an eye opener that African tourism remains a big force in world tourism as the continent’s representatives in unison said despite the Ebola epidemic in three West African States, nothing is going to stop tourism in Africa. Funke Olaode reports
The World Travel Market situated in Excel, East London has often been described as a place to showcase tourism and hospitality by stakeholders across the globe. And over the years, it has lived up to its expectation by parading the best. Between November 3 and 6, the world again converged on London to brainstorm on how to make the industry better.
Leading the Nigerian delegates was the Director-General of Nigerian Tourism and Development Corporationb(NTDC), Ms. Sally Mbanefo, and her team, Ogun State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Yewande Amusan, was also on ground to showcase her state tourism potential, Arik Air also registered their presence at the expansive yearly gathering.
At the event, Nigeria again proved herself as the giant of Africa as her stand stood tall amongst the African nations. These and many more remarkable successes were attributed to the current NTDC DG. Over the years, Nigeria had always been in the eyes of the world. Two years ago, it got international recognition from two independent global reports: the World Travel Market (WTM) 2012 industry reports and WTM Global Trends Reports carried out with Euromonitor International which described Nigeria as a potential powerhouse in the travel and tourism markets in the world.
The 2012 industry reports personally signed by WTM chairman, Fiona Jeffery, highlighted Nigeria as a viable travel and tourism destination. This was arrived at after thorough survey conducted by its experienced staff. Head of Tourism Research of Euromonitor International, Caroline Bremmel, revealed how Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, had placed the country on the world map. The 53 page report tagged “Africa-Destination-Nollywood”; Bremmel said Nollywood was the second largest in volume terms after Bollywood (India) and ahead of Hollywood (US) with over 2,000 films produced annually. Nollywood, according to the reports, is popular in many African countries while other important markets, it noted, are foreign markets with the vast Nigeria Diaspora overseas with significant numbers in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa.
Interestingly, the outbreak of Ebola in July sent shivers down the spines of many that Africa nay Nigeria may lose her place in the tourism sector. To assure the international communities that no Ebola could rub off the continent of its potential, for the first time ever, African delegates converged at Platinum Suite 6 where a joint press conference was addressed. Tagged ‘How big is the problem of Ebola in Africa for tourism,’ the gathering paraded key important figures from Africa. Again, Nigeria was represented by Mbanefo; Ghana was represented by its Minister for Tourism, Mrs. Elizabeth Ajari, and Mrs. Umaru Majar from Senegal. They all agreed that Africa is not a country but a continent. And it is high time to say that Nigeria is safe.
Posing questions on problems and successes so far on Ebola most especially on countries hit by the epidemic, Dr. Ron Behrens sought an overview of the situation on ground, how Nigeria tamed the Ebola monster and how other countries can learn from Nigeria’s pro-active measure.
On how Nigeria managed to be Ebola free, Mbanefo while noting that the World Health Organisation (WHO) on October 20 gave the country a clean bill of health, said it was a collective effort of individuals and corporate organisations and above all, pro-active government that cared about her people that brought Nigeria out of the Ebola virus epidemic. Telling the world the magic wand, Ms. Mbanefo gave Kudos to the late Dr. Stella Adedavoh for her refusal to release the importer of the virus, Patrick Sawyer, from First Consultant Hospital where he was being treated. The strategies such as contact tracing of passengers of Sawyer in the aircraft, instant emergency centers, screening at sea ports, borders, airports, doctors without borders, Nollywood actors, and the media played important roles in creating awareness and sanitizing the public.
“During the Ebola crisis, we had the Sango and Osun Osogbo festivals and other festivals across the country. Calabar festival, the largest street party in the continent is coming up in December. . We have rested Ebola in Nigeria, and we will continue to tame it as tourism continues to grow. Nothing will stop tourism in Africa,” Mbanefo said.
In her words, Ghana Minister for Tourism, Elizabeth Ajari, said Ghana has not recorded any single Ebola case. Nonetheless, Ajari said the country is not sitting down as measures are being put in place in case of any outbreak such as: isolation camps, doctors on standby. “Ghana as chair of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), all hands must be on deck because Ebola is not a Liberia issue but world issue. We are keeping logistics but not Ebola. We are encouraging people to come to Africa because we are promoting regional tourism so as tourists visit Ghana, they can also visit other countries. It is safe here in Africa,” Ajari said.
Corroborating Mbanefo on Nigeria’s effort in curtailing Ebola, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Ogun State, Mrs. Yewande Amosun, said Ogun State is next door to Lagos and all necessary measures are being put in place. “Ogun State has the longest borders with Africa, the borders are well monitored, volunteers are deployed, settings up of isolation camps in case of any outbreak and aggressive awareness have really helped the country.”
While enumerating unlimited treasures that can be found in Ogun State, Amusan said, Olumo Rock, a massive outcrop of granite rocks of primitive formation, which Abeokuta, the capital of the state derives its name from is a site to behold. What of indigenous tie and dye fabric markets-Kemta and Asero, the oldest Bible in Nigeria in Ake’s Palace, Ebute-Oni Tourist Beach, Yemoji Tourist Centre, Ojude Oba Festival, Lisabi Festival, these and many more are must see for any tourist visiting Nigeria.
While the international tour operators believe there would not be international tourists on the continent until Ebola is gone, Africa and Africans in the industry are of a different view.
Culled from ThisdayLive