Akwa Ibom State Gubernatorial flag bearer of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Umo Bassey Eno has hinted on his plans to reposition the state’s tourism sector to become a world class tourism destination in Africa, adding that tourism will make Akwa Ibom a sustainable and competitive destination.
Speaking at the maiden edition of the “Akwa Ibom State Tourism Roundtable 2022”, with theme, “Akwa Ibom State: Succeeding in the Land of Limitless Possibilities”, held at the Watbridge Hotel Uyo, on Tuesday, Pastor Bassey Eno, who also unveiled a tourism and hospitality entrepreneurial fund, named after him, also pledged the sum of 5million naira as seed fund for the development of “Akwa Ibom Tourism Blueprint 2023”, informing that the proposed Tourism Blueprint will facilitate the building of a thriving visitor economy in the state.
He noted that the proposed Tourism Blueprint (masterplan) will look at the ‘big picture’ of providing a workable strategic document that will bring individual strategies together to serve the vision of building a world-class tourism destination that would create jobs with a view to growing the economy of the state.
The gubernatorial candidate reiterated the need to focus on the tourism and hospitality industry, while lamenting the slow pase of development at the tourist sites in the state, just as he promised to develop the coastal and marine tourism potentials to attract foreign exchange to the state.
According to Pastor Eno, tourism will be developed in Akwa Ibom to the level of becoming the mainstay of the state’s economy, stressing that the
incoming administration will leverage on state owned Ibom Air as a veritable vehicle for tourism development.
He said the PDP administration will harness the rich cultural heritage of the people, with a view to marketing Akwa Ibom as a preferred destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition (MICE) in Africa.
He appealed to the management team of the Akwa Ibom State Hotel Management and Tourism Board to continue to galvanise the private sector and collate relevant statistics of all hospitality facilities across the state in a bid to conduct proper grading of such facilities particularly the hotels, in addition to training of personnel in the sector, ranging from taxi drivers, keke riders, boat operators, restaurants and bar operators among others for certification.
Also speaking, the gubernatorial candidate of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Dr. Eyo Ekong, blamed the low patronage of hotels, restaurants and bars, among other tourism and hospitality facilities in the state on what he described as stigmatisation of our cultural arts as satanic.
Dr. Ekong maintained that the tourism and hospitality sector has the highest capacity in employment, occupational engagement and domestic wealth creation. “The cultural and creative cultural art have been tagged as being fetish, hence our cultural arts, our sports, our medicine, our dance, our religion and our medicals that should create the ‘come and see, and pay’ effect on our visitors and tourists is not encouraged, such that our culture, hotel and leisure tourism have been denied patronage in revenue”, he lamented.
He said he intends to put in place a demand creating tourism strategy as intermediation for these cultural products in a bid to make tourism a great wealth creation tool, and to undertake interventions to resolve a high product mobility and stability and price standardisation, thereby introducing acts of labelling and branding.
“Carefully note that our state is blessed with vast products of trade and occupation”, the APM gubernatorial candidate observed.
In his address, Chairman of the Akwa Ibom Hotel Management and Tourism Board, Sir Ini Akpabio said the state is endowed with all year round clement weather condition, hospitable people, lush vegetation, rich cultural heritage, beautiful beaches, natural undulating landscapes, fertile arable lands, salivating cuisines, tourist attractions, good road network, infrastructure, standard hospitality outfits, peaceful ambiance and secure environment.
Sir Akpabio, commended the state governor, His Excellency, Udom Emmanual for creating an enabling environment for the tourism sector to thrive.
He enumerated the Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort, the 4 Points Sheraton, the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Victor Attah International Airport, the Tropicana Entertainment Centre, the Dakkada Smart Building, International Worship Centre, E-Library and the state owned Ibom Air as very impactful infrastructures on the tourism sector.
The board chairman hinted on efforts by the board to come up with a tourism roadmap which comes with a database to capture all hospitality outfits, with unique identification numbers assigned to each outfit to give the tourism and hospitality sector a new direction, in addition to establishing a training programme for all hospitality personnel in line with global best practices.
While appreciating the private sector for its immerse contribution to the development of the tourism industry, the board chairman, said the board was keen in ensuring that all practitioners in the industry were made to belong to an association for effective synergy to achieve set goals.
He disclosed that two bills that will provide the enabling legal framework for the protection of heritage sites, as well as address the issues of funding for the tourism sector outside direct government’s involvement, were already passed into law by the State House of Assembly, awaiting the governor’s assent, pointing out that after agriculture and government, the tourism and hospitality sector employs the most.
The National President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Mr Nkerewuem Onung, in his brief remark said Akwa Ibom state, having such high level of infrastructural development, in addition to the rich cultural heritage, the cuisine and the efficiency of the Ibom Air fleet, the state has everything it takes to become the tourism capital of Nigeria.
He said that what the state needed most was to come up with a robust tourism marketing strategy to amplify the onging promotional initiatives for the deliberate marketing of the tourist sites and festivals through proper planning and packaging, adding that with the operational efficiency being demonstrated by the Ibom Air, one can attend an event in Lagos and return same day to Uyo.
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Olatoye Durosinmi, in his remark, hinted that his command has created permanent phone numbers for all Divisional Police Headquarters among cadre officers across the state to enable members of the public contact the police whenever the need arises, informing that every DPO will have the security line.
He also said Akwa Ibom state will be hosting Police Games, maintaining that stste has remained the safest state in the country, just as he appealed to tourists and visitors to take advantage of the peaceful atmosphere to come and enjoy themselves without fear, saying that the tourism potentials in state can sustain the economy when fully developed and exploited.
Chairman, Central/Working Committee of the Akwa Ibom Tourism Roundtable 2022, Mr. Usen Udoh (Amb,P), who also doubles as MD/CEO of Legacy Tourism Development Services Ltd, in his well researched paper titled: “Sustainable Tourism Development: Key to Akwa Ibom State Holistic Development”, described tourism as the king of all public businesses as well as the world’s fastest growing economic sector.
Mr. Udoh maintained that: “Tourism is essential to achieving the general objectives of the socio-economic development of Akwa Ibom in the areas of job creation, infrastructural development, management of the cultural and natural heritage as well strengthening the true identity of the people of the state.
He explained that the objectives of the Akwa Ibom Tourism Roundtable 2022 were to bring together tourism stakeholders to a roundtable discussion on how best to move the industry forward, with a view to providing opportunities for collaboration and networking among stakeholders through cross fertilisation of business ideas concerning the travel and tourism sector of the state’s economy, in addition to make recommendation to the government on possible areas of partnerships and collaboration with the private sector.
Earlier, in his paper, titled, “Boundless Opportunities in Tourism Development”, Mr. Joseph Etem, highlighted sports tourism, medical tourism, aviation tourism, infrastructural landmarks, arts and culture, cuisine (local delicacies), and entertainment as sub-sectors that have defined Akwa Ibom as a preferred destination under the Udom Emmanual led-administration.
According to Mr. Etem, “the critical and transformational roles of tourism in boosting foreign earnings and rapid socio-economic development in society are well documented all the world”, adding that: “Some cities are without any natural endowments, but on depend only on their tourist sites, have transformed such sites financially empower the economy to cater for their needs”.
He concluded that: “Taking into consideration the sectors highlighted above, Gov. Udom Emmanual whose thought pattern synchronises with that of Arancha Gonzalez, who sees tourism as a major driver of poverty reduction in developing countries, has hit the bulls eye by his deliberate investment in projects and programmes aimed at boosting the tourism sector in Akwa Ibom State”.
Earlier, Joseph Utin (MITPN), in his keynote address, titled: “Succeeding in the Land of Limitless Possibilities” identified inaccessibility to tourist sites, non challant attitude of some host communities, encroachment by poachers/hunter into virgin forests, massive deforestation, chemical run off/oil spillages into water bodies, with particular reference to the “Ukanafun Blue River” have negatively impacted on the tourism sector in the state.
Mr. Utin, who reiterated the urgent need for the development of a tourism masterplan to properly guide the development and promotion of the tourism sector, also emphasised the inputs of critical stakeholders in the preparation of the tourism masterplan, saying that they should be incorporated in the drafting of such a strategic tourism masterplan to make the document useful to the industry players.
He observed that: “As the world is winding down on oil and sourcing for alternative income in generating assets, it is time to look inwards and and deliberately invest in our rich and robust cultural, historical assets and ecology”.
Highpoint of the Akwa Ibom Tourism Roundtable 2022, was the conferment of various awards of recognition to deserving persons and organisations, with the President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, conferred with “Tourism Personality 2022 Award”, the State Commissioner of Police, CP Olatoye Durosinmi, was honoured with “Most Tourism Friendly Police Commissioner 2022”. the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Governor of Bayelsa State on Tourism, Hon. Piriye Kiyaramo, was honoured as “Mr Tourism”, for his valuable contributions to tourism development, Ime Eseme Essien of Flair Decor Integrated Service, received “Tourism Friendly and Most Elegant Decor Emporium 2022 Award”, Mrs Patricia Ubiak, from ‘Much More’, bagged “Best Casual/Detailed Dinning Restaurant 2022 Award”, Chief, Dr. Effiong Afiakurue, got “Best Tourism Investor Lifetime Achievement Award”, while the GM of Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort, Mr Charles Muia bagged “Best Independent Hotel and Golf Resort 2022 Award”.
Dr. Eyo Ekong, an Agro Economist and Gubernatorial Candidate of Allied Peoples Movement, APM, was honoured with “Tourism Friendly Special Recognition Award”, Aniekeme Finbarr, bagged “Tourism Friendly Icon Media Personality 2022 Award”, HRM Raymond Inyang, in Paramount Ruler in Onna Local Government Area, got “Royal Support for Tourism 2022 Award”, while Elder Benjamin Udobia, recieved “Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award”.
Jous Leisure company, was honoured with the “Best Domestic Tour Operator 2022 Award”, De Castle Luxury Home, bagged “Most Outstanding Luxury Hotel 2022 Award”, Laundry Lounge, got “The Melting Pot of All Lounge 2022 Award”, Ishaka Aliyu, recieved “Best Electonic Media Consultant Power House 2022 Award”, Monty Suites, bagged “Most Stellar Hotel Brand 2022 Award”, Ikot Abasi Local Government Area was recognised as the LGA with “Best Tourism Heritage Sites”, Emerald Event Center recieved “Best Event Center 2022 Award, DueWays Innovations, bagged “Most Creative and Innovative Brand Enhencer and Print House 2022 Award”, while “Tourism Best Cultural Festival Assemblage LGA 2022 Award” went to Urue Offong Oruko.
Other awardees included award: Johnny Nsikan (NSIK MOTORS), bagged “Best Transport Tourism Revolutionary Personality 2022 Award”, Michael Bush (The boss), received, “Most Varsatile Media Personality 2022 Award”, EFG EveryDay Food Group, got “Most Outstanding Food Company 2022 Award”, Oliver Twist, bagged “Best Premium Dinning Restaurant 2022 Award”, Famcraft Limited (Agro Tourism), was honoured with “Most Outstanding AgroTourism Company 2022 Award, Ndikeoduma, received “Most Outstanding Ethnic Restaurant & Bar 2022 Award, Watbridge Hotel &Suites, was conferred with “Best Hotel & Suites 2022 Award”, while EEJM Hotel &Suites, recieved “Most Consistent Customer Service and Courtesy Hotel &Suites 2022 Award”