The Akwa Ibom Commissioner of Tourism Orman Esin and his Information and Strategy counterpart Comrade Ini Ememobong have expressed appreciation and approval for the tourism offerings of Akwa Ibom, host of the 5th Nigerian Association of Tour Operators(NATOP) Annual General Meeting(AGM).
The unrestrained approval was given at the joint press organised with the leadership of NATOP in Uyo Akwa Ibom State on Thursday. last week.
According to Esin, “Akwa Ibom the real deal, we have the options for all types of tourism in Nigeria. We have the biggest hotel property in West Africa, consistent growth over the years. We knew that bringing Naija7Wonders group to our state in December for the Christmas Village will bring us the attention we needed. Now we have secured the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the strongest promoters of Tourism in Nigeria. We are your partners and will grow tourism together. The Governor has a vision of a modern state and has deliberately engineered the development of industries and improved on the existing infrastructure. Today Ibom Air is celebrated all over the nation as a standard of excellence.”
The Information and Strategy Commissioner Comrade Ememobong in his speech highlighted the strong points of Akwa Ibom State.
“Cuisine, infrastructure, scenery, people and buildings are the hallmarks of Akwa Ibom State. We are a very secure place not by accident but by the determination, focus and will of the state government. The Governor is an industrialist and the state will benefit from energizing the tourism stakeholders to come and enjoy the synergy of our facilities. Akwa Ibom is your best choice for Tourism in Nigeria,” he said.
The AGM with the Theme, “Restarting Tourism.in Nigeria: A New Template” will be held in Uyo from the 26th of June to the 28th and it will also involve a tour of the Tourist attractions in Akwa Ibom State for the Tour Operators and invited tourism journalists.
Earlier in her speech the President of NATOP, Hajia Bilkisu Abdul thanked the state for choosing to host the AGM, informing that two other states are ready to host but the Executives decided to come to Akwa Ibom States because of the high rating among tourism practitioners.
She told them that the Chairman BOT of NATOP, who is also the Acting President of FTAN Nkereuwem Onung and the Vice President Mrs. Ime Udo are from Akwa Ibom and that it was home coming for the Association.
“I can see that our senior colleague Mr. Ini Akpabio, who is the Chairman of the Akwa Ibom Hotel Board is here with us and also NATOP BOT member Ambassador Ikechi Uko, our State Coordinator Mrs. Shalom Asuquo and the Directors of Akwa Ibom Ministry of Tourism. It is a great honour for me and for NATOP to be here today for this press conference. It is exactly two years today that we were at Ikoyi Cemetery for the burial of our late leader Mrs. Fatima Garbati, who died in Ile Ife in 2019. We have missed her guidance and wise counsel.”
“Today starts the process of renewal for NATOP. Her death knocked our Association off track. We mourned for a long time and just when we planned for our 2020 AGM COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has become the worst thing that has happened to tourism in Nigeria. It totally wiped out most of our businesses. Without movement there is no tour operations. Our members suffered from one lock down to another. Domestic tourism started to come back to life towards the end of last year. I am glad to note that Akwa Ibom State became one of the star destinations for tour operators. They came for the Christmas Village events in December and observed that it was a great success. They found your state rich in attractions. As we began to breathe back life into tourism, insecurity and high airline tickets prices became a big problem.
“These two evils of tourism are one of the reasons we have Chosen Akwa Ibom State as our Destination of Choice for our AGM 2021. Akwa Ibom State is secure and has the infrastructure that we need for tourism to thrive. It has one of the best resorts in Nigeria, it has an airline and an airport,” she said.
Hajia Abdul stated that coming to Akwa Ibom state was not accidental, adding that NATOP uses its AGM to promote domestic destinations and that the association’s past destinations of choice have become viable locations for tourism.
To buttress her point, she said that in 2016, NATOP was in Calabar, Cross River State for its AGM, in 2017, it was moved to Lagos, in 2018, it was in Jos, Plateau State and that in 2019, Ile Ife, Osun State hosted.
Speaking further, she said that NAT\OP did not hold AGM in 2020 as the association do not think virtual conferences yield value for tourism.
According to her, “We must do what we preach. If people don’t move there is no tourism so we move people. As we come to Uyo our members will obey all the approved COVID-19 protocols and we hope to enjoy the bounties that Akwa Ibom offers. Our Guest Speaker for this AGM is the Former Minister of Tourism Ghana Honorable Catherine Afeku who initiated the very successful year of Return Project in Ghana. She will share with us some of her experiences as we seek to restart Tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic troubles. On behalf of the Association, I thank Akwa Ibom State for hosting NATOP for our AGM. Please get your packages ready. Our members shall come and they will put Akwa Ibom tourism on the global map.”