Saturday, 28th May 2022
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All Road To The Gambia . . . As ATA Meets

The Gambia, otherwise known as 'The Smiling Coast of Africa,' writes ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA is set to open its tourism flanks to the world, as its plays host to the 35th Congress of Africa Travel Association (ATA) between May 17 and 20 with the world once again focussing its attention on Africa tourism. COME May…
The Gambia, otherwise known as ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa,’ writes ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA is set to open its tourism flanks to the world, as its plays host to the 35th Congress of Africa Travel Association (ATA) between May 17 and 20 with the world once again focussing its attention on Africa tourism. COME May 17, the 35th annual congress of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) will formally open with the travel and tourism world gathering at Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia not only to focus on destination Africa, which prospect of growth, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), is very high in comparison with other world’s destinations but also to savour its many offerings that are expected to be on display throughout the four days duration of the congress that ends on May 20.

Holding at the Sheraton Gambia Hotel and Resort and Spa, the yearly gathering main theme is: “Sustainable and Responsible Tourism in Africa” with a sub-theme: ‘Discover Africa’s Genuine Warmth,’ According to the Executive Director of ATA, Eddy Bergman, the congress is expected to “provide a diverse group of travel experts from across Africa and around the world with the unique opportunity to learn from each other about the current state and future prospects of travel and tourism to Africa and to work together to shape the industry’s future agenda.”

Some of the issues and topics that would attract attention during the discussion periods include marketing and promotions, public-private partnerships, infrastructure development, niche markets, industry trends, development, responsible tourism, climate change, advocacy, and social media.

As it has become the tradition with all ATA’s events, the congress would have in attendance people from all sectors of the travel and tourism industry as well as allied industries from the African continent, America and Europe as well as the Asia and Pacific with government ministers of tourism and culture, national tourism board administrators and other state functionaries and leading experts and operators in the global industry.

Among other slated events, government ministers at this year’s gathering are expected to participate in a special roundtable discussion on tourism policy choices for the African continent. The programme include several evening events and receptions. Some of the dedicated events include the ATA Business-to-Business Exchange for buyers and sellers offering travel professionals an opportunity to meet and develop business relationships and linkages with 15-minutes face-to-face appointments. ATA’s Young Professional Network would also meet with local hospitality professionals and students during the congress with an African marketplace in the offing.

The Africa Travel Association (ATA) was established as an international travel industry trade association in 1975 with a mission to promote travel and tourism to Africa and to strengthen intra-Africa partnerships. As the world’s premier travel industry trade association, ATA provides services to a broad range of members including; tourism, diaspora, culture, and sports ministers, tourism boards, airlines, hoteliers, travel agents, tour operators, travel trade media, public relations firms, consulting companies, non-profit organisations, businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises, and other organisations engaged in tourism promotion.

According to the Executive Director of the body, Eddy Bergman, “for more than three decades, ATA members have striven to increase the flow of tourism to Africa from around the world. In tandem, ATA headquarters has worked to develop and execute these strategies and to plan for the future. Tourism is a pillar of economic growth in Africa and to ensure that the continent gains from it, ATA encourages private and public investment, entrepreneurial initiatives and strong partnerships that will benefit everyone involved.

“ATA’s success rests on the inspiration and ideas of its members and partners. We look to you to lead us in meeting present and future challenges and hope you will contribute your voice and your energy to our shared mission.”

Nigeria To Be On Parade

NIGERIA is expected to be among the African nations on parade at the yearly feast. However, if feelers emanating from the country’s tourism industry is anything to go by, the nation’s presentation at the forum may be a lean one, as the country may not have government presence at the congress.

According to the Nigeria ATA chapter source, the new minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed, who ought to head the country’s delegation, is scheduled to attend a CAF Meeting, a function of World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in Algiers holding about the same time as the congress along with officials from the ministry.

It is not clear whether the minister would send a delegation. However, the ATA source disclosed that effort is being made to persuade the minister to attend the opening session of the congress and from there proceed to the UNWTO event.

However, a source from the ministry said this may not be possible due to logistic reason and that plans for the minister’s travel to Algiers have already been concluded.

Another sour point is the issue of the payment of the country’s annual dues, which is said to be unpaid for some years now alongside the money due to ATA from the country’s hosting of ATA Eco tourism conference some years back.

On these issues, the ministry source said the only outstanding dues is that of the current year and that application has already be made to the Ministry of Finance which is expected to make the money available. However, the source said it is going to be difficult to get the government to release the money due to ATA from the eco tourism conference as the matter appeared to have been taken by other events and no one is ready now to work on the matter.

Meanwhile, ATA Nigeria chapter said it has concluded plans on its own to attend the congress, as it cannot afford to miss out of the yearly event. A member of the international governing board of ATA, Mrs. Margaret Fabiyi and the newly elected president of the body, Mr. David Binga are expected to lead a strong delegation made of operators from the private sector with students and young professionals in the team.

Nigerian government, according to Fabiyi, should be more dedicated to ATA as the country stands to reap huge benefits from the global body, which according to her has helped other African member states to grow and promote tours. She hinted that part of the mission of Nigeria ATA’s team is to bid for the hosting of the 2011 congress.

The Nigeria travel and tourism media is also expected to make a strong a presence at the congress with logistic support from both the Nigeria Eagle (Former Virgin Nigeria) Airlines and The Gambia Hotel Association.

The Gambia On Global Stage

For The GAMBIA, the host country, this is another opportunity for the country to put its tourism industry once again on the global tourism map, as the country’s tourism authority revealed that everything is being done to make the gathering, which it last hosted in 1984, a successful occasion and a platform to promote it tourism, which is fast gaining attention from European and African tourists.

To ensure a successful congress, a robust public – private sector apex body – Gambia ATA Chapter has been constituted comprising formidable opperators and stakeholders from both sectors with the task of coordinating the activities of other committees.

According to the Chairman of the Gambia ATA Chapter, Mr. Alieu Secka, “This is a great opportunity for The Gambia to showcase its tourism credentials to the wider world and particularly those interested in Africa. The congress delegates will sample and experience the essence and quality of the ‘Smiling Coast’ and return to do business.”

He further stated that an “impressive and interactive programme is being drawn up, in addition to the very high profile and educative programmes already designed to engender focused discussion on various thematic issues befiting an event of this magnitude and dimension.”

The country’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Mr. Kaliba Senghore, also informed that The Gambia as a destination is synonymous with a peaceful climate that ensures the security of tourists who always move about freely, safely and comfortably. He further stressed on the fact that “as far as ATA is concerned, the stakeholders are ready to promote Gambia in its fullest potential to leave lasting impression on the American market and our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora.”

About 10 tourism and culture ministers from African countries among others are said to have confirmed that they will grace the event with their presence. The list includes Tanzania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Mauritania, Liberia, South Africa and Kenya. The Gambia’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mas Jobe, is expected to host her counterparts to a special treat.

Meanwhile, plans are also afloat to host the congress delegates to a pre and post event tour of The Gambia with focus on the historical sites of Albreda and Juffureh among the country’s other leading tourist attractions.

Hospitality Focus

Lafia Hotel Re-positions

IN a bid to compete effectively, Lafia Hotel, Ibadan has carried out series of renovations and provision of standard and quality product as well as appointed a new management team to pilot the affairs of the hotel.

To ensure quality service, the new management has carried out intensive training of its staff and equipped them with the professional skills and knowledge required to drive the vision of the hotel, which is passion for personalised service and comfort.

Also, the hotel has refurbished a number of its facilities with an upgrade of all the rooms and provision of state of the art leisure gadgets. Internet facility is now available as well as standard communication with a calm environment for guest to carry out their various businesses and relaxation activities.

This is made possible by the landscaping of the entire hotel’s complex, which now is very inviting and appealing with plush and luxuriating flowers and gardens. Nightlife at the hotel has also been spiced up and given a new meaning with a lot of entertaining events to savour during weekends.

To boost its conference ambience, the hotel has built a new function hall dedicated to conferences and other social events. It has a capacity to accommodate over 3, 000 guests depending on the setting and style and has a number of smaller meeting rooms fitted with different conference facilities.

Lafia Hotel, which is located in the Apata area of Ibadan was built in 1947 and is one of the oldest hotels in the country. It is owned by Western Hotels Limited, a subsidiary of Oodua Investment Limited established by the former Western Region government but now jointly owned by the five state governments of South west.