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In FCT, tourism stakeholders unite for Abuja Jabamah

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie
02 December 2017   |   4:21 am
It was a gathering of major players in the tourism industry within and around the Federal Capital Territory, last week, at the official launch of Abuja Jabamah...

A crosss section of participants at the maiden edition of Abuja Jabamah

It was a gathering of major players in the tourism industry within and around the Federal Capital Territory, last week, at the official launch of Abuja Jabamah, another word for ‘welcome’ in Fulani.

The event, which was put together by one of Nigeria’s tourism promoters and founder of Akwaaba Africa Travel market, Mr. Ikechi Uko, brought together hoteliers, travels, tour operators, airliners and other players in the country, on how to explore the immense tourism potentials embedded in meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

Also at the forum were the former Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation  (NTDC) and current Chief Executive, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe, as well as former Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Idi Hong.

While welcoming guests and resource persons from across West Africa, Mr. Uko explained the concept behind Abuja Jabamah, which is another word for Welcome to Abuja.

Describing Abuja as the meeting head quarters of Nigeria, Mr. Uko expressed need for stakeholders in tourism industry to concentrate on MICE as a new product that could easily be explored for revenue generation and employment creation.

“MICe is an emerging power house of tourism development, and I am bringing it to Nigeria to concentrate on it as the lowest hanging fruits for tourism.

“Anybody can do MICE. However, Abuja already has an advantage over other destinations in Nigeria for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.”

To fully educate stakeholders on how to explore the new products in tourism promotion, resource persons were drawn from Nigeria and neighbouring African countries.

“That is the reason we brought experts to teach people how to do MICE. Abuja hosts only three international meetings annually, but with the number of hotels, the international airport and all the international airlines flying in, it should host a minimum of 50.

“We decided to create a training opportunity for people in Abuja – hoteliers, airliners and other tourism operators to learn that there is a gold mine here waiting to be tapped.

“Government may drive the meetings and conferences but it will not have them in their rooms. Visitors have to stay in hotels, they have to use cabs, they have to use conference centres, they have to fly airlines. These are suppliers in the value chain. These are the people who we organise to help government develop the tourism sector as it is done elsewhere. Government can lead but hotel operators and other stakeholders in the MICE environment should work towards bidding for global conferences to come to Abuja”, he stated.

In his remarks, Dr. Idi Hong commended the organiser for taking the initiative and urged him to collaborate with relevant government agencies in ensuring that MICE as a tourism protect is properly harnessed.

For the D G, NCAC, Otunba Runsewe, culture cannot be separated from tourism in Nigeria. According to him, there is a cultural hub in every state of the country, waiting to be explored.   “You cannot promote tourism without the cultural content”, he said.

At the end of the day, awards were given to top new hotels in Abuja, tourism pioneers, most active tourism states in Nigeria as well as Mr. Wale Olapade of Nigerian Tribune Newspapers, who bagged the first MICE Journalist of the Year in Nigeria award. Olapade in his response said he started MICE reportage about three years ago and with the recognition and the award, “I have moved from one step to another level. They have encouraged me to do more and I am going to do more with the award I have received today”, he stated.