Saturday, 21 November 2009

Trade market, Growing Bigger, Stronger

BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
LAST week, from November 9 to12, over 200 countries and 50, 000 exhibitors gathered at the ExCel Centre, Docklands, London, England to showcase tourist destinations, products and services.
Besides the networking and promotion, the platform afforded both leading and emerging destinations, it also showcased some of the newest trends, innovations and technologies that are likely to dominate the industry in years to come.
For many, particularly travel and tourism experts, national administrators, agencies and global organisations such as the World Travel Organisation (UNWTO), a UN body in charge of tourism development and promotion, this year’s WTM provided the platform to take critical look at the performance of the industry. The gathering, which marked the 30th anniversary of the global exhibition started in 1979, with many countries being sceptical about it then.
But 30 years after, it has turnout to be one of the most important and well-attended fairs in the hospitality industry.
From it first meeting place in Olympia in 1979, it moved to Earl Court and few years later to its present location in ExCel Centre. The yearly fair has greatly helped the growth and development of many destinations in the industry.
The thrust of the Chairperson, Fiona Jeffery, centred on the contributions of the fair to the industry, having in mind the most recent challenges of the industry. These challenges, she noted, also threatened the fabrics of the global event.
She said, “as the right to travel became almost a fundamental principle to millions across the world – regardless of background, class, creed or culture – World Travel Market played a crucial role.’’ Adding that “the event became the ever growing backdrop for increasing cooperation and integration between destinations and operators, conducting businesses and showcasing a widening range of services and products to a global market place.’’
“I hope we have assisted business to ride the storm more effectively by stressing the need to improve efficiency, introduce new skills, new markets and encourage creative innovations and above all, supreme customer value,’ the WTM Chairperson contented.
Jeffery highlighted that the fair has in the last couple of years made some giant strides in the areas of innovations as the global gathering has witnessed the introduction of the UNWTO Ministers’ Summit, WTM World Responsible Tourism Day, WTM Vision Conference, WTM Technology and Online Travel, and UNWTO/WTTC report on tourism among others.
The glamour, blitz and panache displayed by the various countries from different part of the world gathered at the fiesta also demonstrated the strength, power and influence of WTM, as every nation and exhibitor turned up in their best.
To accommodate the expected buoyant future, WTM is also committed to providing sustainable management and event value of class as it has embarked on a £168 million expansion of ExCel, which would be the ‘new home’ of fair by November 2010.
This new home is expected to increase exhibition space by 50 per cent including a 5, 000 seat conversion centre.
Nigeria Gains More Visibility
NIGERIA’S, presence at the yearly event is beginning to gain grounds. Thanks to the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), who in the last two editions has improved tremendously on Nigeria’s presentation.
Beside the team from NTDC, the official promoter of Nigeria’s tourism, the states present at the fair were Ogun, Cross River and Kano while Eko Hotel and Suites was the only hospitality firm.
Divine Travel and Tours was about the only private company while a handful of Nigerians and operators both resident in the UK and across Europe and Nigeria showed heavy presence at the fair.
While all of these efforts are commendable and a sign that Nigeria operators are now beginning to take the fair serious however, there is need for a better-coordinated effort and presence of more firms and state governments.
A situation where many of the operators merely just stroll through the stand is not good enough for the country. With the determination and passion so far displayed by Runsewe and his team, the private sector needs to show some level of commitment and support by ensuring that attempt is made long before the fair to put together a formidable team that would market the country at the fair just as the example of other serious minded countries have shown.
If Runsewe design of using the world stage to promote Nigeria as an emerging tourist destination is to be realised beside just having a colourful stand, Nigeria Day, addressing the world press and a smarting piece of promotional items on the stand then, he too must take the initiative to see that a forum is created back home for a proper preparation and evaluation of Nigeria’s entire presentation before and after the event.
Also, a mechanism of following up on the prospect garnered at the forum needs to be put in place with a proper plan on which organisation or person does what and the time lag for such assignment to be delivered.
Here are some of the views expressed by some of the Nigeria exhibitors.

I Am Amazed By The Entire Presentation

I am highly impressed this year, since my participation at the fair over the years I can tell you that this year’s presentation is highly commendable.
Let me start with the Nigeria stand, unlike the previous ones, this year’s stand is far outstanding and impressive. The Director General of NTDC has made a bold statement with this year’s presentation that Nigeria is a destination to beat because we have all that it takes to make one of the top five destinations in the world.
… You see, I noticed that I was perhaps the only tour operator in Nigeria stand selling inbound package while most of the others were selling out-bound. My advice is that we should all get involved in in-bound packages because that is the only way we can develop Nigeria.
… I have done a lot of businesses at the fair and I can assure you that this would impact my business positively and add value to my companies.
A lot of people actually want to visit Nigeria but they have the wrong impression about us… I think everything went on well.
Olumuyiwa Adebayo Salami, Group Managing Director, Divine Travels and Tours Bureau Limited

It Is Wonderful … But There Is Room For Improvement

IT is wonderful, honestly, there are a lot of improvements from last year’s performance and this shows the charisma, the character and vision of the DG of NTDC, Segun Runsewe.
Last year the stand was about half of what is it this year and somehow then I felt a bit ashamed looking at other Africa countries stands but this year it is so wonderful and marvellous and I believe that there is room for improvement.
…This shows that we have really marketed Nigeria well because there is serious interest in Nigeria and what is happening in the country. People want to know how they can get there, the investment climate and our tourism offerings.
… Honestly, compared with other countries I am not really happy with the private sector participation at the fair, especially the hospitality industry, the hotels. Go to South Africa or other smaller countries stands and you see dozens of hotels all having their stands in one pavilion but in Nigeria we only have Eko Hotel and Suites.
I believe that there is need for the private sector to be more involved because now it is more or less like a government affair. But I am sure that next year we would be able to attract a lot of hotels from Nigeria.
…The lessons include the quality of promotional materials on display, the stand, the cleanliness, the atmosphere, the friendliness of all the participants.
I believe that we have to come out with products, with packages so that even if it is one package that we can market very well, it means a lot. Or let gets one product from each state and package it then we can now harmonise them to attract people to holiday in the country.
So, I think that if we can market the product well, sell it all over the world, use consultants, advertise, spend money as far as media is concerned then I think we can go places. But when we are so mean about spending money on publicity then definitely we cannot sell.
Ahmed Ibrahim Yakassi, is the Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Kano State

We Have Done Well
We came here to showcase our hidden treasure and to attract tourists to our state because we have different attractions.
I am very pleased that we had a very good recession here and we came over with different promotional materials.
I have spoken to a lot of people and the networking that has been done in this market will surely translate into progress and development for tourism in Ogun State.
Before the next WTM, Ogun State would have taken another giant stride towards tourism development and growth.
Mrs. Tomi Soboyejo, Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Gateway Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC)

It Shows The Importance The World Places On Tourism
My presence generally is to see areas of investment and collaboration for our tourism industry. I am hoping that one-day Nigeria would be able to host a fair of this magnitude.
However, it just shows the importance of tourism. Our own (NTDC) motto for tourism is ‘tourism is life,’ and being here proves the kind of importance that is placed on tourism.
The collaboration, the networking and the investment opportunities worldwide for tourism.
Erelu Keji Okunowo, Chairperson, Gateway Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC)

…Bigger But Participation From Hotels, States Governments Is Poor
We are here to give support to NTDC because over the years we have always done so because we believe in encouraging tourism to grow in Nigeria.
We consider ourselves to be in the tourism business as we attend to both business and leisure tourists.
The turnout is impressive but not as impressive as that of last year. I have had a few enquiries merely from Nigeria tour operators who want to start doing packages for Nigerians and they are asking what input we as a hotel can give them.
… Both the ones based here (UK) and in Nigeria. I have made contact with Tess Travels, she used to live in Nigeria and we worked a lot together before but she is now based here and she is working on a group for Easter at least that will be something that I can take away from here.
… But I would expect more participation from other hotels and I would like to see a better presence of states governments showcasing their own attractions too.
Anna Ajose is the Sales and Marketing Manager, Eko Hotel and Suites

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