New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

Nigeria Shows Strength As Ade-john Returns Country To WTM London

Finally, Nigeria made a return to the global scene with its first appearance at the world leading travel and tourism trade exhibition platform, World Travel Market (WTM), London, after almost a decade absent from the international scene. Nigeria was unceremoniously pulled out of all international tourism marketing channels by the former Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) now re-named Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA), Mrs Sally Mbanefo.

This undignified action, which was kicked against by the private sector was continued by the incumbent DG, Folarin Coker, despite harvesting huge budgetary allocation for promotion and marketing of Nigerian tourism. Every elements somehow conspired to make the formal return of Nigeria to the international scene a near impossibility as the Minister of Tourism, Lola Ade-John, who had hatched the plan for Nigeria’s return and set up a planning committee to fast track the process, suddenly took ill weeks to the event, resulting in her hospitalisation and disappearance from the public till date.

Following this development, some powerful forces within the Ministry and NTDA, including the DG, who had opposed the minister’s move, quickly moved in and closed the lid on the arrangement put in place by the minister, with no one doing a follow up and tracking the process. Coker, who many thought should have stepped in to fill the void and marshal everyone into action conveniently travelled out of the country for several weeks.

However, the Chief Executive Officer of West Africa Tourism Organisation (WATO), Ms Ola Wright, who was working closing with the Minister on the plan to have Nigeria make a return to WTM never gave up on the dream, as she worked tirelessly and pulled every stops to ensure that Nigeria once again hoist her flag at the global meet. It was therefore, to her credit that Nigeria made a formal return to WTM this year. Funding for Nigeria’s stand was a major problem following the Minister’s absence while Lagos State government that was supposed to come to the rescue of Nigeria through sponsorship funding dilly dally.

Due to this delay, Nigeria missed out on the deadline for payment for the exhibition stand. Determined to pull the show off, Wright soldiered on and succeeded in getting WTM officials to put in place what is referred to as a ‘Shell Scheme’ to allow for the stand to be constructed while payment is later made. It was waiver that ensured that Nigeria participated at the just concluded world event. Following this, Wright curated Nigeria’s return to WTM, with a 75 square meters stand.

This was also complemented by the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), headed by its National President, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, with a stand measuring 12 square meters. However, Lagos State eventually participated at the event and it is yet to honour the sponsorship agreement that was authorised by the State Governor, Babajide Sanwu-Olu. The state was represented by the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Toke Benson-Awoyinka, alongside the Permanent Secretary and other officials of the ministry.

It was somehow magical following the behind scenes that worked to almost truncate the plan of the minister that when on November 6, WTM opened it’s Excel Centre doors to the public for this year’s edition, which spanned November 8, Nigeria’s flag was among those hoisted at the Africa Hall, with its expansive exhibition stand outshining others.

Nigeria was the cynosure of everyone and it appeared that Nigeria never indeed left the scene for this number of years, as its exhibition stand was a bevy of activities all through the three days, with different trade visitors, buyers and suppliers visiting to conduct businesses at the stand that was professionally manned by the private sector operators and WATO’s officials. It was particularly refreshing and discovery time for many Nigerians living in London and Europe, who attended the exhibition to see that Nigeria was back again at Excel Centre, this time bigger and better.

They had an exciting and fun time, with lots of memories to be forever cherished. Wright, who coordinated Nigeria’s participation was said to be a notable person- ality during the event as she did everything to ensure that Nigeria’s presentation was top notch. It was no doubt an Herculean task for her as she also curated the participation of her parent organisation, WATO, making sure that WATO, which had an exhibition stand measuring 13.5 square meters, did not suffer anything as a result of her involvement with Nigeria.

In a message presented on her behalf, the Tourism Minister noted, ‘‘taking tourism to the community level, showcasing the hidden gems of the villages in all regions of our picturesque and diverse country, is the essence of creating sustainable tourism in Nigeria. ‘‘All of these have a combined a transformative power with ‘immense potential for our nation.’’ This is as she added that tourism products require adequate publicity, development, promotion and maintenance.

The government will gradually, speedily and successfully overcome these challenges, with guidance, support and collaboration of all stakeholders .’’ Many Nigerians, the organisers, trade visitors, suppliers and buyers among others, who visited Nigeria’s stand, ex- pressed delight at having Nigeria back at WTM, particularly given the strength that the country showed, with the colourful ambience of its stand and display, which attracted a lot of attention.

Though Nigeria did not clinch any of the official awards such as that of the Best Exhibition Stand from WTM, however, many adjudged Nigeria’s participation as a record performance. It is worth noting that London Concierge observed that Nigeria is worthy of award because it was among the top three countries, which brought the best vibes to the exhibition. The others are Brazil and Sierra Leone.

This is as it stated that, ‘‘Nigeria, Brazil and Sierra Leone brought the best vibes. Definitely deserve an award.’’ This observation was not noted by WTM, which published the comment in one of their posts.

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