WITHOUT doubt, this year’s World Travel Market (WTM) will remain an interesting discourse among stakeholders in the tourism sector, as it afforded a number of participants to come in contact with their target audiences^ while exposing their unique services and products.

A number of tourist boards, technology companies, hotel chains, attractions and tour operators had a field day while it lasted.

Although some of the 41 exhibitors mounted then-stands for the first time, with Europe leading the way in terms of new exhibitors, Nigeria, indeed, had premier outings. Tor instance, Sura Group, the franchise owner of the top-scale Best Western Hotels, Dceja.

exhibited alongside 9ja Travel Service in stand-alone stands. Others included Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies fNANTA), National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Eko Hotel and Suites, Tarzan Balogun Marine Services Limited and Arik Air.

Technology and Online travel region had the second highest number of new exhibitors, with 36 technology companies taking their own stands. They included 9ja travel services, a Nigerian travel technology firm that launched QuickAir, a revolutionary product that will essentially bridge the yawning gap between low cost carriers the world over and travel agents who (for lack of a central platform) are unable to ticket these airlines.

Room status, another product of 9ja travel services is a cloud-based technology that requires no installation for usage. It allows customers the opportunity of picking their desired room ahead of arrival at the hotel.

Segun Oyebolu, CEO, 9ja Travel Services, said, “As a travel technology firm based in Nigeria, we are particularly excited to lead World Travel in a new direction. Welcome to RoomStatus, the future of hotel booking. Ability to pick your desired hotel room ahead of arrival is the way to go, and we are glad to lead the charge.”

“The launch of the RoomStatus (formerly Front Desk Manager) in London will precede the release of this software into the Nigerian market. We are extremely proud of the fact that we have been able to work our way from a small Nigerian company to a veritable icon in the travel technology subsector.”

The continued growth in the technology section reflects the burgeoning importance of hi-tech and web developments in travel.

The Global Village region saw 18 exhibitors from all parts of the industry
appearing for the first time, such as Autorent car, K+K boutique hotels chain and others.
Meanwhile, Asia offered a total of 13 first-time exhibitors this year, which demonstrates the growth in China’s travel industry. India had its own dedicated stand-alone region with 12 new exhibitors.

Africa had 10 new exhibitors highlighting the continued development of African tourism, especially as the continent emerges from last year’s Arab Spring. Libyan Export Promotion Center and Airkenya Express were amongst them.

The Americas and Caribbean had eight new exhibitors to the event, including Cuba Direct, Cuba Select Travel, Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, the Falkland Islands Tourist Board and Discover Ecuador.

The Middle East had seven new main stand holders including Iraqi Tourism Board and Maria Consulting.

Nigeria, more than an emerging destination For a country like Nigeria seeking to create an identity for itself and build its profile as an emerging destination, the need to put up a very strong presence and also articulate and market its products was imperative.

Nigeria is gradually obtaining the status of a destination with its strong Presence in WTM and other ey travel fairs. With its imposing stand, colourful dancers and other key private sector operators in the tourism industry, the Nigerian stand was the cynosure of all eyes. With a non-ending stream of people visiting the stand to enjoy its music, watch dancers, observe its diverse culture firsthand and taste some of its mouth-watering cuisine.

The Nigerian tourism drive was given a boost by the 2012 Industry Report of the WTM which, in addition to steady progress the country is making, stated that: The Nigerian film industry dubbedN ollywood has made the country the highlight of the African tourist industry with Africans making use of the increase no-fruls airline routes to visit the country made famous in the movies.”

However, it must be added that one of the strong areas for inbound tourists to Nigeria is religious tourism. The annual convention of the Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners’ Chapel), the Redeemed Christian Church of God Holy Ghost convention and Pastor T.B. Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations are all building the market for pilgrimage and religious tourism.

The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDQ boss, Otunba Segun Runsewe, assessed the impact of Nigeria at the this year WTM: “Nigeria had its bold and imposing stand at the African section of the market, showing remarkable improvement in not articulating its presence in the market, but being able to create a platform for states and private sector operators to showcase what Nigeria has to offer in tourism.

“While the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) co-coordinated the Nigeria’s participation, key private sector operators m the tourism industry had the opportunity to market and network with their counterparts from all over the world. It was an encouraging participation by the TsTigerian private sector practitioners.

“States like Cross River State, Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had a strong presence. The umbrella tourism body for Nigeria, the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) led by its President, Chief Samuel Alabi led the private sector operators, including the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), National Association of Tour Operators (NATOPY, Arik Airline, Remlord Group, Naija Seven Wonders, Eko Hotel and Suites, Tarzan Balogun Marine Services Limited and many others.

“In the 2012 World Travel Market, we have seen that more countries are coming to the WTM and with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) also opening their windows ana bringing in their members, we have seen that it is an opportunity to bring very strong inbound tourist traffic to Nigeria.

So, we are using the opportunity to showcase the strength of Nigeria, basically in terms ol our history, which is also part of the history of the African-Americans. We are also looking at our craft, festival, waterfalls, rocks and many more. So, for us, it is an opportunity to invite more roreigners to Nigeria to come and see for themselves.

“The most recent thing that happened was the Americans that we invited to Nigeria who were pleasantly surprised. They were surprised by the number of tourism opportunities and tourist destinations we have in Nigeria. So, we want to use the opportunity of the WTM to reassure every tourist coming to Nigeria of their safety and security. Let me use this opportunity to also explain one very important issue. There is no country in the world that has total security. We would have some challenges.

What is more important is how to overcome them. That is what we are working on. So, the World Travel Market is a total opportunity for us to showcase our strength as a people and invite more inoound tourists to Nigeria. considering the fact that two major Tactors are not a problem in Nigeria. The language, accommodation and”^ transportation are not problems. We have also created an advantage to make Nigeria a preferred destination.”

Commenting on the WTM Global Trends report, Runsewe said: “The report we are getting from the WTM is the sixth in the world in the recent past. That means Nigeria is making major impact in terms of tourism development. I want to be very grateful to the organizers for bringing out the real fact that Nigeria has made concerted efforts and still making until tourism becomes a major income earner for the country.”

Nollywood, upping tourism game in Nigeria Nollywood films are popular in many African countries and the report says their “huge popularity” attracts domestic and regional African tourists to Nigeria, visiting film locations.

The WTM Global Trends Report 2012-in association with Euromonitor International-said, “Intra-regional travel is crucial for the African tourism industry, due to strong business, linguistic ana cultural links between many countries.”

Arrivals to Nigeria are set to rise 3% annually, over 2012-2016, thanks to intra-regional tourism fuelled by growing African economies.

“The popularity of Nollywood will be a major growth driver with the leisure sector attracting film fans, and business travel boosted by the growing economic importance of the film industry,” added the report.

Reed Travel Exhibitions Chairman World Travel Market, Fiona Jeffery, said: “There is very positive news coming out of Africa. The continent’s economic growth outpaced the global rate in 2011-2012, which has boosted disposable incomes.

“It means Africa is poised for continued strong growth in arrivals, incoming tourist receipts, air and hotel value sales in 2013.”

Figures in the report predict GDP growth in Africa will be 5.2% in 2012 and the same in 2013. while trips/arrivals will rise 4.5% in 2012 and 4.6%in2013.

Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor International Head of Travel and Tourism Research, said: “Thanks to increasing tourism flows, 2012 saw a boom in hotel openings in Nigeria, including Radisson Blu, Four Points by Sheraton, Ibis and Legacy, all in Lagos. There are more hotels under construction or in the pipeline from groups such as Hilton, Accor, IHG, SPG and Protea.”

By Lily