Participants at the 15th Akwaaba African Travel Market held in Lagos last week have again emphasised the relevance of aviation to tourism development.
Prior to now, key players in the aviation and tourism sector had hammered on the need for the Federal Government and all relevant stakeholders to to ensure both industry close the gap existing for the purpose of not only opening Nigeria to the world through vibrant tourism, but also selling the potential endowed with the country through air transport.
Obviously, tourism can not thrive in a country that does not prioritise its aviation sector as the aviation sector through its viable airports is expected to serve as the driver through where tourism flourishes.
For some time the subsequent governments have not given the required attention needed to the tourism and aviation sectors forgetting that these two if well managed may fetch much more fortunes to the GDP of the country.
As the two sectors remain critical to the development of the country, they are both interwoven and because of their importance to the economic growth of any country, the time has again come for the government to give priority to these two areas capable of generating higher margins even more than oil.
No wonder, stakeholders at the just concluded Akwaaba Travel Market from across Africa, Middle East and other parts of the world appealed to the Nigerian government and those of other African nations to shift attention to tourism and aviation growth for the purpose of making free movement and integration of the continent seamless at one end and also expose the tourism potential of the country to the outside world.
It is at this juncture that the Crucial Moment is joining other stakeholders to commend the organisers of the annual Akwaaba Travel Market which has become an avenue through where experts gather to deliberate on how to further close the existing gap between aviation and tourism.
Akwaaba which was started fifteen years ago by the well traveled journalist, Ikechi Ukoh has succeeded in using the annual event to continue to drum the importance of tourism and vibrant aviation sector to any country through the caliber of experts he brings.
Surprisingly, while other countries spreading across Middle East, the Caribbean, African countries like the Gambia, Ethiopia, Ghana have seized the opportunity to market their tourism and latest development in their aviation and airlines, Nigeria is yet to tap into this opportunity starring it in the face.
Ethiopia for example is a country ever ready to use the annual Akwaaba to market its tourism and aviation through its airline, Ethiopian Airlines as its officials vigorously talk about the tourist attractions in their country with the urge to present the wonders being performed by Ethiopian airlines.
While the three days event lasted, thank God for some Nigerian tourism experts like the President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankoke Bernard and the tourism guru cum the present Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, who attended the event, representatives of the various aviation agencies and even the airlines were not seen.
The lacaidassical attitude of the aviation agencies and the Nigerian airlines towards such an event has continued to be the sad story.
Talking about the importance of aviation to tourism, it is expected that when an avenue comes for the relevant authorities from the two sectors to exchange ideas on how to cooperate that such people will be available.
Unfortunately, reverse has been the case as the affected officials flex muscles even when they close their eyes to the nitty gritty required in keying into the critical components driving tourism and aviation that such gathering can present.
The question is; how does Nigeria grow these two sectors if the so called officials responsible for being the eyes and the ears of government are never present at events like the Akwaaba where issues surrounding the advancement of tourism and aviation remain the focus.
The obvious fact is that the organiser of Akwaaba which has become the largest travel market in Africa, has succeeded in presenting opportunities to the relevant key players in aviation and tourism to gather every year to exchange ideas on how to further bring the benefits inherent to bear on the global aviation community and in extension the tourism.
With the rate Akwaaba is going, there may soon come a time when it will attract wider interests from places like Europe, America and Asia and thus begin to offer similar purpose like the World Travel Market where tourism and aviation world meet to advance the importance of the supposed Siamese twins.