It was a night of glitz and glam on December 13 as African Travel Times hosted what is arguably the most interactive travel and tourism awards night, which attracted the cream of the African tourism elites, practitioners and aficionados.
More than the awards ceremonies, it was the penetrating discussions on how to take the industry forward that caught the attention of the pan African delegates who graced the occasion.
Participants broached issues ranging from the challenges and solutions in the hotel, aviation and regulatory aspects of the tourism business in a calm, controlled but engaging atmosphere. In attendance where the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman; and Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture [NCAC], represented by a team led by Sam Agbi among other dignitaries.
The day’s discussions were kicked off with a presentation by Lagos based Analyst, Kirk Leigh who did a comparative analysis of what West African countries spend on tourism and their contributions to the respective country’s GDP. He noted that while what the countries spend on tourism rises from year to year, travel and tourism contribution to GDP continues to drop from year to year. The only two counties that defied the trend were Benin Republic and Mali. He further said that projecting into 2027; the situation will remain pretty much the same.
Using data from World Travel and Tourism Council [WTTC], he said the top five countries with the highest GDP contribution from Travel and Tourism are The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Togo and the Ivory Coast. Fast forward to 2027, the projected top five countries will be Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana. He concluded by enjoining the tourism community to up their game.
But how can they up their game? Representatives of the various subsectors from hotel, travel and government took turns at providing answers to the question. Akwasi Agyeman said it was necessary to identify the fundamentals of enhancing the development of the industry including product [sites and attractions] enhancement, capacity building within the industry.
On how Ghana is tackling the challenges of the industry, he said that Ghana currently has a new legislative instrument on sites and tourism, which had gone through review by Parliament and currently at the Attorney General’s Office and the Authority, would start regulating all tourists’ sites when it was passed.
“We would then create a classification regime for them. So just as hotels are classified from one star to five star, they will also be classified as A plus, B plus and C plus so that people would know what to expect before going there,” he added.
He said the Authority would consider other problems that demote the tourism industry like the Visa Regime, adding that, it was the complaints gotten most of the time by the Authority from foreigners and investors.
Identifying the tax regime as the albatross of the industry across the sub region, Lucky Onoriode George, convener of the event and Editor of African Travel Times Magazine in Nigeria, called on African Governments to reduce taxes imposed on the operations of the Travel and Tourism Industry to revive the it. He said this at the sidelines of the award ceremony.
He said the huge taxes paid by the industry players have made travelling across Africa, especially West Africa very expensive and thereby discouraging tourists and investors from visiting the continent.
He said that it was, therefore important for governments to ensure that there was free movement without harassment and extortion among nations and to promote trade and socio-economic development.
George noted that even though, the hospitality industry had done very well across the continent, their operations were not uniform, adding that, it was the reason why a three Star Hotel in one African country was a Two Star Hotel in another African country, even when a common Hotel grading and classification was agreed on.
Winners in airline categories are: British Airways, Most Trusted Airline [International]; Ethiopian Airlines, Most Reliable Airline [Africa]; ASKY Airlines, Most Reliable Carrier [West Africa]; Kenya Airways, ‘Most Supportive National Carrier’ for effective promotion of the Kenyan Tourism brand alongside South African Airways respectively; Air Namibia, for effective promotion of Brand Namibia in Nigeria, Sen. Sirika Hadi, Minister of State for Aviation for his efforts at Rescuing the Sector in Nigeria, Arik Air, Most Recognisable Airline Brand [Nigeria] and Air Peace, Most Formidable Airline [West Africa]
In the Hospitality Category, Eko Hotel & Suites, emerged number one conference venue [West Africa] followed by Transcorp Hilton Hotel, which clinched the Most Corporate Hotel [West Africa], while Royal Senchi Hotel & Resort took Number One Resort [West Africa].
Others in that category are: Wavecrest College of Hospitality [WCH]; the premier Monotechnic in Nigeria offering education and training in the field of hospitality for women since 1972 [West Africa] and Tang Palace Hotel, Best Management & Dining Experience Hotel Of The Year [West Africa].
In the governments/agencies category/training, winners are Bayelsa State Government for Establishing, International Institute of Tourism & Hospitality [IITH]; Akwa Ibom State, Top Sport Tourism Destination [West Africa]; Rivers State, Most Supportive Government in Sustaining Tourism Facilities [Nigeria]; Ghana Tourism Authority, Most Active Tourism Agency West Africa, Benin Republic & Togo, Joint Winners of Authentic African Traditional Culture & Voodoo Capitals [Worldwide]; as well as South African Tourism, ‘Most Effective National Marketing Tourism Agency’ [Africa].
Abiodun Odusanwo, National President, Institute for Tourism Professionals, for Professionalizing the Tourism Sector in Nigeria; Hon. Catherine Afeku, Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture, ‘Most Active’ Tourism Minister Award [West Africa]; Joseph Rennie, General Manager, Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt and Nigeria; Herbert Acquaye, former President, Ghana Hotels Associations [GHA], Ikechi Uko, Outstanding Tourism Personality Of The Year [West Africa] and Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture [NCAC] as Most Distinguished Tourism Personality Award [Nigeria], are all winners and to receive awards in the Individual Category.
There are winners also in the Ghana category, they are, Bassem Toura, General Manager, Holiday Inn Accra Airport; 3-Star Hotel General Manager Of The Year, Leeford Quarshie, General Manager, La Villa Boutique Hotel, winning the [Ghanaian] General Manager of the Year; Roman Krabel, General manager, Accra City Hotel; 4-Star Hotel General Manager & General Manager Of The Year; and Michael Rathgeb, General Manager, Movenpick Ambassador Hotel; 5-Star Hotel General Manager Of The Year.
Completing the list are; Golden Tulip Accra, Brand of the Year; Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, Conference Hotel of the Year and Regent Hotel as the winner of Airport Hotel Of The Year.
The award which is an annual event was initiated in 2014 and used to recognise ‘Excellence’ in the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria, West Africa and beyond.