Cape Verde, which is reputed for its beautiful beaches and all – year fascinating tourism offerings, has been named among the top 10 global travel search index. Also appearing on the top 10 search is Nigeria alongside Philippines, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
According to the Global Travel Search Index, which ranks the holiday destinations that have shown the greatest increase in Google search interest over the past 12 years, Cape Verde takes the top spot with a spike of more than 3, 000 per cent since 2004.
Earlier this year the islands were named the second most searched for spot on earth for Britons, sandwiched between the perennial city break favourites of Barcelona and Amsterdam. Not that all those searches are translating into visits.
The latest statistics on tourism reveal that the Atlantic archipelago, covering around 1,500 square miles, only welcomed 644, 000 tourists in 2016. By comparison Tenerife, covering 785 square miles, had 5.7 million tourists that year.
True Luxury Travel, which assembled the Global Travel Search Index, found that Cape Verde had the biggest increase in Google searches since 2004 worldwide (looking at 2017 alone, it came in second, after Barcelona).
To accurately assess rises and falls in annual searches, Google Trends issues various geographical locations with a “score” based on the overall volume in searches, taking into account how many people have been using Google over time.
In 2004, Cape Verde’s score was 23, but by 2016, it was 713, a 3,000 per cent rise. It was followed by the United Arab Emirates (a 681 per cent spike over 12 years), the Philippines (a 276 per cent rise), Pakistan (a 162 per cent rise) and Nigeria (a 145 per cent rise).
Libya saw the most dramatic dip in search interest for holidays there (an 88.8 per cent drop over 12 years), for obvious reasons, having descended into civil war six years ago. The Foreign Office continues to advice against all travel there, and Tripoli’s International Airport has been closed since 2014.
After Libya it was Tunisia (a 88.1 per cent drop), Paraguay (down 86 per cent), Somalia (a 85.9 per cent drop) and Iraq (a 88.5 per cent fall). Have visitor numbers in Cape Verde actually been climbing? Yes, just not quite so dramatically. Cape Verde welcomed 644,000 tourists in 2016, a 13.6 per cent rise from the previous year.
NIKOLAI BALANDINSKI: Nigerians are hospitable
Mr. Balandinski is head of Russian tourists who in January were in Benin City as part of their long haul visit to Nigeria, Africa and other parts of the world. The six – man team came under the auspices of Geografia, which is said to be the oldest traveller’s society in Russia.
Balandinski is a pilot while the other member of the six man team are: Vadim Solovev (Professor of Space Electronics), Aleksandr Morozov (An Automobile Engineer), Aleksey Kotelnikov, Viktor Borissov and Nikolai Kachalin, all three of them are businessmen.
They travelled on a specially designed bus from Europe to West Africa as part of their world expedition, which started from Moscow in October 1, 2017. The special bus used for the trip is named “4X4 Minivan UAZ-452 Buhanka.”
Their trip to Nigeria, which took them to Benin City, Enugu and other cities in the country was anchored by the Managing Director of Jemi – Alade Tours, Mr. Ladi Jemi – Alade.
Jemi – Alade, who is Nigeria’s foremost and renowned ground tour operator, in conjunction with Tony Erha, a journalist and renowned environmentalist, who is the manager of Black Well and Mahogany Company, based in Benin City, conducted the tourists on the two days visit to a number of attractions within Benin City and its environs.
Some of the attractions visited by them include the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Bronze Casting Centre at Igun and the Eboh Cultural Centre.
Speaking on the expedition, Balandinski revealed that the nickname of the expedition derives from 4X4 minivan UAZ-452, which is also called Buhanka (A Russian word translated as ‘A Loaf of Bread’), due to the shape of the bus.
The bus, he said, was the first to be manufactured in Russia, and it has since undergone different models to the present day model. He said the 1965 model of the minibus, which is used as the mascot of the journey that is themed, Around the World on a Loaf, is one of the models that is the Russian’s identity essential. The bus uses petrol and liquefied gas and cost some US $8,000 (about N2.7)
The team has visited about 42 countries across the world in ascending order of the countries name. The trip, according to him, is undertaken by a specialised group of Russian’s volunteers, who collaborate with other long haul over land travelers, who in the course of their trips engaged in different activities.
He further hinted that the group has a mandate to help Russian tourists and investors to travel to different countries and to discover new tourist and investment destinations. The group, he said also contribute to the development of the destinations visited by them and help in the marketing and promotion of such destinations through referrals and recommendations.
Balandinski disclosed that they enjoy huge support from automotive manufacturers in Russian, state and public organizations. “The expedition and its destinations and outcomes have wide support of the Russian automobile and equipment manufacturers, state and public organizations,” he said.
Aside the many European countries toured, on this particularly trip, Balandinski disclosed that they have covered a distance of about 43, 000 kilometres, stretching across such countries as Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Gabon, Congo, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
Nigerians are hospitable people
Balandinski, said he is in love with Nigeria as he spoke glowingly about the country and its people. According to him: “Where ever we go in Nigeria, we see a people who are very warm, helpful and peaceful than the other Africa and even European countries we have visited.
He also has some good words for the Nigeria Police, describing them as hard working, honest and helpful to visitors. ‘‘To us the Nigeria Police are very accommodating and not the bribe takers, like we have been reminded by negative media reports and those who may have not come this way.
‘‘In Nigeria, we have not witnessed anything like the extortion and intimidation that some policemen in the other West Africa countries try to do to us. Anyway, our good experience about Nigeria has been confirmed by many groups of tourists, who have visited recently. They say that Nigeria is really good and not as it is negatively portrayed.’’
For him, the bad image associated with Nigeria is merely that of perception as he said that: ‘‘Nigeria and most of its people indeed are negatively perceived by Russians. This act is capable of discouraging tourists from visiting Nigeria.’’
According to him: ‘‘This is my first time of visiting Nigeria, people tend to portray the opposite about Nigerians. Your people are very receptive, supportive and well cultured. Nigeria can be one of the best tourist centres in the world if only the government can develop the country’s tourist zones”
“All the Nigerian people need to do is to work assiduously to discourage its wrong global image profiling by the global press. The negativity of crisis like the Boko Haram and other criminalities that will not make tourist to go to the North East and some other sides of the country should be quickly addressed.
‘‘Nigeria is a great country and Africa’s heartland that could play bigger role in the affairs of the world if it is properly managed. No doubt, there are always some good and negative things to say about any country and its people. But when the advantages are far more than the disadvantages, in the case of Nigeria, the fewer bad sides ought not to be celebrated.”
A lot of foreign tourists visit Nigeria
Erha is delighted by the visit as he revealed that Nigeria has continued to attracted a number of foreign tourists despite the negative image held of the country. This he attributed to the years of hard work people in by a number of people, especially tour operators in marketing the country. He made tributes to Jemi – Alade Tours and his company, for the efforts put in this regard.
He said that despite not having the best of tourist attractions and facilities, Edo State has had it share of tourists. He commended the the state government for this, noting that the effort at curtailing crime across the state has paid off hence the peace being enjoyed by the people of the state.
La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort named best resort in West Africa
A Germany – based rating agency, Tourism Beyond Borders, which is an international continental tourism rating body, has named La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort as the best in West Africa and one of the top in the world, following a recent survey conducted by it. The resort is located in Ikegun Village Ibeju – Lekki, Lagos State.
According to the agency, the resort emerged tops in the rating criteria considered: ‘‘La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort located in Lagos Nigeria has been found to be the best in West-Africa based on the criteria of location, innovation , security, facility development , global networking and multi –theme configuration.’’
President of Tourism Beyond Borders, Mr. Franco Hert, said “the Consummate Beach Resort Research project was carried out between June 2016 and December 2017. With key interest in location, innovation, branding, security, facility development and sustenance. In all these, La Campagne clearly led and others followed.”
He further disclosed that “while some of the beach resort operators in Africa and particularly in West Africa, are mono-focal in their prism of development of the beach, La Campagne’s handler towers by not only being multi-focal in branding, but consistently ensuring the planting of new facilities which keep attracting patrons.”
Hert described the location, setting and sophisticated facilities of the resort as a perfect blend with nature: “La Campagne is located in an ambience of aquatic splendour of the Atlantic Ocean, buffet by a prosperous mangrove vegetation of the Ibeju Lekki and an evergreen ecotourism forest harbouring friendly fauna and flora. It has a set of accommodation facilities constructed largely with local contents in an extra-ordinary tropical style most of which hang on a tree or swinging over the Lagoon”
He further revealed that: “This tropical content is richly infused with cosmopolitan fixtures and fittings balanced on the scale of posh, classy and luxury hemmed by swimming pools of lovely shapes and figures. It is the only resort in the world which has made history of having within its geographical conclave the longest swimming pool beside the ocean.”
“It is one resort in the whole of Africa where a regular patron is assured of a new experience any time he visits. La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort is certainly the best of the rest. We testify to this.”
The Founder and President of La Campagne, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, who is elated by the development, described the award as a welcomed one and a testimonial to the resourcefulness of the resort and what it stood for in terms of window to Africa tourism offering where man and nature live in harmony.
The Africa themed resort, which is known for its engaging nature and boosting some of the best and unique facilities nestled against an inviting natural pull, has over the years won different awards and accolades from different organisations, governments and individuals for its outstanding location, facilities and services.
Akwa Ibom consolidates on dream destination
There is no denying the fact that since its neighbor – sister state, Cross River State, harped on tourism economy and started laying the building blocks that would take it to the top, Akwa Ibom State has never hidden its desire too to compete on this score.
The first concrete step in this direction was the building of Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort (Now Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort) in Nwaniba, Uyo, which in 2007 opened to world acclaim. Many regard it as the only true resort in the real sense of it with the best golf course in that part of the country.
Years later this was followed by other projects and activities, which were aimed at raising the tourism profile of the state and put it on the pole position for the number one tourism destination spot. Top on the list were the Ibom Tropicana, a multiple – purpose enclave, which is yet to be fully completed and the 1, 000 man choir band that plays during the Christmas period, thereby drawing traffic to the state yearly.
The journey is still a long and difficult one and this the present administration of the state led by Governor Udom Emmanuel realises as it has also mapped out a clear direction by putting up additional building blocks towards sustaining and extending the life of the vision.
This much was revealed by the state Commissioner for Tourism and Culture, Victor Antai, who in a recent engagement with a team of tourism operators, including travel journalists, spoke extensively on the effort of the governor in the state tourism project.
First, he pays glowing tributes to the past governors of the state whom he said laid the tourism foundation of the state. ‘‘We have to give credit to the governors that Akwa Ibom State has been blessed with before the coming of Udom Emmanuel. They actually had made bold steps in positioning Akwa Ibom State as a tourist destination,’’ he says.
Then he speaks on the effort of the present governor, who according to him has made remarkable progress in this direction: ‘‘Then coming to the administration of Udoh Emmanuel, we have laid remarkable foundations where tourism can thrive.
‘‘Like Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, which was built by former governor Victor Attah, and currently governor Udoh Emmanuel is undertaking the renovation of the facility and work is ongoing to actually re-launch and reposition the hotel as the number one tourist attraction in the country.
‘‘We have the Orange September, which best define who we are as a people. We have a lot of events that make up the Orange September, it was a six day events that ran back to back. In December, we had Ukapisua, which means Christmas in our local parlance.’’
He then outlines some of the activities that comprised this star package of the state, which for the last quarter of the year makes the state a busy destination to explore by tourists of all ages given the diverse tourism offerings that are served at different parts of the state with the capital city, Uyo as the hottest spot.
On the bill, according to Antai, is the street groove, which he says is the first of its kind in Africa, as it consists of a combination of carnival float and sound truck, with the five carnival bands of the state named after some of the outstanding heritage sites in the state on showpiece.
‘‘We are laying a foundation right now to making Akwa Ibom State a more preferred destination when it comes to the months of September – December,’’ discloses Antai of the rationale behind the packed activities of the last quarter of the year. But he is quick to add that other quarters are not left out in the equation.
A new era for tourism
Going forward, there is a chance that a new vista may just be on the horizon for the state tourism. That is, when it comes to funding for tourism related projects and activities, as Antai is excited about the budgetary provisions for his ministry this year.
Previously, the ministry is allocated paltry fund in the state budget but this year, all that seems to have changed as tourism is one of the top rated sector this year with huge allocations. ‘‘For the first time the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is having an improved budget from below a billion naira to about N8 billion.’’
With the improved funding, he reveals that a number of the state tourism structures would be attended to while new ones would also be initiated: ‘‘That difference we are going to use it to actually improve on the existing heritage sites, like Lord Lugard House. We would do something about it and other heritage sites that we have in the state.
‘‘Amalgamation House will also have a strong intervention from us because it is sited here in Akwa Ibom State and that would make people to really want to go to Ikot Abasi because from the Amalgamation House to the Beach of Return is less than two hundred metres and that whole area means a lot to us as a government.
‘‘Most importantly, we are also interested in sustaining and maintaining what other previous governments have put in place and that is why we are here in Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort. If you talk with the general manager he will tell you that a lot of work is going on.
‘‘We are also trying to put in more structures and events like the Orange – September, the celebration of the state creation, the street groove and the mega beach fiesta. The fiesta will bring to the fore the beauty, the ambience and the lovely scenery of Ibeno Beach, which I am sure most people don’t know about.
‘‘Right now Mobile Oil has actually started the construction of a mini – 9 hole golf just by the beach. That is one of the good success stories that came out of our activities at Ibeno Beach.’’
The end result of all these in the words of Antai, is that: ‘‘We are trying very hard to make Akwa Ibom a very strong brand when you talk about tourism. We are putting structures on ground and using professionals and people with the capacity and also entrenching what we are doing so that if the commissioner steps aside whoever comes in the show will still run.’’
The state is also working in league with the private sector to ensure that tourism thrives as the main concern of the government is creating the enabling environment and showing commitment so as to built trust and confidence. ‘‘A lot of organisations and people have approached us for partnership and we are talking and working with them and once anyone materialises the state governor will be the one to unfold and present it to the people,’’ he says.
Inculcating holiday culture in Nigerians
For tourism to yield the much needed results, Antai says marketing and promotion should not be seen as the next most important step but rather that of winning Nigerians trust and confidence in the destination, not just only in Akwa Ibom State but across the country.
To achieve, he is calling for a national campaign to inculcate in Nigerians the importance of holiday culture and tourism as Nigerians generally lack this understanding while those that tend to travel do so as an afterthought and mostly for shopping and perhaps to boost their social status.
‘‘Marketing and promotion should come after we inculcate the culture of vacation in Nigerians. I think the main thrust should be the campaign of Nigerians having holidays and it will help tourism in Nigeria.
‘‘Before we get the real tourist traffic that we want we must make people have confidence in themselves to take holidays. Most Nigerians work daily and weekly without any break, January to December, without observing holidays.
‘‘If we can now say let start a campaign on have you taken your family on holiday and when last did you go on holiday we can improve our market. What that means is that everyone in tourism will make more money.
‘‘If we can start the campaign it will also help them health wise and it will improve the tourism sub sector of our economy and it will bring more money to travel agencies, tour operators, hotels and others.’’
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