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Nigeria will be fully present at 2024 WTM – FTAN Pres., Onung, applauds NANTA, WATO

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Next edition of the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, United Kingdom, in 2024 will fully feature Nigeria travel and tourism operators, according to the President of the Federation of Nigerian Tourism Associations (FTAN), Mr. Nkereuwem Onung.

Minister of Tourism, Ms Lola Ade-John with FTAN President, Mr. Nkereuwem Onung during a recent meeting in September, in Abuja

Mr. Onung who disclosed this in a statement released, Monday, while reacting to the unexpectedly low-key participation of the country at the just-concluded annual WTM trade exhibition in London, assured that there will be an improvement come next edition in 2024, as he further stated that the country ‘will be fully and better represented.’

The World Travel Market (WTM) held for three days of Monday, November 6 through to Wednesday, 8, at the ExCel London, in the London City Airport area, and traditionally gathered the biggest travel trade professionals who network and gain industry insight into the latest industry trends.

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The event remains the biggest platform to showcase exhibit travel and tourism products by participants from across the world at the trade exhibition. The WTM also showcases private sector operators in travel related industries including; hotels, airlines, car rentals, tour operators, cruise lines.

However, as well attended as the exhibition was, the country was unable to attend, as only the representation made by the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), and a private operator, Wakanow, flew Nigeria’s flag at the trade show. Incidentally, another private sector operators’ group, the West Africa Travel Organisation (WATO) also lifted the sub-region’s presence at the trade expo in separate stand.

The Nigeria government did not officially put up an exhibition stand at the 2023 trade expo, which would served as a general platform for all private and public sector operators in the industry to showcase their products.

Reacting to the situation, the FTAN President, in a statement, explained that the absence of the Nigerian delegation is a temporary setback, adding that the original plan of the Federal Government was for the Minister of tourism, Ms Lola Ade-John to lead the Nigerian delegation to the trade show, in line with pledge made to the private sector operators in September this year of government’s renewed commitment towards growing the industry.

“The original plan was for the minister lead the Nigerian industry delegation to the trade show. The plan was for the Minister of Tourism, Ms Lola Ade-John to lead a high-powered delegation of private sector operators in the industry to storm the 2023 WTM in London and fully showcase Nigeria’s products from all perspective.

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“However, due to unforeseen challenges, mostly having to do with the minister’s health, as well as logistics issues, that plan was temporarily shelved but not discarded.

“The government, from what I have been reliably informed will still fulfill its original plan for at the just-concluded WTM 2023 by the next edition in 2024. So we expect that Nigerian travel and tourism operators will be given the room to demonstrate their capacities by way of showcasing their enormous travel and tourism products at the next edition of the trade exhibition in London.

“I can assure that this was not planned. We had intended to make a bigger showcase of Nigeria’s tourism and travel potential but then happened the setback.

“The Federal Government, through the minister had assured stakeholders of an improved investment and participation in the industry, and it is not relenting on this assurance, hence, we assure that the next edition will gather an expanded delegation of operators to attend and showcase our offerings at the expo.

“The WTM is still world’s biggest platform to meet and network among travel industry most reputable operators and we cannot afford to be absent at the expo come 2024,” said Onung.

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The FTAN President further appreciated and hailed NANTA, WATO and Wakanow and others who exhibited at the WTM 2023 trade show which gave Nigeria a good representation.

“The NTDA Director General, Folarin Coker represented the Minister at the WTM expo, but I appreciate NANTA and others like WATO, Wakanow, for the wonderful showcase on behalf of the Nigerian tourism operators. They indeed flew our flag really well from reports I have read on the trade exhibition. We hail them. And also the WATO and Wakanow teams which showed their presence during the event,” Onung continued.

It would be recalled that earlier in September, this year, while receiving FTAN chieftains in Abuja shortly after inauguration, Ms Ade-John disclosed that the Federal Government has recommitted to enabling private enterprise participation in growing the tourism sector of the country.

The FTAN delegation led by its President, Onung also comprised the Directors General of the two agencies in the ministry; the National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, as well as, his counterpart at the Nigerian Tourism Development Authority (NTDA), Mr Folusho Folarin-Coker.

The minister used the meeting to restate her task of making the tourism industry viable and attractive to private investors, which she said tops the list of focus she has been tasked with by President Bola Tinubu.

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According to the minister, ‘tourism is set to take the number one space in revenue generation in the country,’ which she stressed, can only be achieved through effective collaborations and result-oriented partnerships with private sector business and think-tank groups like FTAN.

Ade-John further reechoed President Bola Tinubu’s charge to all the ministerial appointees to revitalize their sectors, even as she thanked the FTAN delegation for the courtesy visit to her office ‘despite the tight space in the meeting room.’

The minister assured FTAN of her commitment to ‘push in ways and modalities to make tourism in Nigeria work,’ with the cooperation of the private sector enterprise stakeholders like the group.

On the issue of carrying FTAN along in government attendance at international events, the minister assured that she is working closely with all the parastatals and the ministry to attend those events in order ‘to tell the world that Tourism in Nigeria is back.’

On partnership with private sector operators in the industry, the minister assured of her readiness to ‘gladly talk to FTAN anytime’ and FTAN should feel free to come to the office to see her anytime.

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Members of the FTAN delegation in the courtesy visit to the Tourism minister’s office included the executive committee officers, and some presidents of affiliate associations.

The WTM 2023 Federal Government was led by the Director-General of the NTDA, Mr Folusho Folarin-Coker, while the NANTA team was led by its President, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, including Vice President, Eastern zone, NANTA, Mrs Chinyere Umeasiegbu; Vice President Lagos, Yinka Folami; and National Publicity Secretary, Mrs lola Adewole, as well as, journalist and member of the Association of Nigerian Journalists and Writers of Tourism (ANJET), Mr Frank Meke.

The next edition of the WTM London is expected to be held in November 2024.

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