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Akwa Ibom: Towards development of tourism potentials
22 Sep 2008: Tony Ukpong

Akwa Ibom State is said to be among those few states in Nigeria that are richly endowed with tourism potentials, merely waiting to be harnessed for huge socio-economic gains.

 

Blessed with some of the finest topography, coastal lines and water fronts that are readily adjusted and managed to meet the international tourist demands, analysts believe that the abundant potentials in the state can turn it into one of the tourists’ destinations in the country.

 

With tourism globally becoming one of the fastest growing and huge foreign exchange earners, the state governor, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, must have captured that hidden future when he decided that his administration was determined as a policy thrust, to make the state a destination for tourists.

 

Only recently, the governor announced to the state indigenes in the United States of America (USA) that the state government, in partnership with private sector players, would soon commence the construction of a befitting shopping mall and an entertainment complex, which would have more theatres as well as additional three hotels of 5-Star status, in some designated areas in the state. This measure, the governor said, is to further boost tourism, leisure, recreation and business in the state, in line with the emerging global trend.

 

Of course, Akpabio’s investment in the culture and tourism sub-sector is not without justifiable reasons. It has been a general opinion that if the sub-sector must be given a boost in the state’s provision of international standard, hotels, as a starting point, would be of the essence.

 

With only one 5-Star hotel, Le Meridian Hotel and Golf Resort, the three new hotels, as promised by Governor Akpabio, are believed would add up to the governor’s efforts, more so, with existing privately owned hotel outfits undergoing structural re-designing and upgrading.

 

As a first step towards the realisation of this vision, Governor Akpabio, in a recent cabinet reshuffle, moved the environmental ministry to that of culture and tourism. The Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Lady Valerie Ebe, has since embarked on a tour of the 31 local government areas of the state to inspect the potential tourism sites. During the tour, Lady Ebe was at Ikot Abasi, Oron, Ukanafun, Ibiono Ibom and Ibeno local government areas, among others, where tourism analysts and operators lay hold on some very fascinating tourism sites for the state’s newly found project in culture and tourism.

For instance, Ibeno Beach is known, not only to be the finest water front in the country, but also the longest coastline in Nigeria.

 

Meanwhile, some tourism activities have been lined up in order to create awareness among the people of the state for the recognition of the opportunities that abound in the sector, as well as to invite the world to come and see what the state has to offer in that direction.

 

From now till the end of the year, the state government is billed to embark on some activities aimed at showcasing the rich cultural and tourism potentials of the state to the outside world.

 

Already, a summit has started in Uyo, and played host to tourism experts and operators in the state and outside. According to information made available to Nigerian Tribune from the culture and tourism ministry in the state, participants at the event were expected to brainstorm on the possible way forward for tourism in the state.

Tagged, “Akwa Ibom Tourism Summit: Rejuvenating Global Investments,” the event is intended to bring Akwa Ibom indigenes and their friends in the diaspora back home for the purpose of networking and promoting Akwa Ibom as a preferred holiday destination.

 

With the state’s rich culture and tourism potential aimed at the highest level in what experts say is a destined “tourism axis,” a lot of prominent companies operating both within and outside the state have been committed to partner and sponsor the international tourism summit.

 

The “Tourism Axis,” is both a profound coinage and truism viewed from the presence of the prestigious Tinapa business expo and tourism sites in Cross River State, Akwa Ibom State’s closest neighbour.

Such a development is believed to introduce a healthy sensation that would lure tourists and other fun seekers to the area as a one-stop culture and tourism haven.

 

With the state winning the first position in the product design category at the just concluded First African Arts and Crafts Expo held in Abuja, everything appears to favour and boost whatever plans the authority has for the sub-sector without much ado.

 

Many people believe that the state government has scored another significant point by embarking on the construction of an arts and craft market to be called, “The Cultural Village,” in Uyo.

 

The market is intended as a one-stop business point for all made-in-Akwa Ibom crafts and arts works, with outlets in each of the 31 local government areas in the state.

 

The Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Lady Valerie Ebe, who said that the engagement was part of the decisions taken at the recent National Council on Culture and Tourism, added that the state is billed to institute an annual Akwa Ibom State Festival of Arts and Culture with effect from this year.

With each of the 31 local government areas billed to host at least one cultural industry at its domain for economic empowerment of the grassroots, Lady Ebe said in line with the Federal Government’s directive, the state will soon develop a more comprehensive calendar of cultural events as well as designate, compile and maintain more tourism and cultural sites in the state.

 

Local government chairmen in the state appear to be on their toes as Lady Ebe has warned that they must be religious in abiding with government’s directives affecting culture and tourism matters in their areas of jurisdiction.

 

The state is equally under pressure to carry all the sectors along in what the Akpabio-led administration tags re-branching process of the state.

 

The heat is on, just as every day has been billed to capture one aspect of exhibition and carnival float or the other, preparatory to the hosting a cultural fiesta tagged, “AKISFIESTA”, in December this year.

AKISFIESTA was conceived to add a new bliss and flavour to this year’s Christmas and New Year celebrations.

 

Lady Ebe told journalists in Uyo that government was in liaison with indigenous consultancy groups in Akwa Ibom to package a blueprint, with the commitment to harnessing the abundant cultural and tourism potentials lurking everywhere in the state.

 

Interestingly, the state government seems worried by the fact that such abundant tourism potentials had remained largely untapped for ages and now appear determined to work in a hurry to turn on all knobs at the same time.

 

For example, the first National Museum and Monument east of the Niger in Oron Local Government Area of the state, is billed to soon receive a new image, following the Akpabio government’s determination aimed at attracting more patronage to the institution and possibly increase its revenue base from this sub-sector henceforth.

 

No one is left in doubt that the old era is gone as everything in the state seems to point to the direction that festive activities as the 2008 Christmas have already started in Akwa Ibom State, even in this month of September.

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