MAINTAINING THE MOMENTUM: SUSTAINING THE PACE-SETTING CROSS RIVER TOURISM PROGRAMME: BY MR GABE ONAH

MAINTAINING THE MOMENTUM: SUSTAINING THE PACE-SETTING CROSS RIVER TOURISM PROGRAMME: BY MR GABE ONAH

January 06
07:11 2021

PIONEER SPECIAL ADVISOR, TOURISM DEVELOPMENT

Uncharacteristic of a government propelled and driven programme in the Nigerian nation, the Cross State Tourism development and promotion programme has weathered every storm and remained arguably the most progressive development initiative over the last sixteen years in Nigeria.

If Cross River State allows itself a modicum of self congratulations, it would not be indulging in immodesty to self-appreciate itself as a pace setter in a contemporary and competitive economic venture which, in the years ahead, would become an alternative revenue earner for the Government and people of the State.

Having conceived the vision to make Cross River a Destination of choice in Africa, an emerging youthful political leadership in the early 2000 developed a blueprint to harness the state’s enormous natural endowments, develop them and promote them for tourism purposes.

Accordingly, the prime tourists site, the Obudu Ranch Resort, was developed as a world standard Resort with the rarest facilities including an exotic cable car, the picturesque water park, the breathtaking canopy walkway, the exquisite camp David styled Presidential Retreat camp, the international conference center and the African Theme huts and Finland imported Pine Lodges to boost occupancy at the Ranch Resort.

In the State capital, Calabar, the Marina Resort was equally developed, providing comprehensive recreational facilities for a cosmopolitan population. The historic slave route Museum, the carousel, the boat club and the marina Hotel are all irresistible recreational facilities that have boosted the State Tourism profile.

The Canopy Walkway in Buanchor, the longest in Africa, has provided a pull for Eco-tourism lovers who would want to luxuriate in the rich African forest deep in central Cross River State.

The TINAPA Business and leisure Resort with a functional 4 star hotel beckons tourists and business aficionados to Cross River with its awesome facilities panning the movies, retail and wholesale trading with export free licenses. The exotic tour site have been deliberately promoted with a tour events Calendar that ensures there are periodic mass migration of fun seekers and business moguls to the paradise State of Nigeria. Leboku international New Yam Festival begins the tour event Calendar in August. This attracts tourists to Ugep in Central Cross River. The Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race follows in November at the Ranch Resort, extreme North of Cross River while the 32day extravaganza the Calabar Festival holds in the state capital Calabar every December climaxing with the carnival Calabar parade on the 28th and 29th of December with the international segment attracting over twenty nations since inception to underpin her role as a true window for job creation to change lives and a platform for cultural diplomacy.

Cross River State has been blessed with an emerging visionary political class in 1999 and has sustained the programme beyond imaginable limits. The tourism programme has been enhanced by the Governors’ conceptualization of the Destination Cross River Brand which is encapsulated in the visible demonstration of best practices in all Government and private undertakings in Cross River State.

We insist, we either do it in the best international standards or we don’t do it at all. With exotic tour sites, irresistible tourism promotion programmes through a well thought out and researched tactical campaigns, unwavering political will and drive, an institutionalized and integrated sectoral involvement, encompassing the Tourism Development Department, Tourism Bureau, Events management, Carnival commission and the Department of culture and Heritage driving the tourism programme, the Cross River Tourism programme has solidified its foundation and has only one course to follow: Moving forward and setting the pace for other states to follow.

This has earned the state lots of awards and acclaim such as the Award by Africa Travel Quarterly ATQ, in five consecutive years to the Governors as Tourism Governor of the years in view. It is an eloquent testimony to the fact that the world indeed is taking note of the unobtrusive, painstaking and committed approach the Leadership is sustainably driving the soar-away Cross River State Tourism programme. The state has also won series of recognitions of excellence for OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CULTURE, TOURISM & GOOD GOVERNANCE from various organisations from across the globe, especially in our role for the promotion of the Non-Oil Export Trade, which is an endorsement on the Governors’ vision and desire to latch onto an area of sustainable growth as against extinguishable sectors like the celebrated Oil boom with its attendant extremes.

As part of its strategic engagement with development partners, the state through the Cross River State Tourism Bureau, had a partnership relationship with CDC Development Solutions, a non-profit organization based in the United States to implement the TEMPO project. The project which began in 2008 was for three years. The TEMPO project identified the needs in Cross River State to improve tourism products and services and provide business development services through technical assistance and a grant programme.

The overarching objective of the project was to encourage sustainability and responsible tourism by recognizing and encouraging industry stakeholders and aggregating them into associations as destination managers organization (DMO) for optimal service delivery

A lot of milestones were achieved by the project including

  • Conducting market demand research and inventories of tourism assets. Data collected on the visitor readiness and marketability of tourism assets include information on 261 hotels and accommodation, 144 restaurants and bars, 153 artists, artisans, and entertainers, 25 sites and attractions, and 50 tourism support businesses.
  • Set industry standards for the tourism trade
  • Provided trainings and capacity building in line with the industry standards
  • Implemented a pilot promotion to support tourism product development
  • Laid the foundation for a sustainable, independent destination management organization.

RECOMMENDATIONS

For the state to realize its full potentials in the next 50 years, we should strive to do the following:

  • Develop the state’s tourism value chain in many ways by expanding awareness about standards, building brand awareness in the demand markets as well as enhance the role of business development service providers throughout the supply chain.
  • Develop products and markets for seminars, conferences, annual meetings, sales meetings, donor retreats, re-unions, and other gatherings all year round to fill the post-December season which holds only once a year. For instance, customers can be provided with discounted packages for group meetings on various leisure themes.
  • A continuous capacity development programme should be put in place to make tourism operators be abreast of the latest trends in the industry.
  • Re-develop the various tourism sites such as Tinapa, Obudu Mountain Resorts, Afi Rainforests, the Monoliths in Nkarasi, Museum of slave history, Calabar Boat Club
  • Strengthen the Department of Tourism and Hospitality – CRUTECH and get it accredited by NUC
  • Explore more collaboration and partnerships with international aid organizations and development partners
  • Re-introduce and maintain tourism in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools in the state and ensure implementation.
  • Set up a Tourism Academy / hospitality institute at the Ranch Resort or Tinapa to support a well equipped personnel pool for the sector.

 

 

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kammonke

kammonke

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