Come May 26 -27 this year, industry players and stakeholders within the travel and tourism from West Africa and beyond will converge at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel for the third edition of the annual Accra Weizor.
The event will take a critical and profound look at ways to improve travel and tourism growth in West Africa through easy access to towns and cities in West Africa, improving and simplifying Airport and border processes; standardizing hotel and facilities for tourism through shared vision.
This year’s event will run for two days with a pre-event Fam Tour by tour operators to Cape Coast. Ikechi Uko, organizer of the event says, Weizor Accra aims to promote seamless travel within West Africa. ‘’ West Africa has 15 nations, it has more than 300 million people, it has close to 40 airports but West Africa gets the least number of tourists in Africa.
West Africans don’t work with each other; Ghana is Ghana, Nigeria is Nigeria, Gambia is Gambia but in East Africa there is already an integration going on that with one visa you can visit three countries. But West Africa started the free movement in Africa in 1973; the ECOWAS Protocol. From 1973 till today West Africa has made no progress.’’
The Fam Tour is one of two new features that will be introduced at this year’s event, with the other being a training session on digital marketing for tourism organizations. Mr. Uko notes that the need for the introduction of the training is to help stakeholders keep up with the new trend of marketing online which is changing the landscape of promoting business especially within the travel and tourism sector.
‘’So more people attracted to using online for their booking and Nigeria has the highest internet penetration by phone in the world – 98 million- and is not surprising that 50 million people will use internet to make their booking. I think it’s like 40% in Ghana and the numbers will go up. So people who are used to the old style of marketing are actually being left in the lodge but they need to be able to adopt new skills. Social media is not too difficult, anybody can be an expert, you don’t need to be a computer whiz kid to master those skills.’’
He adds that West Africa is not doing enough to attract enough visitors and tourists because it is failing to take advantage of the internet boom. ‘’ A lot of people in the world will just search a hashtag and they will see those who fall under. There are those who could do a normal Google search and see who falls under. People are looking for adventure, people are looking for new places, you’ve tried everything but you want something different. I have done every kind of travel; I never did cruise so last year I tried it. So there are people who are looking for new experiences and if you are not in the area where they search, they won’t know about you. So you find out that although we have most of the good products in West Africa, we lose out because they don’t know about us,’’ he indicated.
Another first for Accra Weizor this year will be the launch of the ‘Tourism Top 100 Personalities in West Africa,’ which recognizes and awards stakeholders who have distinguished themselves in promoting tourism in the sub-region. And According Mr. Ikechi Uko state that the rationale behind the initiative is let people know the personalities behind the entities that drive tourism in West Africa. I travel all the countries in Africa so I seem to know everybody. A lot of people in Gambia want something done in Ghana, they call me, I will connect, people in Nigeria also call so why don’t we bring out the main players in the industry and say, these are the people who have done this, who are good in this so you can use them. You don’t need to call me; you will know them because we will put their profiles online and bring them together so that they can network. So we need very vital tools of networking. Our aim for Weizor is seamless travel in West Africa. We want to interconnect the 15 countries of West Africa.
The 340 million people, the 40 airports and what do we do? Let’s identify the people who do these things. These things are not done by ghosts; they are done by people, who are the people behind these products, who is behind AWA, who is behind Air Peace, who is behind Coconut Grove, who is behind Kaya Tours? We need to know these people,’’ he stated.
Accra Weizor is a travel and tourism trade conference and exhibition designed to boost tourism businesses in West Africa and it is organized by the Africa Travel Quarterly (ATQ). Over the years that it has been in existence, the event has become one place for patrons to know more about West Africa tourism offering. The first day of the event will be a conference on seamless travel with the theme for this year on aviation as ‘Making West Africa a Domestic Aviation Market.’ This year’s will also feature an exhibition by Dubai and South Africa tourism with a line-up of other exciting side attractions.