Tourism authorities and tour operators from Ghana and Benin have resolved to work together to break down immigration barriers that impede tourism in West Africa.
According to them, the strenuous bureaucratic process that even citizens of West Africa are subjected to while travelling across the sub-region make it difficult to promote tourism.
Speaking at a dinner organised by the Le Consortium Touristes par Millions au Bénin (CTM-Bénin), a coalition of tour operators, airlines and hotels of Benin, the organisation’s President, Mr Dine M. Bouraima, said although the sub-region was endowed with tourism resources, a lot more needed to be done to encourage travelling around the region.
Mr Bouraima said it was time for tour operators to push harder for a regional integration that was not only on paper but also real.
He noted that the CTM was committed to working with its Ghanaian counterparts to increase tourism in both countries.
“We will work together to ensure that more of our citizens visit each other’s country to boost the tourism business,” he stated.
The acting Chief Executive of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Mr Kwasi Agyeman, agreed and said greater collaboration was needed to deal with the problem.
He observed that tourism growth in the sub-region would thrive better in an atmosphere of free movement.
He took the opportunity to invite the CTM to a global tourism conference scheduled for next month in Ghana.
Earlier, the team, which travelled by road to Nigeria for the Akwaaba Travel Market, the biggest travel and tourism fair in West Africa, had to endure hours of frustration at the Ghana-Togo and the Togo-Benin borders over immigration processes.
It took at least three hours and 20 minutes to be cleared at both barriers.
But the worst was yet to come at Seme which borders Benin-Nigeria. It took more than three hours to complete the immigration process.
Although the team had all documentations intact, the Nigerian immigration officials were at their slowest bet.
It had to take a call from one of the state governors to release the team.
From Seme through Badagry, there were at least 18 barriers and checkpoints, comprising police, Nigeria Drugs Law Enforcement Agency and immigration.
In the end, a journey that should have taken four hours from Benin ended in almost eight hours.
Akwaaba Travel Market opens
Meanwhile, the Akwaaba Travel Market opened yesterday.
The fair is the sub-region’s largest gathering of tourism authorities, airlines, tour operators and other players in the tourism industry.
The 13th edition is a three-day event being held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
This year’s event has been spiced with the unending jollof war with the introduction of chefs day to determine which country in West Africa cooks the best jollof—the popular rice dish.
The chef challenge is organised with the sole aim of promoting culinary tourism in Africa. It will have chefs from Nigeria and Ghana competing for the best jollof rice, and a group of Nigerian chefs will compete for the best prepared rice in varieties.
Other activities lined up for the event include the second Africa Travel and Tourism Conference Speakers where panellists will address topics and deal with issues such as “One year of accident-free commercial aviation: What did Africa do right?” and “African Airlines and profitability, the real issues, airport perspective, regulations perspective, airlines’ perspective.”
The Women in Tourism Conference 2017 will have Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Madam Anastacia Ndlovu, as guest speaker, with the theme: ‘Women in Tourism: Challenges and the Future’.
The session will allow leading women in tourism to discuss on the various challenges facing women in tourism and move towards curbing these challenges for now and the future.