Akwa Ibom traversing in tourism potentials

Tourism still remains the next one-stop-shop sector in Akwa Ibom state as UKO ETIM reports. 

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in 2008 said of tourism as a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. These people are called visitors (which may be either tourists or excursionists; residents or non-residents) and tourism has to do with their activities, some of which imply tourism expenditure.”

Although the modern social arrangement gained its prominence in the 18th century in western Europe, a lot of people had already embarked on tourism long before its coinage. Interestingly, tourism like trees has many branches.

Tourism sites

Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria with abundant tourism potential. It is situated in the country’s south-south geopolitical zone with enormous potential in the area of tourism. For instance, the state can boast of tourist attractions like Lord Lugard’s House, Mary Slessor Tomb, Old Opobo Boat, Monkey’s Den, Oron/Ibibio Museum, Blue River, Ibeno Beach, Itu Hills, Tom Shot Island, Ubiom Stone, etc. Unfortunately, energy in terms of resources is yet to be injected for the preservation of these heritage sites to galvanize the trooping in of tourists to these areas.

The facelift

However, there are trappings of a facelift of these historical sites as the  state House of Assembly reportedly passed a bill to establish the Akwa Ibom State Tourism, Arts and Culture Endowment Fund (AKSTACEF) into law. The move applauded by many observers is lighting up hopes on the horizon concerning the revitalisation of these sites. Notably, the bill, according to some political pundits would dedicate funds to the repairs of major tourist attractions across the state and promote new ones.

Accordingly, the Governor Udom-led administration in vindicating itself from the court of public opinion on ‘jettisoning’ the historical sites, began taking decisive steps by engaging in road infrastructures leading to these sites, arguing that such heritage sites without good roads railroading down to them become grotesque to tourists’ anticipation.

In the light of this, the chairman, Akwa Ibom Hotels Management and Tourism Board, Mr Ini Akpabio argued that for a place to be accentuated as a tourist destination, a solid foundation must be laid in many areas before the take off as it is pictured in Dubai.

He further maintained that the current government in the state was opening up new horizons in the area of tourism through its investment in Ibom Air, adding that the airline which is also a tourist attraction on its own is engineering the inflow of tourists into the state, and would hit the apex when the heritage sites are fully facelifted.

“Right from the time of His Excellency, Arch. Obong Victor Attah through Godswill Akpabio, and now Mr Udom Emmanuel, the state has been laying a solid foundation for tourism. 

That foundation I mean includes infrastructural tourism (like roads, stadiums, etc).

“No one can jump up and say ‘I am a tourist destination’ without laying the foundation. Akwa Ibom State now has road infrastructure, building infrastructure, beauty infrastructure (like the well-decorated roundabouts, modern street lights, etc) and we also have transport infrastructures.

“We have several historic sites that require attention and we are working on them. As things stand, I can assure you that the government is taking things step-by-step, and very soon, the historic sites will be fully developed. Don’t forget that the government has limited budgets but with unlimited demands”. 

On the speculation that the previous government of Gov. Akpabio did more in tourism than the present administration, he said it was difficult to compare the two governments because each came with its agenda.

For instance, he said Governor Udom Emmanuel has completed the 4point by Sheraton hotel built and stopped at a certain level by the previous administration, built the 21 smart building,  expanded the airport, and created Ibom Air which never existed, adding, these are all part of the legacies of the current administration in the area of tourism.

“With due respect to Godswill Akpabio, he laid a good foundation for tourism by bringing in different aspects of tourism but His Excellency Udom Emmanuel has done great in this regard. He has done both road and housing infrastructure brought in service tourism (Ibom Air) and also dwelt a lot on industrial tourism ( coconut refinery, metering company, syringe company, etc).

He stated that though the game reserve is another good area of tourist attraction like Yankari in Bauchi state, the state does not have a vast area of savannah vegetation but it has its unique point which is marine tourism (like the beach).”

He expressed optimism that as the present administration is winding up, the next government would continue. 

The state commissioner for culture and tourism, Mr. Orman Esin said tourism has never been handicapped in the state as speculated, stressing that the sector has enjoyed enormous backing and a clean bill of health in terms of maintenance and sustenance by the current administration.