The just concluded 2018 Akwaaba African Travel Market had a record number of stands and exhibitors. For three consecutive days, the two exhibition floors were completely taken. From airlines to hospitality companies, to tour operators, to tourism boards and even States, the stands were all colourful and well appointed. But here are my top 8. 1. South African Tourism
At number 1 is South African Tourism stand. The first time I attended Akwaaba African Travel Market was in 2016. South African Tourism stand totally caught my attention and captivated me. The same thing happened in 2017. But 2018 was the killer with even more innovations, more creativity, better appeal and better ambience. The backgrounds of the stand, especially the video, made you think you were already in South Africa.
Over the years, models have formed part of the catch at South African Tourism stand, this year wasn't different. Dressed in colourful and visually appealing South African costumes, the models added even more flair to the stand, they must have had a million pictures taken with them. Selfie lovers also had a swell time. I don't have empirical data to prove it but I think South African Tourism stand received the highest number of visitors at the 2018 Akwaaba ATM. 2. Dubai Tourism
With up to 15 different companies from Dubai attending and exhibiting at the 2018 Akwaaba ATM, Dubai Tourism stand was naturally a Mecca of some sort. Located on the first floor of the exhibition hall and taking much of the space, Dubai Tourism stand caught delegates attention with colourful and well appointed booths. In my opinion, the Dubai Tourism stand was probably the most comprehensive in terms of travel and tourism products and services. With companies ranging from hospitality to health, Dubai Tourism stand was in fact, a one-stop shop for the curious delegates and for those genuinely seeking for business partnerships.
With comfortable and stylishly arranged sofa-like seats, the Dubai Tourism stand was probably the only stand you could luxuriate in while having a business-to-business meeting with exhibitors. Those who visited Dubai Tourism stand got more than a writing pad and a pen as gifts. Picture freaks had enough space and backgrounds for some beautiful shots. In 2017, I tried and loved Dubai Tourism's roasted dates, but in 2018, there wasn't any to my disappointment. That notwithstanding, I had a good time at the Dubai Tourism stand. 3. Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines stand also had it's own share of the actions and the activities at the 2018 Akwaaba. Strategically positioned and manned by Adetola Alabi and co, the stand played host to a lot of delegates including Beauty Queens. As usual, the Boeing 787 model which has been an integral part of Ethiopian Airlines brand and image, wowed visitors.
In fact, you couldn't walk past Ethiopian Airlines stand without taking a second and even a third look at the very beautiful Boeing 787-8 model. For airplane freaks and aviation addicts like me, the stand provided an opportunity to appreciate aviation. With only a desk, an airplane model, and a couple of banners, Ethiopian Airlines stand was simple but commanded attention. 4. Ghana Tourism Authority
The first time I witnessed how serious Ghana was in tourism was at the 2018 Accra Weizo in June this year which was preceded by a fam trip. At that event, Ghana made a statement. As if to re-enact that statement, Ghana attended the 2018 Akwaaba ATM with full force. Ghana Tourism Authority stand was one of the busiest and most visited at the show. In line with what Ghana stands for, their stand was very colourful and attractive and caught the attention of many delegates.
To make good things even better, popular Ghallywood and Nollywood star, Van Vicker manned the stand. His presence, undoubtedly, helped to drive traffic to the stand causing a kind of indoor holdup. With the popular "See Ghana, Eat Ghana, Wear Ghana and Feel Ghana" concept, visitors to the stand experienced Ghana's dynamic rhythym, rich cultural heritage, diverse cuisine and unique warmth. 5. Anambra State
The 2018 Akwaaba was the first time Anambra State would take a stand, and they did 'take a stand' at the event. Led by the state's Commissioner of Tourism, the beautiful and vibrant Sally Mbanefo, Anambra State added colour and life to the three-day event. With her warm personality, Sally literally brought charm to the stand. The stand very well marketed Anambra State tourism with eye catching banners and other exhibits. The 'Youths in Tourism Summit' day was especially busy for Anambra State stand as it played host to all 14 Beauty Queens that attended the event. In fact it was a beehive of activities as the Beauty Queens interacted with Sally Mbanefo who is an Amazon of beauty herself. Coincidentally, three of the Beauty Queens are from Anambra State. 6. The Gambia
The Gambia promised to bring charms to the 2018 Akwaaba ATM, and they fulfilled that promise, they brought charms. Their stand literally brought the Gambia to Nigeria with inspiring messages and exhibits that made you want to jump into the next flight to the Gambia. I haven't been to the Gambia yet, but the stand opened my mind and I learnt a lot of things I never knew or even heard about the Gambia. I learnt about Arch 22, a monument commemorating the July 22, 1994 coup d'etat in the Gambia. I also learnt about Fort Bullen, the only fort in West Africa purposely built to enforce the abolition of slavery in Africa. If you were interested in educational tourism, the Gambia stand was a place to be. 7. Lagos State
After a 5-year absence, Lagos returned to the Akwaaba African Travel Market. Although the city had always hosted the travel and tourism show, the 14th Akwaaba was the first time Lagos State partnered to host the event, and they came with a bang. Lagos came with arts, they came with music, they came with dance and they came with stories, all at one stand.
The Lagos State stand was one of the busiest and most visited stands at the show. In addition to promoting Lagos and Lagos tourism, the stand also promoted made-in-Nigeria products including artworks, paintings wears and other fashion accessories. If you didn't know who the Governor of Lagos State was, it was easy to find out at the stand. 8. Air Namibia
Air Namibia may not be one of the biggest airlines in Africa, but they came and people knew they came. They had a beautiful stand which caught the attention of many delegates. The staff who manned the Air Namibia stand were cheerful and attentive, they answered your questions with a good deal of politeness. The 2018 Akwaaba ATM was a good opportunity to market their newly launched West African route which connects Windhoek (Namibia) to Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria). They even gave out 2 business class tickets and 2 economy class tickets to 4 lucky winners. I'm not sure any other airline did this at the event.