When a member of the Akwaaba ATM Team handed me a piece of paper to write my favourite stand at the show, I knew it wasn't a 'JAMB' question, so I didn't crack my brain to come up with an answer. For me, the answer was very obvious, it was the South African Tourism stand.
The first time I attended Akwaaba African Travel Market was in 2016. At that edition, South African Tourism stand totally caught my attention and stole my heart. I visited it severally, sometimes without a purpose except to just look around. The same thing happened at the 2017 edition. But 2018 was the killer with even more innovations, more creativity, more appeal and better ambience. The backgrounds of the stand, especially the video, made you think you were already in South Africa.
South African Tourism stand literally brought South Africa, its captivating essence and its many enthralling tourist attractions to Nigeria under one roof. Via background videos, it brought the famous Cape Town table mountain, the wonderful and diverse safari experiences and other adventures. It brought the skyline of Johannesburg and the beaches of Durban, it brought the scenic landscape of Mpumalanga and the thrilling history of Kwazulu Natal. At the stand, you could feel South Africa's rich culture as well as the beat of its cities, you could also feel the pulse and the rhythm of the Madiba country. Oh, they even brought Mandela, well, his statue.
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 traditional South African costumes, the models added more flair to the stand. There was something special about them. They were charming, alluring, inviting, visually appealing and almost addictive. You couldn't visit the stand without taking a few photo shots with them. And they must have had a million pictures taken with them.
Even if you were in a hurry, you couldn't walk or run past the South African Tourism stand without taking more than a second look. Even if you had a flight or an appointment to catch, you had to stop by for a 'quicky' at the stand.
Even if you didn't want to take a look, you took a look anyway not just because the stand was strategically located, but also because it was simply irresistible. And for three days at a stretch, South African Tourism stand was a photo studio.
For three exciting days, the South African Tourism stand hosted all the 'big heads' at the travel and tourism event. It hosted Nollywood and Ghallywood celebrities, including Nigeria's Banky W and Ghana's Van Vicker; it also hosted over 10 beauty Queens at the event. The stand was a place you wanted to be. In fact, other exhibitors randomly flocked to the South African Tourism stand to have a taste of South Africa. And for Mohammed Tanko Kwajaffa, Trade Relations Manager, South African Tourism, it was a very good opportunity to market South Africa and he did that with ease.
Beyond the paparazzi, the South African Tourism stand represented different things to different visitors. Personally, it was a place to draw fresh inspiration and hope. At the stand, my love for African culture and its authenticity was renewed without me even knowing it. And looking at the Nelson Mandela statue at the stand, I got a bit emotional and nostalgic.
I don't have empirical data or statistics to support this claim, but I think South African Tourism stand received the highest number of visitors at the 2018 Akwaaba ATM. It was a Mecca of some sort and it stole the show.