Thursday, June 18, 2015

Govt urged to strengthen tourism institutions

By Jimoh Babatunde

The National President of Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP ), Mr. Nkereuwem Onug has urged the new government to focus on strengthening the various tourism institutions in the country so as to derive maximum economic benefits in the sector.
He said as a way of taking off there is the need to seek for those with knowledge of the industry so as to close the knowledge gap being experienced now.

Speaking with Vanguard in Durban, South Africa recently, Nkereuwem said “We need to develop the institutions , we need to get knowledgable people into positions.”

While noting that Nigeria has a lot of work to do to grow its tourism, Nkereuwem said Nigeria needs to be a little more serious as a country . “We need to make tourism to yield or improve our GDP.

“We have actually not developed our potentials, when you come to South Africa and see what is happening then you know we have not started, maybe because of oil, we now know that oil is drying up, so it is time for us as a nation to be a bit serious in tourism.

He said “when you come to a country like south africa and see what is happening, you can imagine the contributions of tourism to the country’s GDP, then we have not started, so there is lot of work to be done back home in nigeria.”

The tour operators boss said the first thing is about knowledge , then the next thing is how do we tap that knowledge and turn it to our benefit. “I think the first thing to do is strengthen the institutions and then get people with knowledge into offices so as to close the knowledge gap.”

Nkereuwem said the government needs to strengthen Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), “it needs to be refocused. The tourism ministry needs to know what they are doing. Who is marketing our country? For the past two years or so, we have not had any marketing Effects.”

While calling for a complete re-orientation , he said Nigeria needs to sell leisure tourism and doing that we need to sell it to Nigerians. “Yes, the domestic tourism is okay, but you also need to bring people to nigeria. Our focus needs to change, what we show to the world also needs to change. So I think there is a lot that needs to be done. We needs to strengthen the institutions.”

He added “There is also the issue of the partnership with the private sector. The partnership has to be with strong institutions before we can be able to stand. “Tourism is collaboration between the tour operators, the hoteliers, and entertainment . It is about consciousness and our people saying this is what we want.”
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

South Africa offering unique safaris

By Jimoh Babatunde
Few countries can offer as much as South Africa when it comes to safari . From getting up close to lions and leopards on a luxury safari to tasting fine wines, whale watching and experiencing the stunning coastline of the Capes.
South Africa has some of the most moving, distinct and dramatic landscapes this world has to offer, which can all be enjoyed from the smooth gait of a luxury locomotive pulling along its plains, swallowing up the savannah and coursing along its coastlines. Jimoh Babatunde tries to capture his experience of enjoyable Rovos train safari to Ballon safari as well as Elephants and Lion safaris.
Rovos train safari
No cell phones in the public places on the train. “ We do not want you to be disturbed on the train. No wi fi on the train as you are here to relax.” That was Rohan Vos, the only person to own a private luxury train in Africa, while welcoming our team on board the Rovos luxury train from Durban to Pretoria.

Team members having lunch aboard Rovos luxury train
In an attempt to encourage bonding and relaxation on board the train, the owner of the train discouraged phone usage except in your rooms and that worked wonders as many later confessed after the trip.
As the steam locomotive pulled along the tracks after the debriefing by Vos and the porters elegantly dressed in their green jackets had taken the bags to the different suits, I slept off like a baby after I had been showed round my private , Cutebela, suite, by my hostess , Bianca.
Wow!!!. The facilities in the suite can compete with any five star hotel’s room anywhere in the world. I was jotted back to life when others had taken their positions for lunch and I was no where to be found. With heavy know on the door, “Sir. It is time for lunch. Others are already at the restaurant.” I struggled out of the bed and headed for the restaurant. There is one bar and restaurant on the train while the meal and drink were great.
Tourists on board could not have asked for more with the train manager, Mart Marais, leading about 20 dedicated staff tending to less than 30 guests. One cannot but agree with John Steinbreder who said it is exceedingly difficult to find a line that harkens back so eloquently to a bygone era including leisurely meals and luxurious naps while setting a rhythm that agreeably relieves all travellers of any sense of times. As we traverse a series of tunnels, the journey was broken at Lion River for a tour of some attractions in the Bushveld.
Under rain and cold we set out to tour the site where Nelson Mandela was captured in the town of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal . An innovative sculpture is at the heart of the centre. 50 steel column constructions up to 9.5 metres tall come into alignment to form a portrait of Nelson Mandela against a backdrop of rolling hills and valleys.
The sculpture commemorates the arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962, the arrest set in motion his trial and subsequent and long walk to freedom.
As I marvelled at the sacrifice of Mandela after the arrest and the great mind of the extraordinary sculpture by artist Marco Cianfanelli in capturing that sacrifice, we were already at Admore Ceramics where   a group of young artists and crafts settled in the hills and valleys of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands attracted by the region’s natural beauty and prospect of alternative, country based lifestyle.
They built homes, workshops and studios and set about producing original works of art and craft at a place that has become known as Admore Ceramic . Fee Halstead Berning was said to have developed the style that has made Admore ceramic famous today by creating the environment that encourages the expression of artists imagination based on nature and tradition of the Zulus.
The oldest engine in the stable and still in occasional use pulled us back to the Rovos station as we arrived in Pretoria. Rohan Vos disclosed it is one of the oldest machine working locos in the world built in 1894. As we made to leave the station, a friend, Tayo told me “this train ride is the icing on the cake, especially with the service on board and the feel one gets while on board is as old world as the classic carriages carrying them.”
For Ikechi Uko “Travelling from Durban to Pretoria on Rovos is the highest level of luxury on any moving object. I kept expecting James Bond to pop up at the dinner train carriage or at the lounge. The luxury train reminds so much of a James Bond movie set.”
Ballon Safari
Imagine having to wake up by 4am after the train ride from Durban to Pretoria just to catch the early morning ballon flight. For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience as we flew with Capt Tracy, one of the most experienced female Balloon pilot in the world with over 35 years of flying experience over Magaliesberg.
The picturesque Magalies-berg area boasts a range of mountains that are almost a 100 times older than Everest , and are literally thousands of millions of years old. An area of significant South African and geological history, its vastness and beauty can only really be appreciated from the air.
Elephant Safari
After about 35 minute in the air, we landed to have breakfast before moving to the Elephant sanctuary where we were taken on the tour of the sanctuary after being made to sign indemnity form. The tour guild, Simba, took us on tutorial about Elephants as we set to touch the elephants. I had fantastic insight into how intelligent the elephants are .
Not only can their sub-sonic rumbling communication system be heard over 10km, but the family unit of the animals is so strong. It was the closet I have ever been to wild animals, to say it was staggering experience was an understatement.
Walking with lions
Nowhere can you get closer to a pride of Lions and other animals and still be completely safe. See the animals up close in all the activities that the Lion Park offers, whether you go on a self-drive tour, guided tour or in the new electric silent vehicle – they guarantee that you will get super close to the animals.
Tayo Adelaja and Muhammed playing with one of the cubs
So it was as we were hoarded into the vehicle to catch glimpse of the white lions and the celebtity one that acted in the movie White Lions. It was given five lionesses for its role in the said movie. When it was time to have photo shots with cubs, my mind raced back to the activity of the self styled Daniel at the Ibadan Zoo some years ago, who was devoured by the Lion.
Though, I finally summoned courage to go into the cub enclave with Tayo Adelaja for the shot, I was hurried out by Tayo who was dammed scared.
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By Jimoh Babatunde
Few countries can offer as much as South Africa when it comes to safari . From getting up close to lions and leopards on a luxury safari to tasting fine wines, whale watching and experiencing the stunning coastline of the Capes.
South Africa has some of the most moving, distinct and dramatic landscapes this world has to offer, which can all be enjoyed from the smooth gait of a luxury locomotive pulling along its plains, swallowing up the savannah and coursing along its coastlines. Jimoh Babatunde tries to capture his experience of enjoyable Rovos train safari to Ballon safari as well as Elephants and Lion safaris.
Rovos train safari
- See more at:

FLOURISH WELLNESS RESORT: Premium charge on healthy living

It is not for nothing that The Gambia is known as the smiling coast of Africa because as a tourist destination it sure offers visitors all sorts of attractive and fascinating options to explore the best of the leisure world, leaving them with exciting and pleasurable memories.
Flourish Wellness Resort is one of its top rated hospitality properties, a luxury boutique property, which besides its leisure appeal, is classified as Africa’s number one wellness and health resort, as it offers patrons premium wellness facilities and services while basking in the euphoria of its well crafted facilities and professionally delivered services.  
For the Marketing Manager, Mr. Arafang Saine, the resort is a class act, which is designed to give first class treatment to patrons with discerning taste, particularly the high-end client desirous of private and exclusive treat. According to him, the resort, which has Nigerian ex-international football player, Kanu Nwankwo, as its ambassador, cherishes its patrons and is devoted to attending to their needs at all times, hence the resort is highly rated when it comes to personalised services.
 “No matter how sophisticated your taste is, how well-travelled or exposed you are, Flourish Wellness Resort is designed to meet them and encourage you for a repeat visit,” said Saine while making a pitch for the resort.
Located in a beautiful, naturally alluring landscape and nestled against the ocean in the Kotu area of Banjul, the resort offers 40 exclusively furnished deluxe suites, all offering good view while enjoying rich d├ęcor and amenities such as free high speed WIFI, cable TV, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and telephone, bathroom/shower and Jacuzzi, kitchenette and entertainment centre.
The exclusive suites offer expansive and aesthetically inviting living rooms with large and beautifully furnished bedrooms with inbuilt wardrobes while you have the luxury of enjoying a free walk to a private veranda or balcony to relax and explore nature and bathe under the canopy of stars.
Given its luxury nature, it delights patrons with fascinating restaurants with rich aesthetics and appealing sceneries on display at its two terraced restaurants where rich continental and African menus are served. There are two bars offering cocktails, beverages and wines from Flourish’s cellar, and a juice bar where guests can pick from 50 locally brewed fruits.
As a resort which places high premium on wellness, eating healthy food is a major concern as it offers dedicated healthy diets.
Offers a number of fitness and sports facilities, ranging from tennis to beach volleyball, and for golf enthusiasts there is a lush green Fajara 18-hole golf course, which is located 15 minutes away from the hotel.
Its wellness facilities and offerings are regarded as top range with its Ayurveda spa services leading the pack. 
If you are seeking to maintain a healthy regime, with a trendy look, lose weight and cleanse your system or have a detox and eliminate stress as well stay young then this is where you should visit to experience their prized services as the resort is designed to be the ultimate getaway for a wellness retreat for adults, promote relaxation and inspire rejuvenation and overall well-being while encouraging a change of life style.
Ayurveda spa offers include whole body wellness retreat, which improves wellbeing and healthy life style; stay young and healthy (Anti-aging) retreat, designed for those aged 55 and above - as it is to keep them looking young and trendy; cleanse detox de-stress retreat, ideal for those seeking an escape from hectic and stressful lives and to experience the benefit of a holistic treatment programme; and then there is the healthy weight loss retreat, which is geared towards sustainable weight loss.
Promotional packages
The resort also offers a variety of promotional packages, which include residence stay at Flourish, offering a residence stay of between 14 and 28 nights among others; Stay four nights pay three nights with incentives such as daily breakfast and Flourish exclusive gift set; Stay three nights pay two nights with the offering of daily breakfast and mini bar with beers and snacks; Family escape vacation with two nights’ accommodation, daily breakfast, Flourish special gift set and complementary in-room mini-bar; luxury honeymoon for three nights or more with daily breakfast for two and welcome drinks with cold towels and Spa romance offering three nights or more, daily breakfast for two, complementary mini-bar and pool, tennis and gymnasium.
Shopping for gifts items, souvenirs and other items, the resort comes with a well stocked shopping mart where appealing and uniquely crafted African arts and crafts are on display among other treasured items.
Outdoor activities
You can also explore a number of outdoors activities on the bill of the resort, this include biking, hiking, bird watching, River Gambia excursion and safari. A princely treat also awaits you on Flourish’s chauffeur-driven Range Rover and airport limousine pick-up.

Qatar Airways announces launch of all first class service

Qatar Airways has announced the launch of a new daily All-First Class service from its hub in Doha to Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to coincide with the start of Ramadan. With the additional daily flight starting from June 18, services to Jeddah will rise from double-daily flights to triple-daily flights.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “The demand for premium group travel continues to grow especially during the Ramadan season, and therefore we have introduced this All-Premium A319 to Jeddah further strengthening Qatar Airways’ position as a five-star airline providing the best First and Business Class service in the industry.”

The Airbus A319 aircraft, which is fitted with an All-Premium Class, single aisle, 2-2 seating configuration with 40 seats, will enable passengers to experience the total comfort of a private jet complemented by Qatar Airways’ award-winning five-star hospitality.

Qatar Airways’ A319 First-Class seats, which recline into fully-flat beds, have one of the highest specifications for premium travel of any airline. The inflight entertainment system, Oryx One, features the same options that are available on Qatar Airways, with up to 2,000 choices of movies, music and games. Personal entertainment can be enjoyed with the latest-generation systems and noise-cancelling headphones.

Combined with the best in on-board service, Qatar Airways’ passengers on the A319 All-First Class flight will also experience the stylish and sophisticated Al Mourjan Business Lounge at Doha’s state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport.

Qatar Airways has expanded rapidly during its 18 years of operation and today serves 147 destinations around the world with a 160-strong fleet of modern, state-of-the-art aircraft including the A350 XWB for which it is the global launch customer.

Emirates ramps up offering for Ramadan and Umrah rush

Emirates, a global connector of people, places and experiences will be stepping up its Ramadan offerings to passengers and its flight offerings for Umrah.

The airline will operate 42 additional flights, serviced by the Boeing 777, between Dubai and Jeddah from 18 June to 23 July. From 24 July to 15 August, Emirates will operate an additional 11 flights to Jeddah.

Emirates’ additional flight offerings will help accommodate the two million visitors expected to travel to Mecca during the Holy Month this year. These services will run in parallel with Emirates’ regularly scheduled services to Jeddah, operated by a mix of A380s and Boeing 777 aircraft. The additional services can be accessed by travellers holding a valid Umrah visa, except for GCC nationals.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Centre said: “Travelling for Umrah during the Holy Month of Ramadan is a unique experience for Muslims around the world. With a sizeable increase in the demand for air travel during Ramadan, Emirates is helping to make the journey more seamless for the scores of pilgrims looking to travel during this time.”

In keeping with traditions and values of the Holy Month, Emirates will be offering a special Iftar meal service. For flights departing close to Iftar, Emirates will provide small snack boxes at the boarding gates of Emirates Terminal 3, while large Iftar meal boxes will be served to passengers in-flight. The large Iftar meal box, designed by Emirates’ chefs, will be served in Economy class, with a similar selection served to fasting Business Class and First Class passengers.
Non-fasting passengers travelling on regular or Umrah flights will receive a cold meal instead of the regular hot meal for all flights taking off after sunrise and before sunset, to respect the many Muslim passengers completing Umrah on these flights.

Emirates also utilises a unique tool to calculate the correct timings for Imsak (the time to commence fasting) and Iftar while in-flight. The tool allows Emirates to calculate the exact Ramadan timings using the aircraft’s longitude, latitude and altitude; ensuring the greatest level of accuracy possible while onboard. When the sun sets, passengers will be informed of the Iftar time by the captain. This new tool was developed to supplement Emirates’ annually produced booklet on the timings for Ramadan, available on every flight.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Emirates’ award-winning ice system will feature 29 new Arabic movies and popular TV shows like Helwe w Kazebe, Al Ekhwa and Bint Al Shabahandar. These are in addition to 41 Arabic movies, 18 Arabic channels of TV programming, and the Holy Quran channel.