BRACED Commission Plans To Incorporate BTPDI As Tourism Skills Development Organ

… As Akwa Ibom Accepts To Host South-South Tourism Roundtable 2024

Director General of BRACED Commission, under the auspices of the South-South Governors’ Forum, Amb. Joe Keshi, OON, FAIA, has hinted on plans to possibly co-opt a pioneer regional destination management organisation, BRACED Tourism Promotion & Development Initiative (BTPDI), as a sector skills development organ to bolster its regional tourism development agenda in the South-South region.

Speaking during the inauguration of the executive council of BTPDI, comprising tourism experts, professionals and practitioners from Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States, at the Ibom Icon & Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state on Thursday, Amb. Keshi, who was represented by his aide, Mr. Yibotemeka D. Kalio hinted that the decision to adopt BTPDI as a sector skills development arm was aimed at strengthening the involvement of tourism in the way skill systems are governed and operated in the region.

“Although we are yet to sit down to really look into what this initiative (BTPDI) is bringing on to the table as far as tourism, culture and arts in the region are concerned, we are wondering if this initiative can appropriate the name BRACED, and whether it should be the Commission that should birth the initiative or should co-opt the birthed initiative.

“One of the Working Groups, among the organs of the BRACED Commission is Social and Cultural Affairs where your Tourism Initiative (BTPDI) comes in. As your pioneer executive council and Board of Trustees (BoT) get working with the BRACED Commission, let me remind us that tourism is culture and arts, for which this region is very rich.

“Shortly, BTPDI shall be invited for talks to smoothen the grey areas as to streamline your content to fit into the aims, objectives, and aspirations, BRACED Commission has for the tourism sector. Be rest assured that the Commission at the end of the day will give you all the needed support and platform to strive and achieve greater goals in the niche you have created for yourselves.

“BRACED, as you all already know, is the acronym for Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, and Delta States. The BRACED Commission was established in 2010 with the sole mandate to coordinate and drive the South–South region of Nigeria’s aspiration for a common economic destiny through economic cooperation and integration.

“The objectives are to promote economic cooperation and regional integration, contribute to raising the standards of living of the people of the South–South region, foster closer relationship among the BRACED States and contribute to the general progress and prosperity of the people of the region and Nigeria.

“The ultimate goal, however, is the establishment of a regional economy with the potential to create employment and prosperity for the people of the region. With a population close to 27 million or more people, the rationale is to collectively utilize the region’s huge human and natural resources to create a large economic entity, an economic development zone within the federation of Nigeria, that also has the capacity to compete globally, attract investors and create prosperity for the people of the region.

“In this regard, the Commission seeks to standardize, harmonize, and coordinate BRACED States’ policies, projects, and activities particularly in agriculture, human capital development, (notably education and health), environment, energy, industry, transport, culture, tourism and sports. It also includes the promotion and establishment of joint enterprises and the encouragement of public and private sector partnerships.

“Since 2010, we have remained a strong advocate for regional infrastructure, regional security, regional environmental law, regional educational policy to enhance and strengthen human capital development and utilizing science and technology to drive the process and for an environment conducive enough to attract private sector involvement in the development of the region.

“Though, we defer in language and are multi-ethnic, we have shared vision, shared opportunity, and shared responsibility. This can be more visibly seen in culture and tourism, where you see a common unique feature and linkage in all our culture and tourism sights from Edo State, cutting across to Cross River State. Let us, therefore, work towards transforming our beaches and coastal areas to money spinning tourist sites.

“Before I drop the mic, let me also draw your attention to the importance of top-notch hospitality, which itself is the bedrock of tourism and culture. We need to look closely at the hospitality industry in this region. When tourists come, what will make them come again is the type of reception they receive and the quality of service delivered to them, “Amb. Keshi maintained.

Also speaking, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Sir Charles Udoh said the state government was ready to go into strategic partnership with well meaning organizations like BTPDI to develop the tourism sector to enhance growth of the sector.

The Commissioner, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mrs. Grace Akpan, described the choice of Akwa Ibom as host state for the planned forthcoming South-South Tourism Roundtable by BTPDI was apt, informing that the state ranks top in the south-south zone in tourism development, which was confirmed by separate tourism awards won by the state government, the governor, Pastor Umo Eno, the Commissioner, Sir Charles Udoh and indigenes of the state at the 10th Wonder of the World Tourism Expo held in Lagos, attested to the fact that the state has really put itself on the global tourism map.

While congratulating members of the pioneer regional executive council of BTPDI, led by Mrs. Ifiokobong Akan, the CEO of House of Bourah on their emergence as the tourch-bearers to join in the development of tourism in the state, south-south zone, and the nation at large, Sir Udoh commended the organizers of the event, under the chairmanship of Prof. Bassey Esu of the University of Calabar on the successful inauguration.

According to the commissioner, “tourism is a high revenue-spinner used in oiling economies of most developed countries”, just as he expressed the optimism that with friendly policies and commitment of government, tourism will flourish in Akwa Ibom State.

In her remark, Permanent Secretary, Bayelsa State Ministry of Culture & Tourism Development, Tonye Koroye, acknowledged the excellent work of BRACED Commission and BTPDI, saying that, “though we are diverse in different areas, our unity could make our region to be stronger and a more prosperous one. I thank everyone’s effort towards promoting tourism the products of our region and pray that the impact of BTPDI will be a lasting one.”

In his opening address, the immediate past Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Bayelsa State Governor on Tourism and Chairman, Board of Trustees of BTPDI, Dr. Piriye Kiyaramo, explained that: “the BTPDI as a pioneer regional tourism destination marketing, management and stewardship organisation, has taken up the responsibility of centrally coordinating stakeholders to enhance destination marketing efforts with a view to increasing visitor numbers, prolong visitor stays, and to maximize the economic impact of tourism in the oil-rich region of southern Nigeria.

“BTPDI plans to achieve its objectives by regularly educating travelers who visit the region about the tourism attractions and offerings in the states and to take the lead in coordinating tourism activities under a coherent regional tourism strategy in pursuit of a common regional goal of cooperation and integration.

“As a regional destination marketing organization playing similar role of a Visitors’ Bureau, BTPDI would be responsible for promoting the six south-south states as a single destination, with a focus on the major cities and towns in the region in a bid to attract more visitors to the region and boost tourism activities across the BRACED states.

“BTPDI would continue to advocate tourism-related policies and initiatives that would promote and benefit the South-South as a preferred destination. We shall work with the various state governments through the BRACED Commission while engaging tourism associations and local communities to ensure sustainable development is achieved as well as address any potential industry challenges or issues.

“Through effective coordination, partnerships and collaboration, BTPDI would encourage participation of various networks of stakeholders with a view to working together to support members in their efforts to developing efficient governance models/structures and policies, focusing on public private partnerships (PPP).

“I want to sincerely thank the host state, particularly our amazing tourism friendly governor, His Excellency, Pastor Umoh Eno and his proactive Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Sir, Charles Udoh for the huge support during the inauguration event. There is no doubt that BTPDI has already pitched its tent in Akwa Ibom by bringing its regional headquarters to Uyo. We shall continue to collaborate with the state government and relevant authorities to ensure that Akwa Ibom becomes the hub of tourism in the South-South, “Dr. Kiyaramo emphasized.

Earlier, Vice Chairman of BTPDI and Chairman, inauguration central planning committee, Prof. Bassey Esu, noted that the presence of dignitaries from all walks of life at the event was a testament to their commitment to collectively foster sustainable tourism, drive economic growth, and showcase the unique attractions that make the south-south region a treasure trove for visitors from near and far.

“Today’s inauguration is not just about appointing a new council. It is rather about reaffirming our dedication to collaboration, innovation, and excellence. The
members of the executive council we are welcoming today have been carefully chosen for their expertise, vision, and unwavering passion for our region. They bring with them a wealth of experience and a shared commitment to advancing our goals.

“As we move forward, the council is expected to play a pivotal role in shaping the strategies and policies that will guide our organization. Their leadership will be crucial in navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in ensuring that we not only meet but exceed the expectations of our stakeholders and the communities we serve.

“Our region is blessed with rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and vibrant communities. It is our duty and privilege to protect and promote
these assets. The members of the executive council we are welcoming today have been carefully chosen for their expertise, vision, and unwavering passion for our region.

“The executive council, with the support of all of you, will work tirelessly to enhance our destination’s appeal, drive sustainable practices,
and create memorable experiences for visitors. Together, we can achieve great strives to make our region a shining example of what can be accomplished as we work together towards a common goal.
To the members of the new executive council, congratulations on your appointment.

“Thank you, and let us embark on this new journey with enthusiasm, optimism, and a steadfast commitment to excellence.
Welcome, and let’s make this a remarkable chapter in the history of our Regional Destination Management Organization, Prof. Esu emphasized.

While commending the newly sworn-in executive council, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Hotels Management & Tourism Board, Sir. Ini Akpabio stressed the need to know the score card of the organization, urging the BOT members to have more human capacity to enable the body to become financially independent.

Sir. Akpabio emphasized the need for BTPDI to collaborate with relevant bodies to effect changes which will make the organisation relevant, pointing out that, for tourism to strive in any location, there must be good road network and lightings where necessary.

In his remark, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police, CP. Ayilara Waheed Adedamola, speaking through ACP. Mr. Sule Musa, commended BTPDI for taking the right path in enhancing not just economic growth, but the total socio cultural heritage of the nation beyond the South South region, just as he pledged to support and collaborate with BTPDI to ensure the safety and security of tourists in the state at the highest level.

In her acceptance speech, the newly sworn-in Director General/CEO of BTPDI, Mrs. Ifiokobong Anthony, who is also CEO of House of Borah, expressed her sincere gratitude to the Board of Trustees of BTPDI for entrusting her with such a prestigious position to serve the region.

She thanked her husband for his support and prayed God for divine wisdom in executing her responsibilities, even as she expressed her willingness to work with all relevant bodies to harness the region’s tourism potential, manage challenges, and sustain cultural and historical tourism assets, while promoting the region’s stories globally.

The pioneer BTPDI regional executive council has Mrs. Ifiokobong Anthony as CEO/Director General, Lady Fiona Ejimofor, Director of Finance, Barr. Kesther Akanimo, Director Legal Services, Queen Ruth Fabian, Secretary General, Ememobong Anthony, Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Akong Blessing, Director of Research & Planning, Dr. Blessing Anam, Director of Logistics, Bridget Sapere-Obi, Director of Corporate Services, Glory Ena, Director of Travels, Mrs. Enobong Ekaidem, Director of Programmes and Amb.Godwin Ibiam, Director of Marketing & Collaboration.

The event featured a cocktail session and meet and greet on May 22, at Marbles Hotel & Apartment while the inauguration took place at the Ibom Icon & Golf Resort on May 23 with a dinner at Uyai Cuisine Restaurant, where the guests had a taste of local cuisine and subsequently went on a tour of Ibeno beach on May 24, which undoubtedly created lasting memories about the significant milestone of the history of the South-South region of Nigeria.

Dignitaries present at the occasion included, a former Commissioner of Information, Prince Chris Abasieyo, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Tourism on Hotels, Mrs. Ima Zoe, Director of Culture, Mr John Offiong, Director of Administration, Mr. Mfon Udokang, Director of Art, Dr. (Mrs) Iniobong Umotong, State President of the Institute of Tourism Professionals of Nigeria, Bren Inyang and former chairman of Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Rt. Hon. Anthony Jude Akan.


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