Why Akwa Ibom is a dream come true for Sports Tourism in Africa.

Why Akwa Ibom is a dream come true for Sports Tourism in Africa.

Trends in tourism over the years have shown that sports tourism is emerging as a very significant segment of the global tourist market. While the tourism industry in Nigeria continues to grow, a significant expansion of sports and recreation industry in Akwa Ibom State by the Governor Udom Emmanuel led administration is posited to yield massive returns on investment.

Sports Tourism is a multi-billion dollar business, one of the fastest growing areas of the $4.5 trillion global travel and tourism industry. According to sport tourism summit (2017), sports tourism growth is expected to outpace other travel types by five percent annually. It has become a vast international business attracting media coverage, investment, political interest, traveling participants and spectators. Interestingly, Akwa Ibom State has played host to a number of sporting events (From the national sports festival to becoming a home to the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the home of Sports in Nigeria).This has provided a platform for investors to explore the culture and cuisine of the state with added possibility and opportunity of investing in the rich cultural heritage and resources of the state.

Just this year, Akwa Ibom State won three awards on sports development, which include; the state with the best sport infrastructure in Nigeria, the state with the most comprehensive sport development programme in support of Nigerian youths and the state with the most patriotic and inspirational sports supporters.It is evident that the rise of Sports economy in Akwa Ibom State has made the state the number one destination for sport tourism in Africa.

Here are five reasons why getting a foot in the door of Akwa Ibom’s Sports market in particular is more than worthwhile.

1. Government support

One factor not to be underestimated is the support provided by the state government in sports development. Currently, Akwa Ibom state government is implementing a wide range of reforms to support the sports industry. Hence, the revival of school sports, development of sports infrastructure in schools, discovery and nurturing of talents for National and International appreciation and marketing.

The governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel believes that sports development is the best way of discovering stars that will represent the state in national competitions and the country in continental and international competitions. This is evident in the huge investments he has made across the development of Sports Academy in the ten Federal Constituencies of the State and the deliverables achieved via the State Youth Sports Festival which provides a structure where youths are trained in various field of Sports.

The commitment of his administration to Sports welfare has turned the fortunes of sports in the state around. For instance, the state owned football club, ‘Akwa United’ won the 2017 Aiteo FA Cup and are currently top of the Nigerian professional football league, while another state owned club ‘Ibom Angels’ finished second in the 2017 Aiteo FA Cup final. The state is also sponsoring Akwa Starlets and Ibom Youth Fc which are are equally doing well.

The governor has since followed up the development process with the engagement of competent administrators and promoters to run sports in the State. The results are already yielding bountiful benefits with the renewed vigour of State teams and harmonious working relationship in the Sports sector.

It is evident that Akwa Ibom within the next few years will boast of talents who would rake in medals for the state and country in national and international competitions.

2. Readily available Sport facilities

Since assumption of power in May 2015, Governor Emmanuel has deployed responsibility, discipline and prudence in allocating the Commonwealth and resources of Akwa Ibom State. He has reconfigured the State’s economic machinery for industrial development, agricultural revolution, youth employment and social development. Thus, with over 2 years in the saddle, it’s obvious that Akwa Ibom has not just become the home of sports in Nigeria but the Ultimate destination of sports in Africa.

Sporting facilities like Ibom golf course, a 30,000 seater ultramodern sports stadium , a 10,000 seater ultramodern Sport complex in Eket (currently under construction) and the sporting centres developed by governor Udom Emmanuel across the 10 federal constituencies ( 1 completed at West Itam secondary school Itam, I near completion at Nung Oku Itina community secondary school, Ikot mbong (8 more to come) offers a good platform for investors and a great channel for sports tourism,growth and development.

3. Accommodating and intriguing fans

Recently Spring Vision International Koncept which organized Diamond Award for the most comprehensive sports development programme in Nigeria in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of youth and Sports, linked the success of the Super Eagles of Nigeria for Russia 2018 World Cup to the right atmosphere provided by the fans in Uyo. They noted that supporters in Uyo inspired the Super Eagles of Nigeria to record emphatic victories over Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia to book their World Cup tickets. The state also won the state with the best sport infrastructure in Nigeria, diamond award for the most comprehensive sport development programme in support of Nigerian youths and the state with the most patriotic and inspirational sports supporters.

To Akwa Ibom people, sports is a good channel of relaxation and over the last few months, the avenue generated from the sales of sport wears according to sport data has increased by 80%, this and the increasing popularity of all things sports is an invitation to big sport wears brand like Adidas, Nike, etc to take advantage of the growing sport tourism potential of Akwa Ibom state.

4. Exciting and Talent discovery Sport events

To satisfy the needs of fans and help in talent discovery and development, the state organizes an annual youth sport festival. This year’s Youth Sports Festival is slated for March 15 through 19. Organized through a partnership with the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, (ALGON), Akwa Ibom State Chapter and the Ministry of Education, the State Youth Sports Festival is featuring competition in both Primary and Secondary Schools cadre. Some of the sports in competition are Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Handball, Wrestling and Athletics. Others include; Judo, Karate, Swimming, Badminton, Tennis, Squash, Taekwondo, Scrabble and Chess.

To underscore the importance it attaches to the Games, the State Government has extracted meaningful cooperation from the Local Government Chairmen, the State Secondary Education Board, State Universal Basic Education Board and the State Chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, (SWAN). Another team of technocrats and administrators has been impaneled with a charge to deliver a world class Sports Meet.

The Nigerian Navy is also taking advantage of the rising sport profile of Akwa Ibom state to host its 11th Nigerian Navy Games, the games which is slated for February 26 to March 4, 2018 will have a strong contingent of up to 2,500 athletes from all its naval formations.

5. Sports is enjoying a wider acceptance in Akwa Ibom

Besides the psychological gains of mental refreshment, opportunity for healthy rivalry, confidence building and talent explosion, analyst’s familiar with the ‘School sports to stardom’ stories of Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Blessing Okagbere, Mary Onyali, Emmanuel Emenike, Vincent Enyeama and Kelechi Iheanacho amongst many others are quick to point to fact that gone are the days when sports was an activity for the elites; these days sports has become and integral part of every Akwa Ibom person and Governor Udom Emmanuel is working to make the State a major hub for global sporting activities.

Godswill Akpabio International Stadium
Godswill Akpabio International Stadium

The sports market in Akwa Ibom has seen an explosion due to a large part of massive government support and the overwhelming interest of Akwa Ibom people toward sports and sports development.

Much of this stirring interest in sport stems from the government’s plan to build a sport economy that will be a model for sport tourism in Africa by 2025, a strategy covering everything from improved sport facilities, fitness to encouraging foreign investment and grassroots sport developments.

CREDIT : Meflyn Anwana

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