27/07/2013

Destination ‘Ekiti’ beckons

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Apart from its famed status as Nigeria's 'home of professors' and Fountain of Knowledge, Ekiti State is arguably one of the places in Nigeria that have developed a clear roadmap for destination marketing.

The Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort is the most popular and most developed tourist site in the state. The warm spring draws hundreds of international and local tourists to the site to unravel the mysterious cold and warm waters flowing side by side.

According to experts, it is a geological wonder to have such occurrence out of the same rock formation and this Ekiti flagship tourist destination is said to be the only one of its kind discovered anywhere in the world. The warm and cold springs flow from a close proximity, come to a meeting point (a unique attraction to tourists), and flow onward together with each spring retaining its thermal identity. The warm spring has a temperature of up to 70° Celsius at the source and 37° Celsius after meeting the cold
spring.

The springs sprout out and flow with a constant temperature and volume up to 150 litres per second all-year round. The whole environment of the spring is very natural for eco-tourism appeal while the source of the warm spring has been provided with a viewing structure for easy spotting by tourists. Strangely also, there is a tree and a palm growing from the same source at the meeting point area of the warm and cold springs.

Another unique quality of the Ikogosi Warm Spring is its acclaimed curative power. It is widely believed to have some kind of therapeutic effect as it relieves body aches and all sorts of ailments. A lot of tourists visiting the place take advantage of the large warm water swimming pool provided for this purpose and other recreational needs. Owing to the uniqueness of the spring, UAC Nigeria Plc established a table water processing and packaging firm around the resort providing jobs to hundreds of the indigenes.

Many stakeholders have also applauded the resort as a haven to be any time of the day or season. For John Dixon, general manager, Mantis Collection, the firm that trains people that help in managing the resort, what is key in tourism is location and Ikogosi Springs Resort, according to him, is in a beautiful location.

Besides the Warm Spring, Ekiti is also blessed with other tourist attractions such as Ipole-Iloro Water Falls; Olosunta Hills, Ikere; Fajuyi Memorial Park, Ado-Ekiti; among others. Rivers such as Ero, Osun, Ose and Ogbese keep the land green all-year round. While articulating the eight-point agenda of his administration on
assumption of office on October 16, 2010, the Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, noted that making the state the most attractive destination for relaxation and holidays would be a major focus of his government. He added that tourism corridors around Efon, Okemesi, Ikogosi and Ipole-Iloro among others would be upgraded and well marketed as part of efforts to reposition the state for sustainable development and economic prosperity.

A few years down the line, the Fayemi administration has not only talked, it has walked the talk with the launch of a number of initiatives aimed at actualising its vision for destination marketing and tourism promotion. One of them is the aggressive revamp and massive infrastructure development at the Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort in Ikogosi-Ekiti. The dilapidated resort, which hitherto had suffered years of neglect by successive administrations, is now a splendid tourists' haven boasting state-of-the-art and world-class amenities such as asphalt-laid access roads, cosy chalets, spacious multi-purpose halls, swimming pool, amphitheatre, terrace tour walkways and exquisite cuisine, among others. The tourist site is also being managed by a South African tourism development firm, Mantis Collection.

Aligned to the new status of the resort, the Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort is almost living far ahead of its expectation playing host to different spheres of tourism. Thus, the resort was the choice attraction for the hosting of the maiden edition of the Ikogosi Graduate Summer School (IGSS), a multi-pronged knowledge and capacity building platform for promoting qualitative postgraduate scholarship in the state. A total of 50 Ekiti indigenes participated in the summer school, the first of its kind in Nigeria. An array of respected
international scholars from Nigeria and those in the Diaspora was on hand to take various sessions of teaching and knowledge-sharing during the two-week residential mentoring school, with all expenses borne by the state government.

Niyi Osundare, professor of literature at University of New Orleans, United States, who gave a keynote address at the opening of IGSS, commended the Fayemi administration for the achievements recorded in such a short time to put the state back on the global tourism map. Speaking on "The Spirit of Ikogosi", he celebrated the new allure that the Ikogosi Warm Spring has become among other tourism sites.

"As we look round today, a terrific difference arrests our gaze: gleaming access roads, enticing swimming pools, cosy chalets, capacious multi-purpose halls, spacious amphitheatre and wood-terraced walkways. A world-class golf course is rearing to take off. Ikogosi is beckoning to the world; the tourist naira rain is about to fall," he said.

Osundare further foresaw the Fountain of Knowledge state as a beckoning "Disneyland" and one of the most exquisite tourist sites around the world, declaring, "Ikogosi has more pages to its book of wonder. It is a natural endowment, not just a tourist bonanza; a tender habitation, not a mindless haunt; a deep spiritual haven, not a mere sybaritic asylum; a place to stand and stare, not just to hail and holler."

While at the graduate school, Governor Fayemi revealed that his administration was committed to the development of the resort. "For those that have been here before we embarked on our reconstruction project, you must be amazed at the transformation that has taken place already. I am certain that the tranquillity and beauty of the ambience here would augur well for the rigorous intellectual engagements that
would be taking place here," he said.

Indeed, it only took a few days for Osundare's near prophetic assertiveness to come to manifestation as the warmth of the same Ikogosi Spring enchanted a group of young Nigerian ladies who were on a tour of the expansive splendour in June as part of their knowledge tour of Nigeria preparatory to their main contest for the coveted Miss Nigeria crown. The Miss Nigeria Pageant contestants who were hosted by Bisi Fayemi, wife of the governor, also undertook film shoot at the Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort. Their experience of the spring resort is something they would not forget in a hurry.

Receiving the team, the first lady said that although she was not pleased with the current bastardisation of beauty pageantry in Nigeria, she agreed to host the young contestants as an opportunity to showcase the achievements of the present administration in tourism development and destination marketing.

"Again, I saw it as an opportunity for people to see what we are trying to do in the field of tourism and to promote the state as a place people can come for business, for leisure and for other productive things because they will see that Ekiti is peaceful, there's stability and we have warm-hearted people. So, welcome to our state, I'm glad to hear that you have enjoyed your stay and I pray that when you leave, you will arrive at your various destinations safely," she said.

Besides the Ikogosi Graduate Summer School and the Miss Nigeria Pageant contestants, Ekiti expects your visit. Do keep a date with the state.

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