President of Calabar Travel Club, a membership travel association in Calabar, Dorcas Obeten, has described the emerging tourism and hospitality enterprises in Calabar as the face of the new local economy in Cross River State, adding that the thriving businesses in the state, are largely built around tourism, with Calabar rebranding itself as the tourism capital of Nigeria.
According to Lady Obeten, Calabar has since become a staging post for people seeking to visit some of Nigeria’s remaining pristine forests and adventure tourists that wish to experience the spectacular Obudu Plateau, informing that Calabar has also instituted local festivals and carnivals, showcasing the local cultural heritage of the people, which have become increasingly popular with local and international visitors.
While enumerating fascinating tourist attractions in the state, she said there are so many places of interest in Calabar City including the Old Residency Building, referred to as Nigeria’s first State House, which was built by the British colonialists, currently serving as a museum, housing more than four hundred years of history, dating from the slave trade era, through the emergence of palm oil trade, to the making of the colonial footprints in the area.
Lady Obeten while reacting to recent happenings in parts of the state in the wake of the End SARS protest, maintained that the resilience of Crossivarians will not be dampened by the ugly incidents, noting that the combination of tourism and trade, which gave birth to Tinapa Resort and the Free Trade Zone was built with a view to providing leisure and excellent facilities in the state.
“Visitors to Obudu Ranch, Cross River National Park and the Kwa waterfalls, also use Calabar as a base for their trips. Every year in December the city holds the Calabar Carnival, which has in recent years become the signature tourism event in Calabar. It features live music performance, street parades of colourful shows and traditional performances of the Ekpe festivals, boat regattas and dances.
“As the trade in slaves declined in the 19th century, Calabar’s economy transitioned to one based on the “legitimate” export of palm oil and kernels, timber, cocoa and rubber to factories in Europe.
“Locals traded in fish, plantain, bananas, cassava and a variety of other produce. Road links to Arochukwu in the west and Ikom in the east, crossing into Mamfe in Cameroon expanded the reach of products traded in the city.
“There’s a thriving local boat-building industry in the city, providing vessels for a sea-borne trade with reaches as far as Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
“Calabar’s potentials as a seaport became stunted as crude oil took the centre stage of Nigeria’s economy and other aspects suffered neglect,”she lamented.