Tourism Icon Otunba Wanle Akinboboye’s Tourism Product No 31 is, Caves, Forest & Hills Resorts

In delivering his tourism product number 31, Tourism Icon, Otunba Olawanle Akinboboye recalled that, when people speak of resorts, their immediate thoughts usually go to tourism facilities, situated beside bodies of water such as oceans, lakes and rivers.

However Akinboboye noted that, it is possible to situate resorts on any terrain, provided that one is able to incorporate additional features into such resorts that would provide visitors with experiences that are not simply limited to exploring the specific geographical feature or features that would be a focal part of such resort.

He said that the purpose of these resorts, is to assist in the metamorphosis of a natural geographical feature from a tourist attraction to a tourism destination.

He spoke at length about geographical features in other countries that had been innovatively transformed from tourism attractions to destinations.

One of the destinations he spoke of is the Grand Canyon in the USA, which receives close to 5 million tourists every year and, in 2021, contributed $710 million to the US local economy.

The tourism icon observed that, within the Grand Canyon there were caves and in the early 1960s, with a looming threat of nuclear war, President John F. Kennedy turned the 65-million-year old canyon caves into a bomb shelter to accommodate 2,000 people. This nuclear war was however subsequently averted.

In 1963, a 48 room no frills hotel was then established within the caves. It’s flagship suite, the Cavern Suite, is an underground hotel room almost 220 feet below ground, and surrounded by history.

This suite is situated in one of the limestone caves on a platform. it includes beds, a bathroom and living quarters. The cave is so deep that it is the largest dry cavern in the United States, and is virtually moisture free. This suite retails for $850 or N1,211,165 a night while a regular room is sold for US $257.21 or N366,498.

Otunba Akinboboye also referred to the fact that in India there are a number of tourist resorts known as ‘Hill Stations’ located in the hilly areas of that country. These hill stations have over the centuries, been used as a cool refuge for the rich from the tropical heat in places like Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and New Delhi. Nowadays, these hill stations have taken advantage of the cool temperatures in the highlands to operate as luxury wellness spas that focuses on yoga and traditional Ayurvedic therapies for which India has become famous internationally.

Otunba Akinboboye then noted that Nigeria was blessed with different geographies and terrains that included large undulating stretches of savannah, tropical forests, hills and mountains.

Nigeria also has its fair share of caves which include Ogba Ukwu cave in Anambra State, Marshall caves in Yankari Bauchi State, Iho Eleru – Cave of Ashes in Isarun Ondo State, where the bones of a prehistoric man were discovered by Thurstan Shaw in 1965 and the Esa Caves in Ekiti State.

He then noted that it was up to tourism entrepreneurs to leverage off the geographical features available in Nigeria to create unique resorts that would form part of the overall tourism packages available in Nigeria to domestic and international tourists.

He emphasized that, in developing such resorts, tourism practitioners should identify a natural feature or features capable of attracting tourists and then expand on such attractions by constructing resorts that provide accommodation as well as sporting and other activities to create a unique tourism facility that leverages off the natural features in its locality.

Akinboboye said he grew up in Nigeria’s hinterland, far from the ocean. Consequently, his childhood terrain consisted of rocks and caves. He was therefore aware that there was scope for turning these features into a tourism destination that leveraged off these natural features.

He then revealed that, although for years, the La Campagne brand was synonymous with oceans, lagoons, mangrove and beaches, the brand had recently expanded into the vastly different terrain that constitutes this week’s tourism product.

On May 2024 La Campagne opened the ‘Cave Forest and Hills Resort, on the outskirts of Ondo, Ondo State. This Resort, while maintaining the cosmopolitan African features and hospitality with which La Campagne is synonymous for, is crafted around the caves, forest and hills in its locality.

He mentioned that there was a restaurant and night club within the Resort that is housed inside of a naturally occurring cave. Sporting and leisure activities are provided by swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts that had been creatively constructed to blend in with the rocky surroundings . The accommodation provided by this Resort was aligned to the La Campagne signature brand of cosmopolitan African architecture which had been modified to cater for its rocky surroundings.

The brand was also currently developing another Hills Resort at Koton – Karfi, Kogi State in a rocky area that is close to the confluence of rivers Niger and Benue.

The Resort in Ondo, he said is approximately 2 hours drive on excellent roads from Eleko junction in Lagos State. Consequently, tourists from Lagos could confidently include it in the list of tourism destinations they intend to visit this year.

“I am sure our reader’s curiosity, is now piqued by this Tourism Product and we look forward to hearing that young tourism entrepreneurs have decided to adopt this product to create different resorts throughout Nigeria that can expand on and add variety to our national tourism offering,” said Akinboboye.

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