Come Thursday, November 10, 2011, the International Conference Centre, Abuja will be agog with events that would serve as a foretaste of the bumper package the Cross River State Government intends to deliver in this year’s edition of the increasing popular Calabar Festival.

To many it would reminiscent of Sunday August 15, 2010 at the Ball Room, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, bringing back memories of colour, style, fashion, thrills and excitement that offered a glimpse into last year’s festival. The impact of the marketing strategy had been instant as over 1.4 million guests had been recorded to have visited the state in the festive period last year.

Tagged “A Glimpse of Destination Cross River”, the event will showcase to the outside world what the 32-day Calabar Festival which climaxes with the two-day carnival parade among others.

The event which will also be in the spirit of innovation and freshness which has characterized the festival over the years, and has continued to keep it relevant all the while, will also witness the rebranding of the State’s tourism initiatives.

According to the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Patrick Ugbe, the event last year in Lagos had contributed in no little way to make the Festival a huge success, and believed that “Calabar Festival this year would be much, much bigger than the previous ones we have been having.”

His words, “What we are doing critically, first and foremost, is that we have an event which we call a glimpse of Destination Cross River which will be presented in Abuja. We did the first one last year in Lagos. It was a huge success. What we are going to do is to showcase what Destination Cross River is all about and what it has to offer – the 32 day Festival which climaxes with the two-day Carnival parade which is the biggest street party in Africa. We are taking all that to Abuja. We have lots of fantastic artistes lined up. The headline artiste of course is P-Square, who we believe, will rock the crowd in Abuja.

“We believe that from the attendance, people would see this event and actually have a bigger experience of what the main event would look like and begin to plan their trips to Calabar.

“We had a lot of visitors last year. We had over 1.4 million visitors last year and part of it was the exercise we did in Lagos, whereby a lot of people were able to witness and see what the festival was all about. It is just a tip that encouraged them to come down and actually see and experience the festival itself.

“We expect that the carnival this year would be much, much bigger than last year, because it has been growing year after year. Bigger and bigger. Last year there was virtually no space on the streets. This year we expect it to be bigger, but we are ensuring that everything would be in place.

“The Calabar Festival this year would be much much bigger than the previous ones we have been having. Artists lined up are more exciting this year.”

The commissioner said they would also use the opportunity to rebrand the state’s tourism initiative.

“We are rebranding our tourism. The tourism brand is going to change. We are going to unveil our tourism brand when we take Glimpse of Destination Cross River to Abuja and after that day, our tourism would wear a new look, new brand identity and we would have a new slogan. You must retool, constantly if you want to position yourself to be the number one which we are. You must stay ahead and the only way to do that is to reinvent yourself and that is the essence of rebranding”, he stated.

Although the Festival seems to be all about revelry, there is also the humanitarian aspect to it as Glimpse of Destination Cross River will also provide the opportunity to raise funds to assist children suffering from pneumonia in the state.

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