By Wole Oyebade
Travel agencies in the country have reiterated the need for a national carrier to drive air travel and tourism growth in Nigeria. The group, under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), at their 42nd annual general meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said tourism business globally depends on travels, which is why airlines and national carriers are critical investments of both public and private sector.
Speakers at the summit were unanimous that liquidating Nigerian Airways in 2004 was a great mistake. And until the present administration corrects the blunder with a new carrier, the country is not ready to sell its tourism potential to the world for economic growth.
Meanwhile, the President of NANTA, Bernard Bankole, following his reelection for another term at the AGM, has said the NANTA Act and new identity scheme for registered members will be prioritized among other projects listed for the new tenure.Keynote speaker at the forum and the Chairman, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the complementary relationship between aviation and tourism is no longer in doubt globally.
Figures made available by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) show that over $892 billion out of $2.7 trillion support by aviation is related to tourism. Besides, at least 54 per cent of all international tourists travel to their destinations by air, to further appreciate how vital aviation is to tourism.Ndoma-Egba noted that of significance in the countries were both aviation and tourism are drivers of the economy are clear policies, short, medium, long term plans, sustainability and integration of both sectors.
He said: “In countries with successful aviation and tourism industries, both are embedded in each other seamlessly. If you were for instance travelling to Dubai by Emirates Airline, the Dubai owned airlines, the airline can arrange for your visa, reservations and transport from the airport to your hotel.
“In Nigeria, there is no designated national carrier and the aviation sector is still discounted from the tourism sector in the sense that there is no evident integration of both. The decision to liquidate Nigeria Airways was impulsive and a most regrettable decision ever taken, given its assets and international spread in Ghana, Senegal, New York and the others.”
He added that to fully integrate the tourism sector with the aviation sector, the country must upgrade intermodal transportation infrastructure. “A national carrier is, therefore, inevitable which should be integrated with a well-regulated hospitality and creative industry. Nigerian fashion, movies and Nigerian cuisine, are now familiar across the world. These, if properly regulated, integrated and marketed will immensely add to the tourism value-chain,” Ndoma-Egba said.
Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Commission (NTDC), Folorunso Coker, added that tourism, just like aviation, is a business and until Nigerians are ready to treat tourism as such, with the right legislation, policies, infrastructure and cooperation, it will continue to contribute less to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Coker added that the three components of tourism are transportation, hospitality and entertainment, of which the transportation is the most critical for Nigeria. President of NANTA, Bernard Bankole, said the theme of the AGM: “The Symbiotic Relationship of Aviation and Tourism: The Key to Economic Sustainability”, was chosen to again highlight potential economic gain for the country in both travel and tourism.
Bankole told reporters that the ID card scheme is a legacy project they are executing to sanitise the industry; “capturing every single soul working within the aviation and tourism sector”.
“We will make sure that it becomes effective this year and full compliance is achieved before the year runs out. There will be a lot of publicity and advocacy in that regard. The general public needs to fill the impact of what the downstream sector is doing so that government will not have a choice but to reckon with us and give us policies that will support and promote our industry.”
He added that NANTA does not have the legislative backing it can call its own. “We have hidden under the Nigeria Civil Aviation (NCAA) Act. We all know what the government’s position is when it comes to protecting the private sector. That aspect of their law, they will not pay attention or improve on it. “As it is in the NCAA’s Act, NANTA was recognised as the umbrella body for all travel agents in Nigeria but as it were, we are not getting that kind of support from NCAA.”
So, this led us into getting NANTA Act so that we will have the legislative backing that will support us and help us become a better institution in our industry. We drafted our NANTA act. We have sent it to the National Assembly and it has gone through the first reading,” he said.