The President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bankole Bernard has stressed the need for a re-positioning of the country’s travel and tourism sector, urging the media to assist the agencies in highlighting the vast and untapped opportunities in the sector.
The NANTA president Mr. Bankole made the assertion on Saturday, when he hosted Aviation and Tourism journalists in Lagos.
Mr Bankole seized the opportunity of the breakfast meeting to implore the media to assist the agencies in pioneering a call for the redemption of the aviation and tourism sectors in the country
He said NANTA is working closely with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC to grow the tourism industry.
Mr. Bernard disclosed that NANTA members sold over $1.4b in tickets for foreign airlines in 2017.
The NANTA boss queried what is stopping the Nigeria airlines from partnering with tour operators to sell many exciting destinations in Nigeria.
He observed that it will be very difficult for the domestic airlines to thrive in the country with such excessive government charges and taxes.
He advocated stakeholders meeting with the government on how the domestic airlines can survive, stressing that the domestic airlines need to fly to destinations that are profitable to their operations.
He observed that tourism will not thrive in Nigeria when the Agencies are buried under Information, Culture, National Orientation and Tourism and under one Minister who cares more about information and other areas.
On the NANTA Act, Bernard noted that this enabling legislative backing is the ultimate dream of the founding fathers of the association and a responsibility to which his leadership must deliver.
He explained that the trade line cannot survive on long term, if the body fails to mainstream the entry and exist regime, which must capture sanitizing processes and mechanisms as is done globally.
Mr Bernard hinted that work has again begun in earnest on the project which has been on the drawing board of the association in the past 40 years.
Bernard said his seeking for re-election is to consolidate on their laudable programmes and to ensure their completion.
He disclosed that this year’s NANTA AGM will be held in Port-Harcourt where he would be seeking for re-election.
NANTA president explained further that : “In picking the destination, we are mindful of the fact that a national association such as NANTA with over 6,000 (Six thousand strong members) cannot pretend that our memberships outside Lagos, Abuja, Kano do not desire to feel the impact of our reach and influence, hence the decision of the BOT and my presidency to hold the AGM in Port Harcourt, the heart of Eastern and Southern Nigeria. In due course, the AGM committee will roll out programme for the AGM and we will call on the people and government of Rivers state to brace up and support the convention which will attract investment and good will to the people of this noble state”.
Bernard also reviewed and reflected on the challenging times of 2016 and the early part of 2017, particularly with the difficulty of foreign airlines to access and repatriate funds, the closure of Abuja Airport, almost concurrently which added to the strain of doing business in Nigeria, without minding the near collapse of facilities at the country’s major gateways, Murtala Mohammed and Nnamdi Azikiwe Airports in Lagos and Abuja and the rate of exchange to purchase tickets which was increased to N360/$1 which made the cost of purchasing tickets in Nigeria unbearable.
“As you may wish to recall, we embarked on visits to most of the foreign airlines to appeal against the mad rush out of Nigeria at that telling period. The added support and backing from media owners, who saw to our point of argument and took to editorials and informed analysis to convince the relevant authorities to do the needful, saved our aviation sector and its downstream value chain,” he said
He said NANTA’s response to these issues was driven by the patriotic desire to help the country, the travelling public and their members work together to find an effective solution that would quickly restore normalcy.
Bernard lauded the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Minister of Aviation for hearkening to the voice of reasoning which brought relief and helped in addressing the mass exodus of foreign airlines from Nigeria.
On the recent position of Nigerian airlines under the auspices of Airline Operators of Nigeria concerning African Open Skies, which is saying no to open skies or YD until policies are put right in Nigeria, Bernard noted that AON is not serious on their position.
He said African will not wait for Nigerian airlines to be ready before implementing African open skies or Yamoussoukro Decision (YD)