Akingbogu: Tourism industry will suffer
Tomi Akingbogu is the President, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN). He told BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE that shutting the airport will amount to shutting down the entry point for hospitality business.
Implications on the economy generally
Implications are immense. This is because Abuja, being the capital of Nigeria is a major hub for tourists and businessmen. Considering that air is the main source of travel for businessmen, tourists and others, closure of the airport in the capital city for six weeks has a very serious negative impact on the economy.It means that the only option is to fly to Kaduna and come to Abuja by rail, which we are not sure would be regular. For now, I think the train comes to Abuja twice a day.
What happens then if the flight arrives at night? Would the visitors be willing to sleep in Kaduna? From what we heard, the position of the rail terminal is also not connected to Abuja shuttle. The implication is that many airlines will either stop coming to Abuja or if they have access to Lagos, they might be flying to Lagos. This means that a lot of people will have to stay in Lagos. It also means that people might cancel their flights to Abuja. So, it has a lot of implications. International bodies that have been showing their reservations for flying to Kaduna may decide to cancel their flights to Abuja.
Implications on the tourism industry, hospitality facilities
For the tourism industry, it means we will shut down business, because there would be no means of getting business if visitors are not flying into Abuja. I will be surprised if we will do up to five per cent of business within that six weeks. In spite of this situation, revenue collectors are given targets without considering the economic situation.
They may not even recognise that the airport is closed for six weeks during which period they may want to meet their targets. They will still come for multiple tax collections. Already, the cost of business is too high and in the midst of it, you want to close the entry point of the business; it is definitely not a good time for the tourism industry. But if it is to save lives, we cannot ask the government not to carry out the repairs because we want to do business, and in the process, we lose lives. But the decision to do it at this period is wrong timing and it is due to wrong planning.
What the industry stands to lose in figures
It is quite hard for me to know the figures in millions or billions, but it is going to have multiple effects. I know that there are some organisations that have booked for conferences since last year, and have put a bid for contracts to be signed and goods to be purchased. If the airport is closed, they definitely have to choose another location or country and if they have made payments for hotels, they will ask for refunds. So, putting it in naira, it would be billions that would be lost, not only to the tourism industry, but every sector of the economy.