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Travel agencies chart path to strong national carrier

By Wole Oyebade
13 March 2020   |   3:12 am
Until Nigeria gets it right with the proposed national carrier, the potential of the local air travel market may remain untapped with low contribution to the economy.

President of NANTA Bernard Bankole

Until Nigeria gets it right with the proposed national carrier, the potential of the local air travel market may remain untapped with low contribution to the economy.

Travel agencies reiterated this position as they urged the Federal Government to speed up the process of floating the new carrier.
President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bernard Bankole, said having a national carrier driven by the private sector, would especially aid the marketing of Nigeria’s tourism sites.

To this effect, Bankole said, the national carrier would form the crux of discussions at the forthcoming 44th Annual General Meeting of NANTA, slated to hold in Kano later this month.

Bankole said: “With national carrier, to sell nation’s tourism assets becomes easier for us. This national carrier should not be government driven but private sector driven for efficiency. We as an association need the national carrier to drive traffic into the country and grow our tourism sites,” he said.

According to him, most countries which has made remarkable impact in the travel and tourism sectors has their national carriers which serve as ambassador to every location they fly to.

Recall that the FG had in July 2018 unveiled the name and logo of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, at the Farnborough International Public Air show in London, ahead of the initial take-off in December 24. As contained in the Outline Business Case (OBC) approved by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the airline is a Public Private Partnership (PPP), with 95 per cent share pushed to investors while the government will own just five per cent stake.

Shortly after the London launch, the airline, however, became a hard sell to quality foreign investors and technical partners, amid smear campaigns coming from the streets, forcing the government to ditch the December 24, 2018 take-off date.

NANTA urged the Federal Government not to relent in the bid to float the carrier, though the structure has to be right for it to succeed.

Bankole said it was in this regard that the general meeting would have facilitators from across African continent to address participants on role of the aviation industry in Nigeria’s economic development and impact of technology on the travel business and the tourism sector.

“As drivers of the downstream sector in the aviation industry, we shall look at how tax policies affect our interventions and presence with a view of birthing new narratives.”

The panel of experts has: the President of Universal Federation of Travel Agents Association (UFTAA), Sunil Kumar; International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Director Global Distribution; Chairman, Kenya Association of Travel Agents, Mohammed Wanyolke; Uganda Association of Travel Agents, Richard Mujjuzi, and a host of others.

Bankole added that his team had in the last four years raised NANTA from near-death and restored the dignity and future of travel trade professionals in order to keep Nigeria’s tourism and travel sector in focus.

He noted that with the introduction of the NANTA identification card, security operatives were able to arrest and prosecutes fake travel agents, who had defrauded intending travellers of their hard-earned money.

According to him, the association can now boast of having over 1,600 card-carrying members as membership keeps increasing.“NANTA under my watch carefully re-engineered the fertilisation of global relationships which today had made Nigeria a destination to watch out for.

“We are happy that NANTA members are no longer seen as fly-by-night operators but serious professional contributors to the GDP and growth of the national economy. We have successfully brought NANTA to the consciousness of everyone,” he said.

Chairman of the Local Organisating Committee, Sussan Akporaiye, said further that the choice of Kano would be an opportunity to market the region to the world and allay fears of insecurity.

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