The president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) Bernard Bankole has condemned the poor state of aviation industry and the neglect of the gains of in-bound tourism.
Speaking at a meeting with the minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the president urged the minister to “do all you can to bring the tourism portfolio to the aviation sector so that Nigeria can power domestic tourism and grow the huge potentialities of Nigeria as a global tourism destination.”
Bankole who presented graphic details of how Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya helped to grow tourism by supporting their national airlines, also pointed out that United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and China have not neglected tourism.
“We are tired of the lip service paid to tourism and aviation development in Nigeria and as key players in Nigerian aviation downstream sector, we have seen what aviation powered tourism agenda has done for other countries and Nigeria cannot allow other Africa countries to overshadow us and use our failings to gain ground ahead of us in this business,” he said.
He urged the minister to look into the issues of repatriation of foreign airlines’ trapped funds, the state of Abuja and Murtala Muhammed airports, aviation bank to help domestic airlines as well as the NANTA Act to address issues of professionalism in the travel trade business.
In his response, Sirika assured NANTA that aviation is dear to the heart of the current administration.
“I totally support your call for aviation to drive tourism and it is not because I want to add the portfolio of tourism to what we were appointed to do here but the truth must be said that air transportation opens up a nation to many positive developmental indices to which tourism is a major issue.
“We want NANTA to help us, challenge us and present solution to how we can achieve our national dreams in the shortest possible time, so when we fail to do the right things, we can accept that we failed,” said the minister.
On the issue of trapped funds of foreign airlines, the minister pleaded with the airlines for understand and urged them to support Nigeria in this trying time.
“You know your friends when you are in difficulty; so the foreign airlines should now bear with Nigeria at this trying moment which will not last forever,” the minister said adding that concession of the airports is the only solution to their growth and profitability.