By Olamide Oni
There is no doubt that the allied sectors of the aviation industry in Nigeria play a vital role in supporting airlines. However, there is need for proper regulation of the allied sector, especially travel agencies that currently face a decline in their business in Nigeria.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Capt. Usman Muhtar, who spoke through the Director Air Transport Regulation (DATR), Group Capt. (Rtd.) Edem Oyo-Ita, says NCAA has been making effort to improve regulation of travel agencies. He says: “Travel agencies in Nigeria must register with NCAA and NANTA, and IATA can only do businesses with registered travel agencies. According to him, there are over 800 travel agencies operating today in Nigeria, but only 157 were registered with NCAA and over 200 are registered with NANTA, this means the rules are not effective.
Travel agencies have experienced a consistent decline in the last four years which might lead to their extinction in the coming years, says Dr. Gbenga Olowo, President of the ART, who delivered a paper on: “Declining Air Bookings by Nigerian Travel Agencies”, at a meeting held in Lagos by the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) recently to discuss the challenge facing travel agencies.
According to Dr. Olowo, available data show that in North Africa, there were 8.8 million bookings, in East Africa 6.9, South Africa 11.9, while West Africa had 8.1 and Central Africa 2.6 million. In West Africa, there were 8.1million bookings and Nigeria accounts for 50% of this. In the last five to six years, the four million bookings that were coming through the Nigeria travel agencies began to decline year-on-year and has declined up to 3.5million bookings by 2018.
He says: “The major pre-occupation of travel agencies was to sell air tickets. Airlines used to look at travel agencies as a principal partner for survival, but now it looks like airlines do not give that kind of recognition to the Nigerian travel agencies anymore and that has resulted into declining air bookings,” as he calls for steps to improve travel agency business. Also, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr. Bernard Bankole, says several challenges face travel agencies in Nigeria, as he calls for improvement of the operating environment and regulation.
Furthermore, emphasizing the importance of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Mrs. Fatima Gabati, Former President of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), says IATA provides essential training materials to improve services in the industry and forestall fraud in dealings between airlines and travel agencies. She encourages travel agents to apply more professionalism, noting that IATA’s NEW GEN ISS which has replaced the BSPs is IATA’s way of making travel agency business easier. She says the new system which is categorized into the Go-Lite, Go-Standard and Go-Global would help travel agents to operate based on their capacities. She also calls on the NCAA to improve monitoring and regulation of the downstream sector of the industry.
Photo caption: Stakeholders at the first Quarterly breakfast meeting of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) in Lagos, recently