Travel Agency business in Nigeria appears to cause discomfort for regulators given the existence of unregistered practitioners and unprofessional practice. Mr. Bernard Bankole, President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), says the association is focused on enhancing the innovative mind-set of travel agents, and also pushing for improved policy environment to support the sustainability of Nigerian travel agencies.
Q: Travel agencies have been advised to diversify by moving into other areas like hotels, tour packages etc. what measures have you put in place as the president of NANTA to enable members move forward?
A: Thank you very much. Well, if you noticed in the last few months, we have worked on serious advocacy, first of all by creating awareness of our existence because a lot of people do not believe in our existence as serious-minded people doing professional businesses like this. Most people believe that the business is for touts, so we have had to first create an awareness of our existence. We know quiet well that we have to diversify because even our principals who are the airlines are already diversifying.
One of the ways is that now you can buy air ticket and buy your luggage allowance separately unlike before that it comes with it. We are going to see more of this. We are going more into tourism and start having packages. This will bring more income into the wallets of our members and we are going to embark on serious training on how to package a lot of things for them.
Q: The NTPIC (National Travel Personal Identity Card) was launched recently. What are your plans on bringing in those who have not been registered into the system?
A: We have been working tirelessly to ensure that we bring everybody on board and that is why we have invited the regulators – The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) – to join us in the fight whereby everyone doing this business is registered; and once they are registered we are all secured. The good thing about the registration is that it cannot be duplicated; it is tied to the BVN, which means that we are safe in that regard. We just need the buy-in of the authorities and we have seen the buy-in from the Nigerian police, we have seen buy-in from the immigration, NCAA and FAAN. So with that more people will be part of it till it gets to the presidency and they would enact a law that says if you don’t have the NANTA ID card, you cannot trade in the market. That is the part we will get to where we will be able to give account of the database of all the travel agencies in Nigeria.
Q: It has been reported lately that the IATA New Gen ISS raises some concerns. What are the issues it has and how is it different from the BSPs?
A: The New Gen ISS is a wonderful idea, it creates better accreditation, flexibility of payments and multiple choices of the how you want to do your business which is good for us. The only challenge is that it is a global rule that should be applied to a local market. Now in a local market where we don’t have law, it would not work effectively. So we need NCAA to stabilize certain things so our industry is able to work effectively. How do we make doing business better; our local law must be good to support it and that is what we are clamoring for.
Q: Would you say that the issue of unregistered travel agencies is not just peculiar to Nigeria?
A: No, it is everywhere. It is not only in Nigeria but in those other places they have local laws that have prevented it from eating deep into their markets. So our own challenge is the local laws here.
Q: What are your projections for NANTA in the next five years?
A: My projection is to ensure that NANTA becomes an internationally acclaimed association where other African countries can learn from. Kenya is already talking to us about how we did our ID card and we are looking out for more of them partnering with us so that we can have a uniform approach to the problems facing us in Africa.