Photo caption: R-L: Capt. Edward Boyo, CEO, Overland Airways interacts with Mr. Bernard Bankole, NANTA President at the 43rd AGM of the Association held in Lagos, recently
By Kayode Oyero
Concerned about the need to drive Nigerian travel and tourism sector forward, stakeholders gathered at the 43rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) held in Lagos recently. At the AGM with the theme; “Developing Strategic Policies for the Sustainability and Growth of the Travel and Tourism Industry”, experts stress that digitization, innovative diversification and efficient regulations are some of the key ways to solidify the sector.
Capt. Muhtar Usman, Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), who spoke through a representative, Mrs. Adegbesan Adetoun of the Directorate of Air Transport Regulation, NCAA, assures that the Authority will continue to formulate policies to support the development and sustainability of the travel and tourism business as well as protect the interest of practitioners and consumers.
Capt. Usman explains that the activities of travel agents and tour operators have great impact on the overall image of Nigeria, as well as the economic growth and future of the sector. As such, in addition to the policies already in place, the Authority says it remains alive to its responsibilities and will continue to develop and enforce even more strategic policies to ensure the sector flourishes. He believes this will give the travelling public and holiday makers the confidence to buy holiday packages from recognised practitioners.
He states: “Going forward and as a local requirement, NCAA certification will become a requirement for Travel Agents to be licensed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA),” adding that airlines and Global Distribution System (GDS) providers are also enjoined to do business only with NCAA-recognised operators.
Also, Capt. Usman encourages travel and tour operators in the country to diversify into other facets of the sector such as hotel and reservations, tour packaging, among others. He notes that interested Travel Agents should also apply for the Air Travel Organiser License (ATOL) in this regard. The NCAA also states that it will keep a comprehensive database of Travel Agencies across the country, for effective monitoring and regulation.
Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), shares the same views with Capt. Usman. Otunba Runsewe strongly advocates that travel and tour operators should be more innovative to explore the untapped areas of the sector. Otunba Runsewe explains: “Promotion and marketing is vital to the progress and sustainability of the sector. Packaging of tours has unbelievable results. But travel and tour operators in Nigeria have not done enough to market our festivals. The Chinese have perfected and branded cuisine tourism as well. We should start organizing cuisine tourism, festival tourism, language tourism and many others. This sector can generate more money but it all starts with an attitudinal change.”
He also encourages travel and tour practitioners to embrace specialization and collaboration. “There is nothing wrong in some tour operators specializing in Osun Osogbo festival and another specializing in Argungu festivals. The sky is wide enough for as many birds to fly,” he submits.
Furthermore, Mr. Bernard Bankole, President of NANTA, is optimistic that the introduction of the Nigerian Travel Practitioners Identity Card (NTPIC) in the sector will weed out unscrupulous practitioners. Similarly, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, President of the Aviation Roundtable, recommends that NANTA should sets up an internal credibility mechanism to shore up public confidence.
The 43rd NANTA AGM featured other personalities in the culture, tourism and air travel value-chain including Capt. Edward Boyo, Chief Executive Officer of Overland Airways, Nigeria’s leading scheduled and charter airline; a representative of Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Dr. Samson Fatokun of IATA Africa and Middle East Region, among others. The event was also turbo-charged with sensational cultural rhythms and exciting displays. The Northern Zone is expected to host the 44th NANTA AGM in 2020.