The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has expressed its desire to partner with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) in an effort to jump-start domestic tourism in the country thereby also encouraging more Nigerians to fly to various tourism destinations around the country rather than travel abroad for their holidays.
Chairman of AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison, made this known during a courtesy visit to the newly appointed Director General of the NTDC, Mr. Folorunso Folarin Coker in his office in Abuja.
The Chairman noted that aviation and tourism are two sides of the same coin which go hand-in-hand and can help to develop both sectors in a mutually beneficial manner.
He therefore called for synergy between the airlines and the various facets of the tourism industry in a bid to stimulate domestic tourism.
“It is a well known fact that airlines help to build tourism. For instance, a clear example was during the closure of Abuja airport; many of the leading hotels in Abuja lost a lot of patronage from about 80% occupancy to well below 20 per cent.
This also had a ripple effect on Car Hire and Taxi operators, restaurants, a drop in taxes and had an effect on the GDP and several other businesses in the service industry. This underscores how important aviation is to tourism and hospitality,” Capt. Meggison stressed.
Responding, the Director-General of NTDC noted that Nigeria is blessed with so many tourist sites, festivals, events and places of interests which people would love to go. He noted therefore that this could be achieved if the tourism and hospitality sector in partnership with the entertainment sector work in synch with the airlines.
“Families can take advantage of various festivals, carnivals and events around the country the year round to go on holiday and relax and have fun. For instance, hotels can partner with airlines and the tourism authority to arrange package tours for couples, family or groups to visit the Calabar Carnival or Obudu Cattle Ranch, or spend a weekend for two in Abuja, or go and enjoy the scenery at the Eyo Festival in Lagos. Corporate Organisations can also hold their Retreats or annual Conventions at many of these destinations,” Mr. Coker noted.
Agreeing with the NTDC boss, Meggison assured that such a partnership will be a win for Nigeria and a win-win situation for the airlines and the tourism and hospitality sector whereby the airlines will be able to attract more passengers.
“We can start from Abuja especially during weekends when the traffic outbound from Lagos into Abuja is usually low and hotel occupancy equally poor”.
“On our part as airlines, one major way that government can assist domestic operators is by removing all 37 multiple taxes that are heavy burdens on domestic operators thereby allowing airlines to offer just our cost air fares.
Hotels should also drop their prices to the cost for a bed & breakfast, and we together can target to offer two nights with return flight ticket Lagos – Abuja for N50,000 all inclusive as our own contribution in getting the economy back on track.
The package could be sold through the NTDC platform only. Other tourist sites, locations, restaurants, eateries, bar, social clubs, night clubs should be encouraged to offer same at cost price as a contribution for now to jump start our economy,” Nogie submitted.