Tourism: Quickest way to restart economy- NANTA boss

*Laments airlines’ exit, job losses
*Rwanda Air loses $20 million in five months on “unforced errors”
For Nigeria to quickly get out of recession, the government has been told to harness the potentials in the tourism sector.
The disclosure was made by President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) Bankole Bernard at a media parley in Lagos.
He stated that tourism is the largest portfolio from which it can bounce back rapidly if the government wants to quickly re-engineer the economy, but regretted that they do not reckon with it.
While tourism in Nigeria is still at an embryonic stage, it is a major, soaring industry in most developed and some developing countries, where it has contributed tremendously to the economies.
 Countries such as Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Egypt, Gambia, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, USA, the Bahamas, Canneries Island and many other Countries, notably in the Caribbean harness the potentials of tourism to boost their economies.
In Nigeria, tourist sites abound in virtually every region. The Osun Shrine in Osogbo and Erin–Ijesha Water Falls in Osun State,  Abuja (Aso Rock, Zuma Rock) Niger (Gurara Falls), Akwa Ibom (Ibeno-Pkerete Beach, Nwanibo Hills), Bauchi (Yankari Games Reserves), Anambra (Udi Hill), Cross River (Obudu Cattle Ranch, Kwa Falls, Ranch Resort, TINAPA, Oban Hills), Plateau (Watse Rock, Assopt Water Falls, Wildlife Resort)), Kwara (Owu-Water Falls), Lagos (Lekki Beach), Ogun (Olumo Rock), Ondo (Idanre Hills) Ekiti (Ikogosi warm and cold spring), Taraba (Mambila Plateau) are just a few examples.
 Regrettably, over the years, these potentials have not been effectively tapped, developed and harnessed.
The Nigerian government still sees and treats tourism as an instrument of entertainment and not instrument of economic development.
Bernard stated that one of the easiest advantages to identify is the jobs tourism creates, adding that this range from directly influenced positions like tour guides, hotel staff, coach services, restaurants and aviation.
His words, “Another important aspect of these businesses is that, tourist sites not only pay wages to their staff, but the tourists usually source goods and products locally, giving a boost to local industry. What’s great about tourism is that the supporting industries like retail and food production also benefit, although it is not as obvious to the untrained eye as this is mostly occurring behind the scenes”.
The NANTA chief appraised the performance of the body and said it has been able to galvanise interest by putting pressure on the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika to begin to move the aviation industry in the right direction.
He stated that NANTA had several meetings with Sirika and promised to work with the body to reposition the ailing industry.
“A lot has happened to our industry. Bad runway at Abuja airport is disturbing. We have forex issue and deteriorating infrastructure at our airports. Government is paying attention to those things because we have not stopped talking. The Minister is making clarifications on airport concession. Concession would let us have good value for investment. We need to ensure there are good policies.”
He lamented the exit of airlines, stressing that any time an exit exits the country, there would be attendant job losses, low patronage for hotels, making tourism to suffer.
Speaking also at the event, sales executive of RwandAir, Henry Aaron applauded Bankole for the professionalism he brought into the body to reposition NANTA.

Aaron said RwandAir has been able to pull through in its five years of operations in the market.
He stated that the airline is set to introduce flight to Paris, Frankfurt, London, Mumbai and others

He lamented that the airline has paid $20 million from July till date for the mistakes the airline knows nothing about.

He said the penalty imposed on the airline has nothing to do with the carrier, but on the smartness of its passengers who are playing all gimmicks to outwit the airline to board flight to Dubai for example on a one way ticket, but only to be turned back at the airport in Dubai by th country’s immigration while the airline will be forced to pay the penalties and to carry the passengers back.

He said the airline is paying $30,000 fine for Advance Debit Memo, ADM for any infraction caused by the passengers on its flights.

To check all these infractions, he said the airline is introducing $5 on all its bookings.
Aaron noted that the airline is looking to the Nigerian market to fill its aircraft, adding that because of recession it’s becoming difficult to fill the aircraft as the airline’s Airbus is about to be withdrawn .
Wole Shadare