The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) President, Bankole Bernard has called on the federal government to relocate the Ministry of Tourism to Aviation to fast track an immediate development of tourism in Nigeria.
Bankole, who in recent weeks has consistently decried the obsolete facilities at of the nation’s airports and the entire aviation sector, assured the government of NANTA’s support to help modernise the airports in the country, noting that this could happen with a systematic and strategic relationship between aviation and tourism, adding that such synergy would drive tourism through aviation.
Bankole urged the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika to let President Buhari know that Nigeria could quickly get out of economic recession if tourism were married to aviation, describing such partnership as progressive and policy decision that has helped other nations in the world to rebound on all indices of development.
“Nanta is embarrassed by the look of our airports and the situation our aviation sector today because Nigeria never has not really paid attention to the huge benefits in in-bound tourism hence we urge you to please do all you can to bring the tourism portfolio to the aviation sector so that Nigeria can power domestic tourism and grow the huge potential of Nigeria as a global tourism destination” Bankole said.
In the presentatio he made to the Minister in a recent stakeholders event, Bankole gave details of how other Africa nations like Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya helped power their tourism economy through key attention and support to their national airlines.
He also eulogised Asian tourism economic powers of United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and China for pushing aviation cum tourism infrastructure to the front burner of their economic aspiration.
“Mr. Minister Sir, we are tired of the lip service paid to tourism and aviation development in Nigeria and as key players in Nigeria aviation downstream sector, we have seen what aviation powered tourism agenda has done for other countries and Nigeria cannot allow other Africa countries to overshadow us and use our failings to gain ground ahead of us in this business”, Bankole observed.
Nanta President who led top members of his association to the meeting with the Minister, urged him to look into the issues of repatriation of trapped funds of foreign airlines, the state of Abuja and Muritala Mohammed airports, establishment of aviation fund to help domestic airlines and also the establishment of NANTA Act to address issues of professionalism in the travel trade business.
Responding, Sirika assured NANTA leadership that aviation was dear to the heart of President Buhari, nothing that the committee for Nigeria Airways was the first national assignment pushed forward by his administration even before the emergence of Ministry of Aviation.
“I totally support your call for aviation to drive tourism and it is not because I want to add the portfolio of tourism to what we were appointed to do here but the truth must be said that air transportation opens up a nation to many positive developmental indices to which tourism is a major issue”, the Ministers noted, adding, “We want Nanta to help us, challenge us and present solution to how we can achieve our national dreams in the shortest possible time, so when we fail to do the right things, we can accept that we failed”.
On the issue of trapped funds of foreign airlines, the minister pleaded that the airlines must understand and support Nigeria in this trying time and urged them to show commitment to the country they operate beyond profit consideration.
“You know your friends when you are in difficulty so the foreign airlines should now bear with Nigeria at this trying moment which will not last forever”, the Minister said and assured that concession of the airports was the only solution to their growth and profitability.