The President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) Bankole Bernard has said that tourism and aviation could serve as huge alternative sources of revenue for Nigeria if the two sectors were properly harnessed.
He said Nigeria as a country with large air passenger market and diverse tourist destinations could generate enormous resources from these two areas of the economy with the right policies, incentives and proper regulation.
Bernard, who made the remark in a chat with journalists in Lagos, disclosed that NANTA would organise Eminent Persons Award on December 15, 2016 to honour those, who have contributed immensely to the development of the travel industry, adding that the association has received commitment from stakeholders to support the programme.
He said that aviation and tourism are inseparable, noting that if government takes the right decision in the aviation sector it would definitely rub off positively on the tourism sector.
He called on the federal government to take decisive steps to address the challenges in the aviation industry, which include decaying infrastructure at airports, incessant scarcity of aviation fuel, exit of international airlines from Nigeria, the trapped funds of the airline operating in the country, dwindling fortunes of domestic airlines and other issues.
Some of these problems, he argued have been there for years and no significant efforts were made in the past to resolve them.
“NANTA can speak up on issues without holding back on government policy affecting the aviation industry. If we continue to keep quiet all of us will live with a frustrated industry. We need to speak out on anything that is wrong with the industry,” he said.
The President disclosed that he met with the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika severally on issues affecting the aviation industry and how to address the challenges, adding that these meetings happened because, according to him, NANTA has not relented in pointing out the ills affecting the industry.
On planned concession of the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, Bernard said NANTA was not against the concession of the airports but that what the body is saying is that Nigerians must get value for airports when concessioned.
He said that in 2017, NANTA would not only put government on its toes but also ensure that the aviation industry got its desired attention from the federal government.
“In 2017 NANTA is going to work like it has never worked before and we are going to let our industry get relevance that has been lacking before now. When the federal government gets aviation right, it will move into tourism. Tourism needs to be given the right attention so that we can maximise the benefits from it. If we develop aviation, tourism will benefit from it. Majority of the tourists who come to Nigeria for tourism come by air,” he said.