The Singapore Tourism Board recently showcased delights awaiting Nigerian tourists in the Southeast-Asian country at an event in Lagos. However, tour operators highlighted a burning issue that needs to be addressed, reports Demola Ojo
A new drive to entice Nigerian tourists to Singapore is being spearheaded by Ethiopian Airlines in collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board. Africaâ€™s leading airline (fleet size, fleet age, connections and more) has been making commercial flights into Nigeria from the time of Nigeriaâ€™s independence.
As an organization that preaches pan-Africanism, Ethiopian Airlines has made its mandate to connect Africa to the rest of the world. It flies to 94 international destinations and more destinations in Africa than any other airline. In recent times, it has helped ease access to Far East destinations like Japan and China.
The airline serves Nigeria from four locations (Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu) with the most modern planes in the world; the Airbus A350, the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.
Ethiopian recently announced plans to reinstate flights from Addis to Changi Airport in Singapore. Starting June 1, Ethiopian will fly to Singapore five times a week. Marrying Africaâ€™s leading travellers with one of the worldâ€™s most attractive destinations makes good business sense; especially when the pitch includes reduced time of travel between Nigeria and Singapore at more competitive rates.
In a bid to showcase what Singapore has to offer Nigerians, key travel personnel from the Asian country were present in Lagos last week for a roadshow that attracted leading tour operators in Nigeria and the travel media. The roadshow was a collaboration between Ethiopian Airlines and the Singapore Tourism Board.
Representing the four main nationalities in the multi-cultural country (Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian) were Neo Wei Shan,a manager at Changi Airport, Sidney Chua and DilshaadBuhariwata from two leading tour companies in Singapore, and Mohammed Firhan, Area Director Middle East and Africa for the Singapore Tourism Board. Together, they sold Destination Singapore to all present.
Despite being a small island of 5.5 million inhabitants, Singapore welcomed 16.4 million tourists last year, more than three times its population. However, the percentage of that number from Nigeria and Africa in general is minute; it is a number the Tourism Board will like to see increase.
Being an all-year round destination with a tropical climate is just one of the many advantages Singapore has over other destinations competing for touristâ€™s dollars. This aside the fact English is the official language. Another selling point is the city-stateâ€™s multiculturalism which is reflected in its cuisine, art and architecture. It is a shopperâ€™s paradise, a family destination with a vibrant nightlife all wrapped into a carefully-planned green city.
Singapore is alsobig on nature and wildlife and offers night and river safaris, with a quarter of the 2,800 animals in its world famous zoo considered threatened.
Singapore hosts many sports events with the Formula One race at Marina Bay one of the biggest. Held in September, it is usually the best time to enjoy the country as so many events are held around this time, including concerts featuring the worldâ€™s biggest entertainers. Of course this also translates to paying a premium for hotel rooms.
The Singapore Grand Prix is unique because it is a street race held at night. The racing cars drive through the streets rather than a racecourse. It means tourists can see the race from their hotel rooms. This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Grand Prix at Marina Bay, so itâ€™s expected to be bigger than ever.
Another smart move by Singapore to attract tourists is by positioning itself as a gateway to other countries in Southeast Asia through cruise holidays. There are packages that enable tourists see up to five other countries in the region including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and more.
Changi Airport in Singapore is a destination in itself. Being such a tiny country made up of dozens of islands, all flights are international flights. Due to its location (and vision of its leaders), it is a major hub connecting east to west and one of the worldâ€™s busiest airports. Changi is the airport with the most awards in the world and amenities like a rooftop swimming pool for travellerâ€™s to relax is just one of many reasons why.
The Visa Snag
After the presentations which wowed the audience, Nigeriaâ€™s leading travel agents and tour operators were unanimous in their observation. They all concluded that Singapore isnâ€™t a hard sell and doesnâ€™t even need much marketing because the product is world class. However, the difficulty in getting visas, even for high net worth individuals, has limited the number of Nigerian tourists to Singapore. Businessmen have had to contend with single entry visas, including those who have visited up to twenty times, while the High Commission doesnâ€™t sit in Nigeria.
If the visa process is seamless they suggested, there would be a stream of Nigerian tourists to Singapore, with E-visa being the answer. â€œIt is the prerogative of the immigration authorities in Singapore,â€ Mohammed Firhan said. â€œWeâ€™re in dialogue with them to ease the visa process not only for Nigeria, but for other parts of Africa.â€