One of the major challenges faced by travel agencies in Nigeria is how to deal with those who use the platform to defraud travellers huge amount of money.
THISDAY learnt that the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) is beset with reports of these swindlers, who frustrate unsuspecting Nigerians from travelling, after they have arranged fake tickets for them or refused to remit the money paid to them by these intending travellers to the airlines.
Recently after being re-elected as the President of NANTA, during the annual general meeting (AGM) held in Port Harcourt, Mr. Bankole Bernard said that eliminating the menace of fraudsters in the aviation industryâ€™s subsector would be the major plank of his administration.
He said that NANTA in conjunction with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other related agencies would ensure that only those who genuinely practice travel businesses are allowed to be members of the association and has decided to identify members with biometric identity cards.
Bernard said that the association would be made to have full legislative backing this year and it would design a way to identify those who claim to belong to NANTA but do not abide by its principles and those people would not only be weeded out by the association but would be made to stop using travel agency as platform to defraud people.
Fielding questions from journalists after his election, Bernard said: â€œOur ID card scheme is a legacy project we intend to use to sanitise our industry and make sure we capture every single soul working within the aviation and tourism sector. We will make sure that it becomes effective this year and full compliance is achieved before the year runs out.
â€œThere will be a lot of publicity and advocacy in that regard. The general public needs to feel the impact of what the downstream sector is doing so that government will not have a choice but to reckon with us and give us policies that will support and promote our industry,â€ said.
Bernard noted that the association is yet to have legislative backing, although the Nigeria Civil Aviation Act protects the activities of travel agencies, but NANTA would have stronger teeth to bite when its gets legislative backing as an association.
â€œAs you are aware, we do not have the legislative backing that we can call our own. We have operated under the Nigeria Civil Aviation (NCAA) Act. We all know what the government position is when it comes to protecting the private sector. That aspect of their law, they will not pay attention or improve on it. NANTA is recognised as the umbrella body for all travel agents in Nigeria in the NCAA Act, but we are not getting that kind of support from NCAA. So, this has led us to push for NANTA act so that we have the legislative backing that will support us and help us become a better institution in our industry.
â€œWe have drafted our NANTA act and sent it to the House. It has gone through the first reading. The second reading will be coming up in May and when this happens, it will be pushed to the House Committee that will deliberate on it and further call for public hearing. By the time this is done, hopefully we are looking at last quarter of this year of first quarter of next year; we will have our NANTA act. This will give us opportunity to regulate our industry to a very large extent,â€ he said.
Bernard noted that a lot of people do not know what General Sales Agent (GSA) is in Nigeria because it is not done the way it is done in other countries.
â€œThere is no airline that is domiciled in Dubai that is operating with their full name. For instance British Airways in Dubai is not British Airways. They are operating under the GSA. Their operation is very transparent and the relevant taxes are being paid. Unfortunately in this part of the world, we donâ€™t have so much of that. Here it is the winner takes it all. This law will help us in this regard by the time our bill is out. By the time we work on these two things, I am sure our industry will be better, the NANTA President said.
Bernard said that under his administration as NANTA President, the association has built strong relationship with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has reinforced its goodwill and makes Nigerian travel agencies enjoy global recognition.
â€œWe have built a very good relationship with IATA to the point that IATA is now using NANTA as an example to other associations around the world and continent. The issue of travel agencies not living up to their expectations will become things of the past. With our relationship with IATA, we see better growth for our members. We see clarity of purpose with our members. We see IATA working more closely with us to the point of developing more human capacity,â€ the re-elected NANTA President said.