Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
Some tourism experts and international airline operators have commended the federal government over the completion and opening of the new international terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
Speaking with Journalists in Abuja, the organiser of the Akwaaba Africa Travel Market and a tourism expert, Mr Ikechi Uko, said building airport infrastructure would go a long way to reposition the nation’s aviation industry.
Uko, said having a 15 million passenger-capacity terminal in Abuja could attract more international airlines into Abuja and position the city as a major tourist’s destination in Africa.
According to him, “I need to commend the people who created the vision and they were not even thinking of three million or five million passengers but 15 million, which is remarkable.”
He observed that the move was nothing but, “thinking far ahead and we need to commend them.
“I also need to commend Nigerians who have been patient because Abuja airport has not had new facility like this since it began operations and I think it is a good way to go for Nigeria because it will improve our image. “opefully, it will bring in more major international airlines,” he said.
Uko, said access had been the biggest problems of tour operators in Abuja, adding that airlines only go to places where they would have access to good facilities.
“Creating more access will position Abuja as a big destination for conferences because Abuja is second to Accra in the whole of West Africa.
“With more access and more airlines, Abuja can become number one because with the new airport, Abuja can become number one meetings’ destination,” he said.
Also, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Mr Nkereuwem Onung, said a lot more needed to be done to ensure proper utilisation of the facility.
Onung, who stated that it was not enough to have a beautiful airport with increased capacity, said it was necessary to ensure that more airplanes were landing and taking off at the airport.
He called on the government and industry players to encourage more airlines to come in as well as support the existing ones to have more aircraft.
“Kudos to government for the infrastructure which is good but we need to do more to be able to utilise it.
“We are carrying international visitors to Lagos and Abuja for meetings and to Calabar for carnival, when they land and they see our beautiful airport it will speak well.
“The issue is let there be more inbound flights and a lot of other issues that must be corrected on the aviation industry. We have been talking about the national carrier and all of that.
‘‘If you add all those and you have a beautiful airport, the economics of aviation will improve and once that happen the tour operators are in business,” he said.
Also, the Traffic and Sales Manager, Ethiopian Airlines, Mr Tilahun Tedesse, said the airline might commence operation from the new terminal this month.
Tedesse said the new terminal was an international airport standard, adding that it was a big change from the existing terminal.
“The checks in counters are very big and I am sure that passengers will greatly enjoy the comfort.
“I must commend the federal government for the wonderful work that they have done because the terminal is very beautiful and I think it is a Christmas gift for Nigeria,” he said.