By Sade Williams
To underscore the global importance of aviation as the locomotive engine of any economy, 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 decreed the poor situation of Nigeria’s airports and the entire aviation sector, assured the government of NANTA’s support to help change the ugly scenario painted about travel facilities in country only if only a systematic and strategic re-alignment is put in place to drive tourism through aviation.
He told Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika to let president Buhari know that Nigeria can quickly get out of economic recession if tourism is married to aviation, a progressive partnership 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 truly paid attention to the huge benefits 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 potentialities of Nigeria as a global tourism destination” he stressed.
Bankole who got the aviation minister nodding in agreement, upped his presentation with graphic details of how other Africa nations of Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya help power their tourism economy through key attention and support to their national airlines, also thumbed up 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 further explained.
The NANTA President, who led top members of his association to the exclusive meeting, tasked the aviation minister to look into the issues of repatriation of trapped funds of foreign airlines, the state of Abuja and Muritala Mohammed airports, Aviation Bank to help domestic airlines and the NANTA Act to address issues of professionalism in the travel trade business.
In a detailed point by point response, Senator Sirika assured NANTA leadership that aviation is dear to the heart of President Buhari, nothing that the committee for Nigeria Airways was the first national assignment pushed forward by his administration over 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 that “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 but admitted that their exist maybe due to commercial consideration than any lawful and legal show off with Nigeria, praying that they give Nigeria a chance to get out of recession since they had it good in the past.
“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 explained and further assured that concession of the airports is the only solution to their growth and profitability.