$450m frozen funds cripple Nigeria’s travel agency industry

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By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos

The National Association of Travel Agencies of Nigeria (NANTA) has said that the refusal of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to release $450 million in funds belonging to foreign airlines operating in the country has crippled the travel industry. travel agencies.

Talk to daily sunthe president of the association, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, said that the situation is now so serious that for some time travel agents have been unable to sell tickets because foreign airlines have removed the highest base fare bottom of their price inventory and replaced it with higher tariffs in order to circumvent the CBN and buy currencies on the parallel market.

She said that at present many of their clients who wish to travel for summer holidays and students studying abroad who wish to travel to resume their studies are stuck in Nigeria as they cannot not afford the exorbitant cost of plane tickets.

She said the current situation presents a real threat to the industry and the continuity of their business as travel professionals, given the potential job losses and consequent national economic losses as the world gradually exits. of the pandemic era.

“Summer travel for us in Nigeria is under threat and has been for two months. It’s been horrible for us, people want to travel but we can’t sell because ticket prices are ridiculously high. For example, Virgin Atlantic has removed all stock and now it is only the highest class that is on the system which sells for N1.8m British Airways still has lower fares of around N800,000 but look- the, the rates are so ridiculous.

“We don’t like it anymore and that’s why we shouted that the CBN should release the funds so things can normalize and we can sell tickets. It’s so frustrating. I have been getting calls for a week from my clients wanting to travel and by the time I send the cost of the flight they would say it is too much. This applies to those who want to travel to different countries. It’s so sad. Insofar as I want to make sales, I also feel sorry for my passengers. Normally, a family of four would spend 1.7 million naira on flights, but now we are talking about 3 million naira.

“We have struggled to make sales not because inquiries don’t come in when we get inquiries and send the cost, passengers change their minds because fares are too high. So for now we only do business trips. We send an SOS to the presidency to help us. Maybe we need to threaten just like the local airlines threatened.

“I pity the students who go back to school. Many of them due to return to school in September cannot afford tickets due to the cost. It’s not funny at all.

“As Nigerians, we are patriotic and have presented our country well in the global travel industry and rightly felt disturbed that Nigeria was on the verge of a bad narrative at the 78th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Doha. , Qatar on behalf of the airlines trapped funds.

“We are once again by this release, calling on the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministry of Aviation and the Office of the Vice President to intervene quickly to bring down the amount of funds trapped to help resolve the operations of these airlines,” she said. said.

The shortage of foreign currency has made airfares on international routes expensive, as airlines have now shut down inventory of lower airfares.

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