Amid the threats posed by the delta variant of COVID-19, experts and consultants in the Nigerian travel industry have lamented the slow and unsteady recovery of businesses from the impact of the pandemic.
They said prior to the breakout of the pandemic last year, the Nigerian travel industry usually recorded a high number of clients, with parents and their children travelling during the summer for tourism purposes.
As a result of the pandemic, tourist visas to some foreign countries have been put on hold amid increased restrictions of movements.
Concerned stakeholders who lamented the reduction in their revenues said aside from dealing with low patronage, the naira-dollar exchange rate was also discouraging to travel agents.
In separate interviews with our correspondent, some travel agents decried the recent increase in the naira-dollar exchange rate following the devaluation of the naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
In May, the CBN adopted the NAFEX exchange rate of N410.25 per dollar as its official exchange rate, days after removing the N379/$ rate from its website.
Travel agents told our correspondent that the exchange rate for agencies had been adjusted to above N500/$1 for foreign air tickets.
The Group Managing Director, Finchglow Group Nigeria, Bankole Bernard, said, “The industry is picking up, except for the devaluation of the naira that has made tickets so expensive and created difficulties in the repatriation of funds by the airlines.”
The former president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies stressed the need for the government to make foreign exchange accessible to airlines.
“We will need the intervention of the Minister of Aviation to look into the inability of the airlines to get foreign exchange from the central bank which will affect the travelling public if something is not done fast,” he said.
According to him, travelling by air is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
“The recovery is still slow as there are still restrictions everywhere. We believe that the more the vaccines go round, it will help in easing the restrictions which will greatly improve travels,” the President of NANTA, Susan Akporiaye, told our correspondent.
According to a travel expert, Ossy Omenai, the recovery of travel agents is dependent on their skills.
He said the uncertified agents in the industry had been worst hit by the pandemic.
He said, “The uncertified agents only have a registered name with the Corporate Affairs Commission. During the pandemic, a lot changed in the industry which they could not handle.
“There are some travel restrictions agents face. For instance, if you are not a recognised travel consultant by the embassy, you may not be able to submit certain applications to some countries.”
Omenai said the naira devaluation was affecting prospective travellers and the travel agencies involved in the travelling process.
“The devaluation of the naira affects our business because those applying for visas are travelling to foreign countries, and by the time the exchange rate is being calculated, it becomes a huge amount of money for them,” he added.
Another travel consultant, Olubiyi Oluwajoba, lamented the impact of the pandemic, saying there had not been any positive development in the industry.
“There is nothing new in the industry. We are only promoting destinations we usually do not market before,” he said.