Local sector records over 70 per cent slump in 2020

Lagos airport

The local aviation sector has declared at least 70 per cent drop in ticket sales for the Year 2020 on account of the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the world.

The rough estimate was measured with figures in 2019 when the industry pooled $1billion from international travel sales.

President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, said the grand losses summed up the turbulent year that aviation had, and the plight of travel agencies in the country.

Similarly, members of the association have bemoaned the current difficulties in accessing forex (FX) to meet mandatory obligations with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). They said over 300 members risk delisting without the release of FX to pay annual dues.

The coronavirus pandemic started biting at the turn of 2020 first quarter, which literally concluded air travel sales for the year. The next two quarters were spent in lockdown and the last was for air travel restart and possible recovery. The sector had recorded $1billion (N360 billion) in ticket sales for 2019 – a 31.4 per cent slump compared to 2018 estimates that logged N525 billion ($1.5 billion).

Akporiaye, at a media briefing in Lagos, said the Year 2020 first quarter started on a bright note with agencies recording ticket sales of $70.03 million in January, $59.16 million in February, and $23.26 million in March. By April, the virus had a bit harder, with trade deficits of $1.36 million recorded. The sales in total were $151.09 million – a 45 per cent drop compared to $282.36 million generated in the same quarter of 2019.

She said no sales were recorded during the lockdown of second and third quarters of 2020, and only very little in the last quarter, whose actual figures were yet to be calculated.

She said, in total, “We are looking at about 70 per cent decline in sales, which made it a dismal year with huge effects on her members.” She added that the pandemic challenged the very legacy of a united NANTA with its members not sure of what to expect.

“To get hold of our members and a situation favourable to a possible rebound of the industry, we engaged in training and retraining of our members, knowing that it may not be business as usual once we were clear from the pandemic.

“Our members were beginning to experience challenges and with the initial lockdown, border and airspace closure and banning of travellers to some parts of the world, particularly targeting Nigerians, we knew we had to think out of the box and give our members hope, opportunities and strength to remain focused,” she said.

The NANTA President commended the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, and the Federal Government that provided travel agencies with palliatives of N196 million.

She disclosed that a committee had been set up to share the “largesse” among about 800 financially up-to-date and NCAA-registered members of the association.

Vice President of NANTA, Lagos Zone, Yinka Folami, said expectations were high that Year 2021 would be better, though heavily dependent on the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Folami said vaccines are one of the main roads to early recovery, at least to save travellers the hassles of multiple tests and diverse safety protocols.

Financial Secretary of NANTA, Daisi Olotu, said the local authorities, especially, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), could do much more to support the industry to survive the difficult period and begin the recovery phase.

Olotu said NANTA members’ mandatory annual dues to IATA had been remitted to the bank, saddled with converting the same to dollars for onward remittance to IATA.

“But the CBN has not been able to grant our members just $60,000. In place, they are offering $4000. What are we to do with that? IATA has been magnanimous and showed understanding, but it is not just fair on our survival plan,” Olotu said.

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