By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) said the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) refusal to release $ 450 million in funds owned by foreign airlines operating in the country has paralyzed the travel agency industry.
Speaking to Everydaythe president of the association Mrs Susan Akporiaye, said that the situation is now very difficult that for some time, travel agents have not been able to sell tickets because foreign airlines have removed the lowest fares from their price inventory and replaced it higher in to bypass the CBN and buy forex in the parallel market.
He said that so far, many of their customers who want to travel for summer vacation and students who are studying abroad and want to travel to continue their studies have been stranded in Nigeria because they cannot afford pay the excessive amount of flight tickets.
He said the current situation presents a real threat to the industry and to the continuity of their business as travel professionals, considering the potential unemployment and the associated national economic losses as the world gradually emerging during the pandemic.
“Summer travel for us in Nigeria has been threatened and has been so for the past two months. It’s scary for us, people want to travel but we can’t sell because the cost of tickets is ridiculous. For example, it was removed Virgin Atlantic has all the inventory and now it is only the highest class in the system selling N1.8 million.British Airways still has a lower fare of approximately N800,000 but you see, the fares are ridiculous.
“We don’t enjoy it anymore so we are shouting that CBN should release the funds so that things can be normal and we can sell tickets. This is frustrating. Over the past week, I’ve been receiving calls from my customers who want to travel and by the time I send the cost of the flight, they’ll say it’s too much. This applies to those who want to travel to different countries. This is very sad. Because I want to sell, I also feel sorry for my passengers. Normally, a family of four would spend N1.7 million on flights but now, we are talking about N3 million.
“We have been struggling to make sales not because requests do not come in when we request and we send the cost, passengers changed their minds because the fare is too high. So, for now, we only do corporate travel. We send SOS to the presidency to help us. Maybe we need to threaten like local airlines threaten.
“I feel sorry for the students who are going back to school. Many of them who have to continue their studies in September cannot afford to buy tickets because of the cost. It’s not funny at all.
“As Nigerians, we are patriotic and we have well represented our country in the global travel industry and rightly feel anxious that Nigeria is on the brink of a false narrative at the recently concluded 78th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Doha, Qatar on account of airlines seized funds.
“We are through this outing again, appealing to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministry of Aviation and the office of the Vice President to quickly intervene to reduce the amount of trapped funds to help resolve the operations of the airline, “he said. said.
Due to the shortage of forex, fares on international routes have become expensive as airlines have now closed lower airfare inventory.