By Priscilla Osaje
The declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in January led to international travel restrictions, national travel bans and sub-national lockdowns, leading to massive cancellations of tourism and hospitality services, in destinations all over the world.
Consequently, the travel tourism and hospitality sectors in Nigeria have unimaginably, taken a direct hit with attendant tales of woes including corporate bankruptcies and large-scale job losses.
Alhaji Nura Kangiwa, Director-General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), said the International travel restrictions imposed by most countries in the wake of the first, and now second wave of COVID-19 has literally crippled the global tourism industry.
He said the International travel restrictions imposed by most countries in the wake of the first, and now second wave of COVID-19 has literally crippled the global tourism industry.
Kangiwa, who is also the Coordinator of the Hospitality and Tourism Sector Skills Council of Nigeria (HTSSCN), said that the fall-out of the pandemic on Nigeria’s Tourism businesses and allied operators have been financially debilitating.
“The impacts on tourism business operators are such that most of them are tethering between staff redundancy and bankruptcy.
“Most of Nigeria’s Hospitality and Tourism businesses fall into the category of Micro and Small businesses; as such they will require external financial support to ride out the effects of COVID-19 on their businesses.
“Thankfully, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been proactive and has since included the Hospitality and Tourism businesses among the early recipients of the Survival Fund managed by the Ministry of Finance.
“In fact, I am aware that the Federal Government has started giving some financial support to some hotels, travel agents and tour operators across Nigeria.”
He said that the fall-outs of COVID-19 pandemic have been adverse on the sustainability of Nigeria’s Hospitality and Tourism businesses.
He said that the pandemic has led to a systematic transformation in the operational processes of most hospitality and tourism businesses in Nigeria and across the world.
“While most Nigerian businesses in the Hospitality and Tourism industry had to lay-off staff to enable them cut-costs of operation.
“They are consequently, massively, resorting to online technology for their hitherto staff-managed, routine promotional campaigns, sales funnelling and sundry customer relationship management,” he added.
According to him, one of the ways forward in a COVID-19 world is the deployment and adaptation of Hospitality and Tourism online technology in the nitty-gritty of operations in Nigeria.
Kangiwa further said the utilisation of online technological tools in the industry were now the new normal.
He added that if sustained, it would eventually increase the visibility and efficiency of Nigerian hospitality and tourism businesses, as an emerging tourist destination in Africa.
“As a capacity development institute for the industry in Nigeria, NIHOTOUR has begun to expand the current syllabi to include hands-on training and skills acquisition in the areas of technological tooling of Hospitality and Tourism operations.
“Our mandate requires us to play such catalytical roles for the growth of the industry,” he said.
Also, Alhaji Saleh Rabo, the National President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) said that the adverse impact of the rampaging COVID-19 on Nigeria’s budding tourism and hospitality industry is unimaginably catastrophic, considering the enormous contributions of travel and hospitality sectors to the nation’s overall economic growth and massive employment of labour.
He continued that, aside from the government’s fiscal and monetary intervention measures, Nigeria’s tourism industry urgently required transformational tourism development policies and programmes to both jumpstart and sustain exponential growth of the industry.
Meanwhile, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, president, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) said it takes professionalism to run a travel agency properly because coronavirus pandemic has made the job quite challenging.
Akporiaye said that at this stage, it was not enough for a travel agent to obtain ticket, book hotel and do a tour for a passenger.
She further explained that the travel agent would deem it necessary to check the place the person wants to go, advice if tourists are allowed to come and COVID-19 protocol in that destination.
“If the destination is not favourable, we have to check out other destination the person can go and have fun at the same time, it involves a lot now,” she said.
She added that travel agencies in the country need government intervention to cushion the impact of COVID 19 that affected the tourism industry.
According to her, travel agencies deserves bailout and palliatives they have for the industry to enable them to fill the gap created by COVID-19.
“Whatever plan government is making for the tourism sector, they should not forget travelling agencies as they are Nigerians too.
“We have employees we pay, in fact, most of us are still paying half salaries and huge taxes to the government and as they are attending to local airlines, they should not forget us. We need cash or tax holiday,” she added.
She noted that the impact of the lockdown has been as devastating as many of them could not pay their rent, school fees of their wards and other necessities of life.
She added that many workers have been laid off due to the inability of their employers to meet up, coupled with the fact that sales of ticket were poor.
She said she is optimistic that the industry would bounce back bigger, better and stronger, urging everyone to be positive, in spite of all the challenges.