The Real Reason Tour Operators, Agents Don’t Sell Nigeria

Some NATOP members at AccraWeizo in Ghana in 2018.

Posted by JUSTOURS
Despite repeated claims from travel agents and tour operators in the country that they sell Nigeria, they are moving forward embracing outbound travel.
“They (tour operators) are reluctant because they want to sell Dubai and South Africa not Nigeria,” says a Nigeria tourism insider who asked to remain anonymous.
He said: “And you cannot catch the Nigerian tourism businesses grow domestic tourism. I think they have not demonstrated their desire to promote inbound travel and by so doing bring people to come and spend their money here adding that “This has a negative impact. Consider that the number of Nigerians travelling abroad has increased. Outbound tourists outstrip those coming in which means capital flights.”
One of the telling figures comes from the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) which disclosed that as much as $2.3 billion was generated by Nigerian travel agents in 2014 from ticket sales for foreign airlines and tour services. Of this amount, $1.4 billion was generated from ticket sales alone.
The tickets sold in 2018 could even be higher. Foreign airlines operating in Nigeria sold tickets worth about $1.7 billion from January to December 2018, reports say.
“The amount indicated that there was an increase in sales in the second half of 2018, buoyed by passenger surge during the yuletide, as the foreign airlines sold tickets worth $800 million in the first half of the year, against $900 million they earned in the second half of the year.”
The organised tour operators (NATOP) is said to be at the centre of outbound tourism without considering the implication when outbound tourism outstrips inbound tourism, the people going out are more in number than visitors.
A former President of NATOP Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, President of NATOP, had said the apex association is laden with the ‘responsibility to market and attract influx of tourists to the country, but for a long time many of us has deviated from that purpose, choosing to market other destinations in Nigeria, taking our people to other countries while we leave our own country less marketed as a destination.
He said: ‘Nigerian tour operators are the biggest suppliers of tourists on the continent. In 2015 Africa suffered 3% loss on arrival, down from 4% annual growth in the past years. And despite a shrinking spending power due to the falling prices, a lot of Nigerians still travelled abroad. The interim figure from NCAA showed that more than $1.5 billion US dollars was spent on international flight tickets last year.”

Another insight came from Director International Operations, Dubai Tourism Africa, Stella Fubara who said Nigerians are the most frequent African visitors to Dubai.
“Nigeria made up 60 per cent of clients of Time Hotels and Arabian Falcons, a leading property company in the Middle East. Nigeria also accounted for about 127,000 overnight visitors in 2015, making Nigeria one of the top 20 source markets that year,” said Fubara Obinwa who was making a point about the return of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) to a Lagos travel fair.
Ever since, Dubai Tourism has organised more roadshows in Nigeria than any other tourism organizations in the world. They concentrate their marketing in Nigeria’s major cities of Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos to enable Dubai businesses to be closer to the supply market.
Where did the tourism operators in Nigeria get it wrong?
Onung noted that Nigeria has abundant tourism resources which are not being properly packaged by the states for proper marketing. He said t tour operators have been at the fire front of supplying tourists for other countries outside Nigeria, but that such trend has to change. He however said their 2016 AGM in Calabar, Cross River State will “change all that.”
Three years later, President of NANTA, Bankole Bernard, at their 43rd AGM last month, said NANTA, was still in the business of making money for foreign airlines in the country.

Asked whether the forthcoming annual general meeting of the organised tour operators (NATOP) in Ile-Ife will bring a positive change in destination marketing, the source who also slammed NATOP over its inability to sell Nigeria, said it’s unlikely. “I think the focus is just on networking for NATOP. The association leverage destinations to organise their annual general meetings only.
“Do you think the tango will bring tourists? They were also in Jos and Calabar in the past, do you think NATOP members are selling these destinations? Did they meet the business communities in Jos and Calabar and establish partnership during such meetings? No.”
Seun Ibidapo, a property investor in Lagos who regretted the nation’s tourism industry lack luster performance, said he would like to see “our tour operators to use their initiative to package local tours to the rural areas and even cinemas.” Ibidapo who comes from Ile-Ife added that “They should encourage more pro-active efforts as well as seeking more involvement with local communities.”
He maintained that gauging the strength of Nigeria tourism today there are no concerted effort on inbound tourism. “Remember, the tourism industry is private sector-driven,” he said.
With increased recognition that that well planned tourism can be a vital element in poverty reduction, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, the tourism industry, experts say, generates directly and indirectly, a higher quality GDP, jobs and investments than most other economic activities.

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Bankole Bernard, NANTA President