Susan Akporiaye
By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) has said the refusal of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to release $450 million in funds belonging to foreign airlines operating in the country has paralysed the travel agency industry.
Speaking to Daily Sun, the association’s president, Mrs Susan Akporiaye, said that the situation is now so dire that for some time, travel agents have been unable to sell tickets because foreign airlines have removed the lowest base fare from their price inventory and replaced it with higher ones in order to bypass the CBN and buy forex in the parallel market.
She said that at the moment, many of their customers who wish to travel for summer vacation and students who are studying abroad and want to travel to resume their studies are stranded in Nigeria because they cannot afford the exorbitant cost of flight tickets.
She said the current situation presents a real threat to the industry and the continuity of their business as travel professionals, bearing in mind the potential job losses and the attendant national economic losses as the world is gradually coming out of the pandemic era.
“Summer travel for us in Nigeria is threatened and has been so for the past two months. It has been horrible for us, people want to travel but we can’t sell because the cost of the tickets are ridiculously high. For instance, Virgin Atlantic has removed all the inventories and now it is only the highest class that is on the system which sells for N1.8 million. British Airways still has lower fares of about N800, 000 but look at it, the fares are so ridiculous.
“We are no longer enjoying this and that is why we have been shouting that the CBN should release the funds so that things can normalise and we can sell tickets. This is so frustrating. For the past one week, I have been receiving calls from my customers who want to travel and by the time I send the flight cost, they would say it is too much. This applies to those who want to travel to different countries. This is so sad. Inasmuch as I want to make sales, I am also pitying 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 are not coming in when we get requests and we send the cost, the passengers change their minds because the fares are too high. So, for now, it is only corporate travel that we have been doing. We are sending an SOS to the presidency to come to our aid. Maybe we need to threaten just like the local airlines threatened.
“I pity the students who are going back to school. Many of them who need to resume school in September can’t afford to purchase tickets because of the cost. This is not funny at all.
“As Nigerians, we are patriotic and have presented our country well in the global travel industry and rightly felt disturbed that Nigeria is on the brink of a wrong narrative at the just concluded 78th Annual General Meeting of International Air Transport Association ( IATA) in Doha, Qatar on the account of airlines trapped funds.
“We are by this outing once again, appealing to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministry of Aviation and the office of the Vice President to speedily intervene to bring down the amount of trapped funds to help resolve the operations of these airlines,” she said.
Forex shortage has made airfares on international routes expensive because airlines have now closed the lower airfare inventory.

Read also: FG swoops on tax defaulters as VAIDS amnesty ends

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By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) has said the refusal of…

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