As the lingering economic recession in Nigeria bites harder, the country’s tour and travel sector has nosedived, following the upping of international airfare, almost beyond the reach of many travelers, with its attendant drop in passengers’ travel volume.
The soaring exchange rate of the naira to the American dollars under the incumbent administration is placing the Nigerian currency at about N320.00 to a dollar at the parallel market.
To mend the gap, European airlines flying into the country have embarked on cut throat
measures to make up for the lingering imbalance while some are already considering to abandon the Nigeria route in the meantime.
Investigation reveals that airlines like the British Airways and the Virgin Atlantic, both European carriers, have upped their fares by about 300 percent, causing a sharp drop in passenger’s traffic, with its negative financial tolls on travelling agencies across the nation.
British Airways (BA) officials, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, blamed the astronomic price fixing on inability of the airline to remit its fund through the regular bank, ruling out the airline succumbing to patronizing the black market to transact business.
To worsen the situation, the airline has resolved to cancelling its low fare class (economy) while it has withdrawn its aircraft earlier deployed to the Nigerian route in exchange for smaller aircraft that will be more fuel efficient as well as conform with the expected dwindle in passenger traffic.
Investigation further revealed that BA Lagos-London return ticket that used to sell for N252,283, now goes for N835,033.
The European airlines are said to have been bent on maintaining the current price for as long as it takes Nigeria to fix the dwindling fortune of its currency at the international scene.
Should the airlines agree to adjust to the current black market rate, the London route airfare would have stood at about N403,000, instead of the current N835,033 the European airlines are charging.
This current trend, it was gathered, has caused a sharp drop in the country’s tour and travel business as operators lament low patronage and discouraging operational climate.
Adewale Aregbesola, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Reliable Tours and Travels in Lagos, expressed frustration under the prevailing trend, blaming the European airlines for “inhuman policy.”
Aregbesola is of the view that the European carriers, being from the zone that colonized Nigeria, should be more supportive at this time of trial by the Nigerian government to bring the country back on sound economic track.
But for the American airlines, Delta and United and the Asian’s Emirate and Qatar which are providing succor by maintaining a moderate fare, the country would have witnessed another crisis in the aviation sector as a result of inability to secure flight.
“It is pathetic that the British carriers are not lending any support at these trying times. Rather, it is the American and the Asian airlines flying into the country that are filling in the gap created by these European carriers. But for them, many of us would have been forced out of business completely,” he said.
According to Aregbesola, the twice daily airlift of Emirate and the once daily by Qatar, complimented by the American carriers, have provided tremendous succor as they provides option for travelers who cannot afford the European airlines’ fare.
He noted that passengers’ volume has dropped abysmally, causing many travelling agencies not to be able to meet up with payment of their staff salaries.
Aregbesola described the current economic atmosphere in the country as pathetic, noting that this is happening when the country is facing difficulty in the power and energy sectors.
“There is no functional power and the fuel situation has been so terrible, making business to nosedive to near immobility. There is no light and it is also difficult to power the generator. Now we are faced with this acute drop in passengers. Tall these have made operations difficult. Many of us can no longer pay our staff salaries, resulting to palpable despondency amongst the workers,” he said.
Aregbesola wondered why the European airlines are so strict in their measure when airlines from America and Asia flying into the country are still meeting up despite their moderate fares.
He enjoined the managements of the European carriers to emulate their America and Asia airlines counterpart with a view to reviewing their fares downward as a way of reoxygenating the sector.
By GBOYEGA ADEOYE