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.
According to the newest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international arrivals plunged 81% in July and 79% in August, traditionally the two busiest months of the year and the peak of the Northern Hemisphere summer season. The drop until August represents 700 million fewer arrivals compared to the same period in 2019 and translates into a loss of US$ 730 billion in export revenues from international tourism. This is more than eight times the loss experienced on the back of the 2009 global economic and financial crisis.
At a briefing in Abuja yesterday, Nigeria' Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, announced that international flights would begin landing daily in Abuja and Lagos. He clarified that there would be four fligts daily, starting from August 29th, 2020. Nigeria will be reopening its borders for international flights on August 29th, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika announced. According to Sirika, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja will be the first to be reopened. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria's airports shut down at the end of March to all non-essential international flights.
The enormous toll of COVID-19 on international tourism has now become clear, with World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data showing the cost up to May was already three times that of the 2009 Global Economic Crisis. As the situation continues to evolve, the United Nations specialized agency has provided the first comprehensive insight into the impact of the pandemic, both in tourist numbers and lost revenues, ahead of the upcoming release of up-to-date information on travel restrictions worldwide.
The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) stating that it is extending closure of international airspace until October 15 instead of August 19 as previously stated. A source at NCAA, confirmed this development in a telephone interview with a news media organization, not Nigeria Travel Digest. The source said international airports would remain closed until October.
Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Segun Runsewe has advocated the use of culture as a therapy against Covid-19 pandemic. Stressing the potency of culture to address all human challenges, he said that culture is the totality of the ways of life of a people and therefore could be employed to solve all human problems.
In his words, the NCAC boss noted that the same way Medical Doctors use theatre as a place to heal the sick, and Artists use the theatre to educate and entertain, culture is a theatre of the mind and soul.
As the sector faces up to an unprecedented challenge, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (a subsidiary of the World Tourism Organization) has analysed the steps being taken by businesses and trade associations to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Studying the actions taken by Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) in 25 countries, the research revealed that, in spite of staff furloughs, employers across the sector are stepping up their support for workers and for communities.
Two months of flights restriction has cost the Nigerian travel sector job and financial losses in excess of N180b. In fact, the cost may be more, going by the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) estimates, which showed that the prolonged lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis had so far put 124,000 Nigerian jobs at risk, and some $900m (N324b) of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in jeopardy.