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.
The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Aviation and other related agencies to commence local flights, beginning with the opening of at least one airport in each of the six geopolitical zones with the view to give all zones a sense of belonging and ensure equity and fairness.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 22% fall in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020, the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) shows. According to the United Nations specialized agency, the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60% and 80% when compared with 2019 figures. This places millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Federal Government has extended the closure of airports across the country by another two weeks beginning from April 23, 2020. Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced this via a tweet on his verified Twitter handle on Monday, April 20, 2020. The Aviation Minister said the extension was due to the recent lockdown order of the President Muhammadu Buhari.