President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, (NANTA) Mrs Susan Akporiaye has said that in spite of the palliatives from Federal Government, the travels and tourism sector of the economy is still battling to remain afloat. She stated that COVID-19 pandemic dealt a big blow on most members of NANTA, which did not give operators the desired impact to rebase their operations.
Akporiaye, the 44th president who took over from Mr Bankole Bernard last year April, commended the Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika for his perseverance in making sure the association got the palliatives.
“We appreciate the doggedness of our Minister Hadi Sirika for his perseverance in making sure we got the palliative. It’s not news on the amount NANTA got but because of the large membership of NANTA it does not give us the desired impact to rebase our operations considering the loss we have faced the many months period and are still facing but the thought of the kind gesture by the government is what matters. We are grateful as we expect more both in cash and kind.
“The COVID-19 is very much still ravaging our business. Local challenges I will say bothers more on the issue of regulations, sanitising the industry and multi taxation my members are going through in which we are working closely with NCAA and other government establishment to address,” she said.
On what she is doing differently to reposition the association, she said: “In all my years as a technocrat in the travels and tourism industry, my exposure internationally over the years, I believe being a travel agent is a profession like any other that equally has a business side. A profession requires professionals to operate it well. Being a professional involves training & retraining, capacity building to be able to function well and the right way to be able to compete in an ever growing industry. So that’s what I am doing differently.”
Since assuming office a year ago, Akporiaye has undertaken a wide range of consultation from government to international organisations such as IATA, UFTAA, aviation and tourism stake holders and practitioners, as well as airline partners. This, she said, enables her team to appreciate the different levels of needs and expectations of the players.
To her, the last one year has been very engaging as her team has been very busy than expected, especially for the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to her, during the lockdown ‘’we engaged our partners such as airlines, government agencies in a series of meaningful webinar discussions on the new normal COVID-19 brought upon us and how to forge ahead.
“We flagged off NANTA capacity building and accreditation programme (CBAP), which is aimed at training and retraining our members on different areas of our profession in the midst of all these there was a lot of engagements with the government that brought about the palliative we received. New partnership in tourism has been established and ongoing which we will unveil very soon. It’s been a very busy one year for us,” she added.
She identified the followings as priority programmes his administration will embark upon to reposition the association. They are: To establish NANTA as a preferred travels and tourism association in Nigeria and the world, increase the level of professionalism in members that we will stand out and make a difference in the industry, create and open up channels and diverse streams of income for members, create value for travels agencies and agent members.