2019, for the Nigerian travel and tourism industry, was supposed to be the year of a new beginning with the re-election of current government. However, the industry witnessed progress and disappointment. Below are some of the major talking points in the travel and tourism industry 2019.
Scarcity of passport booklets at NIS Although the lack of passport booklets at offices of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) was not a new development but a carryover from the previous year, it almost developed into a crisis. Many Nigerians that applied for passports at the first quarter of the year had to wait for several weeks, if not months, to get their passports.
The scarcity of passport booklets led to some touts working with insiders in the NIS to capitalize on the situation to extort money from desperate Nigerians in need of passports.
The scarcity, which started right from January, did not ease off completely until towards the end of the third quarter of the year when the NIS received a consignment of 50,000 passport booklets to address the backlog of passports estimated to be about 33,000 nationwide.
Also, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede, was said to have set up a task force for Lagos to clear the backlog of passports in the state.
Nigeria-Ghana Friendship Club at 2019 Accra Weizo
Accra, the capital city of Ghana, played host once again to West Africa’s regional travel and tourism expo, the Accra Weizo. The La Palm Royal Beach Hotel was the venue of the two-day event which brought together travel and tourism industry professionals from West Africa and other parts.
The event is jointly organised by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) and Nigeria’s Ikechi Uko-led Akwaaba African Travel Market (AfTM) team. 2019 was the fifth edition.
Delivering a good will message at the event, the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), a parastatal of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, took the audience on a history lesson on relations between Nigeria and Ghana.
He used the opportunity to announce the establishment of the Nigeria-Ghana Friendship Club to champion the course for the unity, peace, stability and development of Nigeria and Ghana in particular and the West Africa sub-region at large.
Citing examples of several football legends like Yakubu Mabo who played for Nigeria and scored the first goal at the Nigeria National Stadium when it was commissioned in the ’70s, Otunba Runsewe pointed out that Mabo was actually Ghanaian born. He also mentioned that Abdul Razak who captained the Black Stars of Ghana was actually a Nigerian, among several others.
Nigeria loses Fatimah Garbati
Mrs. Fatima Garbati was a major voice in the Nigerian travel and aviation industry for decades. Travel and tourism was her passion and remain true to it till she took her last breath. She was one of the brightest lights in the Nigerian travel and tourism industry. On May 31, 2019, Mrs. Fatima Garbati died at the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. She had gone to Ile-Ife to attend the annual General Meeting (AGM) of Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP).
Pastor TB Joshua gathers 40,000 worshippers in Israel
In an epoch-making event by any African Christian preacher, Nigerian televangelist, Pastor T.B. Joshua, drew about 40,000 thousand worshippers from all over the world to Mount Precipice, Nazareth, Israel. The event was tagged Nazareth Meeting with TB Joshua. The event, which many described as hugely successful, was held on June 23 and24. People came from all over the world to worship at the Amphitheatre of Mount Precipice in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus Christ.
Joshua has held several high-profile international events, predominantly in Latin America and Asia, but this will be his first meeting in the Middle East region.
Air Peace begins Lagos-Sharjah-Dubai flight
On July 5, Nigerian airline, Air Peace, began its first long-haul flight. The flight is for Dubai from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
Speaking at an event to commemorate the inaugural flight, Allen Onyema, Air Peace chairman, thanked Nigerians for their patronage, which he said, had made the company the largest airline in West Africa within four years of operations.
Onyema noted that the entry of the airline into long-haul services would end the exploitation and short-changing of Nigerians by foreign airlines.
“A six-hour flight from Lagos to Europe costs more than an 11-hour trip from Johannesburg to the same destination,” he said.
“So, we want to put an end to theinstead of our competitors will put back their money into the country’s economy.
“We are optimistic that even if our competitors begin to drop their fares that Nigerians will be wise to stick with us.”
Air Peace has scheduled to operate flights on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays to Dubai, while Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays would be for flights back to Lagos.
Xenophobic attacks in South Africa
From the first day of September, South Africa witnessed waves of attacks perpetrated by South African locals against foreign nationals, especially Nigerians. They targeted foreigners and their businesses.
It’s unclear what exactly triggered the latest round of attacks, but the unrest erupted on Sunday, September 1, 2019.
Some accounts by local South African media said the violence was the consequence of the killing of a taxi driver in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s cities, on Tuesday, August 27.
The driver was allegedly shot and killed when he confronted drug dealers and police officers allegedly involved in selling drugs.
Taxi operators then commenced protests that eventually metamorphosed into revisiting aggression against foreigners who are believed to fuel the drug trade and other crimes in South Africa.
Some business owners in Johannesburg were left with nothing after recent outbreaks of violence targeting foreigners. Air Peace later volunteered to send aircraft to South Africa to evacuate Nigerians caught in the orgy of violence.
Nigeria beats Ghana in 2019 Jollof Rice War
Nigerian jollof rice adjudged the best over Ghanaian jollof rice in a competition held at the 2019 Akwaaba Travel Market held at Expo Centre, Eko Hotel and Suite, Lagos .
The jollof rice competition was organized by the Akwaaba Travel Market, where Nigeria’s jollof emerged the winner of the competition.
The competition featured representatives from Nigeria and Ghana only because Gambia pulled out of the competition. The Nigerian jollof rice, which emerged the best, was prepared by Chef Idowo Olajide Michael as he won a weekend trip to Ghana while the Ghanaian chef won a trip to Calabar.
Buhari promises visas on arrival for all African visitors in 2020
Visa on arrival policy is used by countries to encourage foreigners to visit their countries for business and leisure.
It reduces the difficulties and bottlenecks associated to with visa applications through the countries’ embassies. Some countries in Africa like Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Benin Republic and few others offer visa on arrival.
Officials of the Nigerian government had been making statements in the past about the willingness of country to introduce visa on arrival.
However, no less a person than President Muhammadu made a policy statement of the willingness of the country to introduce visa on arrival.
President Muhammadu Buhari announced that Nigeria will issue visas on arrival for all African nationals. Buhari announced the plan while attending a peace and development summit in Egypt.
Even though many travel experts believe that the decision would be a major boost for the efforts to free movement of Africans, there are, however, no concrete details beyond Buhari’s statement in Egypt, exact details of the new policy remain unclear.
Nigeria seeks to enlist more sites as UNESCO Heritage Sites
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed announced plans to enlist more of Nigeria’s cultural sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The minister stated this during his visit to the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in Osun State which is one of the country’s two World Heritage Sites.
He said Nigeria’s quest to have more sites designated as World Heritage Sites is due to the abundance of sites that qualify for such listing in the country.
Alhaji Mohammed said the country will leverage on its election into the UNESCO World Heritage Committee last month to push for the enlistment of more sites.