Seriously overwhelmed by the negative effect of the COVID-19 on the travel industry and its value chain, the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) has called on the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for a bailout through interest free loan to help cushion the unprecedented business twist suffered by its member across Nigeria.
The president of NANTA, Bankole Bernard, who spoke with journalists in Lagos, recently said the coronavirus pandemic has put members of NANTA in a tight corner as every aspect of the travel business is gradually shutting down with the travel agents at the receiving end with nowhere to turn to.
According to Bernard Nigerian travel agencies had so far lost about N180 billion and still counting, while the global aviation industry had lost over $200 billion to the pandemic ravaging the world, adding that over 24,000 staff members had lost their jobs and more would follow with the rate at which the pandemic was hitting hard on the industry.
He said NANTA needs government bailout in form of interest free overdraft or interest free loans for the period of COVID-19 so as to cope with its socio- economic challenges.
He said travel agents are expected to remit monies generated on sale of tickets over a period of time to the International Air Transport Association, (IATA) but noted that unfortunately, they have not been able to sell tickets and the few tickets sold have not been paid for. Therefore, it may be difficult to remit the monies to IATA at these trying times.
Bernard noted that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN should have consideration for NANTA in its intervention effort to cushion the effect of COVID-19 and for the International Air Transport Association, IATA to relax its payment circles so that travel agencies would not default on their payment obligations.
NANTA boss said IATA should defer on the payment period or remittance period to like a month to enable their members meet up with its payment obligations.
He stressed the need to secure their bank guarantees which would remove the stigma of default from their members
The NANTA president also announced the postponement of its Annual General Meeting, AGM slated for Kano towards the end of March 2020 to a later date as a result of the pandemic.
“The postponement became necessary to protect Nigerians and the travel industry from the ravaging impact of Covid 19,” he said.
Bernard, however, commended the Federal Government for its response so far and particularly with the restrictions of passengers and airlines from high-impact countries, adding that the association had directed its members to be alert and proactive at this sad period, even as they continued to pray and monitor the spread and development.
According to him, next week, in Lagos, the board of trustees and the exco would hand over to a new exco which should have been done in Kano but for covid-19 watch regulations.
He explained that the handover had become necessary so that the new exco would continue from where the outgoing exco would stop since all the officers are running unopposed.
Bernard said the AGM will now be held on a later date when the impact of Covid 19 is over.