- Says right amenities, infrastructure not security is bane of domestic tourism
DOWNSTREAM sector of the aviation industry, in a bid to survive and avoid downsizing, is canvassing single digit interest loans, tax holidays and reductions as a means of keeping the industry afloat following the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake
Group Managing Director of Finchglow Group, Mr. Bankole Bernard gave this insight in an interview with Nigerianflightdeck on Google Meeting where he said he does not believe government has cash to dole out In the name of palliatives but can give some incentives to employers of labour to aid them in lifting the burden.
Bankole, who was the immediate past president of the National Association of Travel Agents (NANTA) also said security as a major challenge to tourism growth is a fallacy as government at all levels need to spare extra efforts provide amenities including internet access, conveniences for tourists site that would make them attractive to tourists
On the palliatives, Bankole said there was this assumption by all that the government is rich explaining to the contrary that if that was actually true the government would not go out borrowing.
He said,” I think the word is meant to remain in the dictionary as it were. Can you give what you don’t have? You can’t give what you don’t have. A lot of us work with this assumption that the government is rich. Have you been able to look into the books of the government to make sure they are rich to give out?
“FAAN just came up to you that they are increasing passenger service charge that is long overdue, does that look like a government that has palliatives to give. They gave complained about not having work in the last five months, where is the palliative going to come from. I don’t like to live in denial; we have to tell ourselves the truth. There is no palliative coming from anywhere.
According to him, concessions in terms of interest rates charged by banks to aviation industry for a period, is needed to help the industry.
“We would not mind a reduced interest rate at this point in time to help us navigate our business in a better way, rather than pay huge interest rate let it be reduced but that there are going to be handouts coming from the government, well we are ready to wait till eternity.
He further said the downstream sector needed the government come to its aid to alleviate some of the sufferings the sector has gone through.
“We really need the presence of government in the downstream sector. It’s not only about establishing regulation in the downstream so we work in line with laid down rules in the constitution. I honestly think there are other ways government can give support. Remember that we are employers of labour which means we provide employment to people in the industry, so in what way has the government come to our aid to alleviate some of the sufferings we have gone through.
“There can be tax holidays there’s nothing wrong with it that is a fantastic way to give support, if tax holiday or tax reduction at this particular point in time is allowed, it would help us get back up our feet as quickly as possible. So, if some of the taxes and levies waged against our businesses can be suspended or put on hold for a while I’m sure it would add value to the bottom line and we wouldn’t have to experience laying off of staff, closure of business and what have you and at the end of the day laying off staff or closure of business does not add any value to the government in anyway and this is the only way we can feel the impact of government in our lives and our businesses. “
Speaking on what government can do to harness the huge tourism potential in the country, he said emphasis must be placed on infrastructure that would help project these sites stressing that the age long misconception that security kept tourists away was just that, a misconception.
“The private sector drives tourism everywhere around the world, Disney land is a private company, Water parks around the world are privately owned and we send our families on vacation abroad to visit these places. So the question is why government will not create an enabling environment that will allow these things thrive here so someone saddled with the responsibility of selling and promoting Olumo Rock as destination will be able to price it and sell it appropriately.
“Do you know anytime we talk about destinations in Nigeria, there is this fallacy of insecurity that we all come up with from time to time. Tourism challenges is not insecurity do not be deceived. Let there be accessibility to those places of attraction. If you get to Olumo Rock today you find out there’s no ‘wifi’ so if I get here I can use my phone to take shots and send it to everyone around the world and promote it.
“I won’t have amenities like food companies around the Rock that I can eat so I spend a lot of time there. I wouldn’t have public toilet that is clean that can be used by everyone and you expect tourists to visit a place like that, common these are the things that are necessary for any tourist attraction to endear people to it.
“People go to France they want to see the Eiffel Tower, when you get there you get free wifi, there’s public toilets you see people selling ice creams, see those selling good; those people are making money just because Eiffel Tower is there and it is adding value to their economy. What have we done with our own?
“As a matter of fact, you will see more of Nigerians embracing domestic travel because the only reason we travel now in Nigeria is that we travel for business if you check the three major routes it is Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and they created that triangle because Abuja is seat of power, here NNPC and CBN offices are. Lagos is the commercial hub where consumption is very high that they bring all the goods to, Port Harcourt is where all the oil is so that is why you have that triangle. Are you saying we don’t have any places apart from these three? Of course there are but what have we done?” He asked.