By Sade Williams/TravelPort
NANTA president, Medview boss call for local content laws, alliance among agencies
A lack of local regulation of travel agency business in the country and transparency on the part of operators may be at the heart of a disagreement between the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and agencies which came to the fore at the Aviation Round Table (ART) First 2019 Quarterly Business Breakfast Meeting titled, “Nigerian Travel Agencies Challenges and Regulations”, held in Lagos.
Both regulators and operators disagreed over whether the travel agencies business is well regulated or not as they canvassed their positions before travel stakeholders at the meeting.
Bankole Bernard, president of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), explained that the NCAA, rather than do its work of protecting and regulating the activities of the agencies in Nigeria, it left it completely to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is saddled with enacting guidelines to help and regulate the travel agency business globally.
He noted that while IATA has been able to bring some agencies together under its umbrella and also help in creating some good financial settlement plans for them, there are no local laws that protect the agencies and consumers of their services from Nigeria, unlike other countries.
“The travel agency business is naturally supposed to be a profitable one but unfortunately, it is not because of inconsistency and poor regulatory system over the years. We do not have local laws that protect the travel agencies, no guidelines that must be strictly adhered to; in fact, what we now witness is that we have foreigners who now prefer to patronize their own travel agencies in Nigeria because there are no local laws protecting us.
“IATA has come out with a lot of regimes, ranging from Billing Settlement Plan to the newest one, which is New Generation IATA Settlement Plan (NEWGENISS), and is even trying to improve on the new one because it has been discovered that if in force, the NCAA will not get its five percent charge, yet the global body cannot protect Nigerian agencies except the NCAA, because IATA makes only global rules. For instance, the United Kingdom has local laws protecting such businesses but Nigeria does not. The downstream sector of the business must be reserved for the citizens of Nigeria,” he said.
He also mentioned lack of proper data records, ignorance of contribution of travel agencies to the gross domestic product of Nigeria; lack of recognition of her contribution to the labour force, among other issues militating against the progress of the travel agency business.
“Lack of national carrier for a full representation of country on the global conference, poor business etiquette of the corporate travellers keeping to covenanted agreement, are some of the issues in the subsector”.
In his response, Edom Ita Eyo, a group captain, and director of air transport at the NCAA, said it would be difficult to regulate the agencies because of discrepancies among them.
According to him, IATA is currently dealing with about 600 members of the agencies while only 200 are registered with NANTA and 157 only registered with the NCAA, a situation which he said, present conflicting figures and problems.
“We have identified that the downstream sector has not been adequately regulated but currently we have 157 members registered with us, 600 with IATA and 200 with NANTA. Where does the problem lie? If NANTA does not puts its house together, we cannot regulate what is not registered with us; this is a wake-up call, everybody should register with us so that we can regulate them…I urge IATA to ensure that agencies are registered before joining the association,” he said.
Bernard noted that until there is an enabling environment geared towards the growth of the down-stream sector of the aviation industry with proper regulation of the industry through local rules, the issues would remain unresolved.
Contributing to the debate, Adetutu Otuyalo, corporate sales manager, British Airways, noted that travel agents are responsible for, at least, 50 percent of ticket sales for the airline, adding that BA will continue to support them in all ways.
“BA cannot do without the agents; we will continue to support them, we will continue to provide training and professionalism that is needed, and like other speakers said, there should be laws protecting customers and airlines too,” she said.