The year-end in Nigeria witnesses many religious activities. This has attracted visitors from different parts of the world. In the new year, the same happens in the Republic of Benin. While that of Nigeria is facilitated by the churches, the other forms of religious activity that call visitors to various African countries should not escape airports.
Not only are referrals made for patients, there are also testimonials of persons who have experienced relief to their ailments by attending these religious meetings. At the ‘Osun Osogbo’ recently, some people who came for sightseeing did not fail to offer prayers to some carvings and at the river. Some television stations carry regular programmes that point to healing at their religious activity. Indeed, Africans are a religious people and travel and tourism decision makers should not overlook their impact on the economy.
Beyond religious healing centres, Africa is gradually becoming a destination for foreign hospital brands to invest in. Some people have been known to come back home for traditional herbal solutions and even for other forms of treatment as it is cheaper in Africa to do so. In some other circumstances, some patients would prefer to join their ancestors from home where the hopes of recovery are dim.
All these forms of medical travel require extensive planning. Medical escorts can also assist with all aspects of patient care. Some religious organisations feature departments that focus on servicing and assisting foreign patients and their families at the airport. Some of these coordinators strive to deliver excellent experience by managing all critical touch-points, logistics and communications throughout the journey.
Airports play a very important role in facilitating religious and medical tourism by putting in place transportation infrastructure for international travellers. While planning for peak period traffic that they may experience in areas where year end travel is the norm, the peculiar needs of religious travellers should not be ignored by airports. Such things as immigration and customs clearance as well as other necessary formalities will be on the minds of visitors.
Medical centres, clinics, pharmacies provide immediate medical attention in the airport. Religious materials and African herbal centres may also be of interest to these travellers and will be an interesting area for market research and impact on customer experience.
Helping with transportation arrangements between the airport and religious centre and place of accommodation will require talking with shuttle service, car rental and local transportation companies. Multilingual staff will assist visitors in their native or national language.
It is not impossible that some of these persons may require emergency service. Contingency plan in that regard should be in place while at the same time the airport and health authorities should ensure everyone is protected against communicable diseases.
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