Saturday, December 2Inside Business Africa

Air ticket sales to worsen with global pandemic as 2019 records 31% slump

Ticket sales for international travellers in Nigeria recorded about 31.4 per cent slump in 2019, compared to 2018 estimates.

Travel agencies yesterday, released the N360 billion total sales figure for 2019 – a N165 billion difference when compared to N525 billion ($1.5 billion) recorded in previous year.

The 2019 figure is at variance with about 10 per cent projected rise in passenger traffic, increased capacity and new routes that opened during the year under review.

President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bernard Bankole, who disclosed the figure, said the “sharp drop” was on account of xenophobic attacks and visa restrictions by the United States’ government.

Indeed, expectation was erstwhile high on an upsurge in actual passenger traffic and attendant sales revenue for 2019. The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, last year said no fewer than 18 million passengers now travel through the Nigerian airspace in a year. The surge, compared with the 2017 figures, represents about 11 per cent increase in passenger traffic.

The marginal growth trend was confirmed in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019, with no fewer than 3.5 million passengers travelling through the airports.

The Q1 report released by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), showed an increase of 76,397 passengers and 2.23 per cent growth compared to the 3.43 million passengers recorded in the first quarter of 2018.

Sirika, at a meeting with stakeholders in Lagos, said the industry recorded marginal growth of 33 per cent rise in local passenger traffic and 11 per cent in international travels.

Bankole explained that the airlines had serious competition among themselves as they kept reducing fares just to make as much sales as possible.

“So, while they were reducing fares, they were increasing capacity to meet the demand. There was serious competition among the airlines. Therefore, there were lesser yields.”

Bankole added that the travel restrictions by President Trump to America also caused reduction in ticket sales. The Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians also had a major impact, as a lot of Nigerians travel to South Africa.

He said for 2020, ticket sales would further reduce as a result of the coronavirus spread and attendant far-reaching disruption.

Following President Donald Trump’s travel ban on travel from European countries in an effort to halt the coronavirus, Nigeria may be one of the worst hit countries as the US-Europe routes account for over 35 per cent of revenues on tickets sold by travel agencies yearly.

Bankole said before the ban, Nigeria’s aviation sector has seen about 20 per cent decline in passenger traffic as a result of coronavirus and will experience further decline.

“The year 2020 till date has been challenging. Movements have been restricted globally, United States is putting a ’30 days’ restriction to everyone from mainland Europe, several embassies have shut down, there have thousands of flight cancellations, there are new rules on yellow fever vaccination for inbound travellers and the dollar rate has increased.

“I understand the challenges of the times, but let us persevere, let’s hold on until the light breaks, the tide turns, and the times change for the better. Let us together inspire people with our cheerful attitude and positive thinking whilst we face these difficult times courageously,” Bankole said in a message of hope to the aviation stakeholders.

Meanwhile, FAAN yesterday postponed the National Aviation Conference earlier scheduled for 1st to 4th April 2020 over coronavirus concerns.

General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, said the indefinite shift was in line with the safety precautions in the face of the coronavirus presently spreading across nations globally.

The World Health Organisation recently declared covid-19 as a global pandemic and advised that as much as possible, individuals and organisations should avoid clustered gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.

Yakubu said that a new date for the conference would be announced as soon as possible.

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