As the corona virus continues to inflict pains on the world’s aviation
industry, airlines, passengers and other ancillary providers have
continue to groan in this pain as there seem to be no end in sight.
Many countries of the world including Nigeria have placed travel ban on some countries to further prevent the spread of the pandemic,
limiting the movements of people.
The world’s economies have been badly injured and all stakeholders are
looking onto governments for survival because of the COVID-19 ravaging the world.
Already, IATA is appealing to governments of the world to assist airlines and other stakeholders with bailouts in form of tax holidays, no charge for facility use among others.
Among these stakeholders are the travel agents whose job it is to sell
tickets for the airlines both domestic and international.
To this end, travel agents in Nigeria under the aegis of the National
Association of Travel Agencies, NANTA is calling on the Federal
Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to assist the Association with bailout to survive in the business and avoid a default in the remittance of funds to the International Air Transport Association, IATA.
At a press conference in Lagos, NANTA President, Mr. Bankole Bernard says they were not in a panic mood because of the pandemic but support from government as it had extended to the Small and Middle Scale Enterprises, SME’s to stay afloat in the business.
Bankole noted that they were in a dilemma as the monies for the sales
of tickets were tied down with clients who were yet to pay, adding the tickets had been purchased but due to travel restrictions, the clients could not travel.
He said while the world airlines have lost over $200billion to the pandemic, the travel agents in Nigeria have lost 50% of their sales for last year 2019 put at $1billion, adding that the 50% so far lost in naira is N180billon.
‘We were hoping that we will use this year to consolidate on the performance of what we did last year but with this, it can’t happen.
From January till date, we have lost about 50% because in aviation business there is what you call forward booking which means that the ticket you want to use in April, May some people have purchased it, so at it is what happens to that money? They purchased it but they cannot fly so, all of them are putting in for refund.”
The NANTA President explained that his members are losing money in
terms of revenue saying that, “even we now are laying off our staff
because we cannot cope with the pressure because cost is there, when
the staff come to the office and they are not issuing tickets it means there is no need keeping them and there is no support coming from anywhere to argument your coast.”
He therefore appealed to government to come to their aid to be able to meet cost and fulfill its agreement to IATA.
“We need a bailout from the government it will enable us to access
interest free loan to urgument our liabilities at this short period, once we can get interest free loan to support, it will go a long way to, we are not asking anybody to come and dash us money, the circumstances has created a cash flow shortage whereby we cannot fulfill our obligation as it where so that is putting us under a lot
of pressure because we pay every fortnight to the airlines.”
He explained that it is sacrosanct that they pay the airlines but currently cannot do that because the passengers were not paying them.
“Even the passengers we have issued refund the airlines are not paying us, so because they are not paying we cannot pay, so money is tied down everywhere.”
On IATA’s response to the issue at hand, the NANTA President said IATA
had told them they were looking into the matter, adding that their looking at the matter may not be unconnected with avoiding fraudulent people hijacking the program.
“But we feel that look this thing affects everybody, cuts across board
and let’s do it and move on.”
Also speaking the immediate past Vice President, Lagos Zone, Mrs. Lola
Adewole with the situation at hand 24,000 would be rendered jobless if
government fails to come to their aid.
She emphasized that what they need right now was for government to talk to the CBN to support them with access to soft loans for the
period as this was the only way out to avoid further crisis in the downstream sector.
“We need a bailout, there is no other word for it and a bailout is we need banks or CBN to give us an interest free overdraft that is what we are asking for while this period is on.”
Mrs Adewole explained that, they have an overdraft running but with
interest and they were able to pay the interest because they were making money and counted it as part of their cost but now the situation had changed.
“Right now that we are not making money we are asking for those
overdraft to be interest free so that so that we are able to pay our principals.”
“What we have signed with IATA is that, we sell the products of the
airlines on behalf of the airlines and we will remit as at when agreed
which in this case can be every week, every month or can be bi-monthly
so, IATA is expecting payment based on that but our mode of operation
which off course the airlines are aware directly or indirectly is that
some customers cannot just pay you instantly some do but most of the
corporate clients especially don’t and it is because of the volume that which they do. You cannot Total or Mobil for example that use 10 or 20 tickets a day to pay you par tickets, they also have their mode of payments, pay every Tuesday, pay Thursday, it is not a written agreement especially between IATA and the travel agents because IATA’s written agreement is pay as when demand but it is an agreement between the clients and travel agents.”
On the effects on the restriction of travel on the agents, Mrs. Adewole says, “We are the most hit, we are in the forefront becausebaviation is our world, we live in the sky, we deal with the sky, if there are travel bans all over people will not travel and if they
don’t travel, we have nothing to sell, we have staff, the least travel agent staff we have is three and we some that has 300 staff because all these staff are to be thrown out because if we don’t have revenue to pay salaries, we will have to throw them out, that is unemployment as it is because we don’t have an client that is calling you to book travel that is impacting greatly on our business because we don’t have anything to sell, we cannot even pay our taxes.”