An Aviation and Tourism expert, Ikechi Uko, says that Nigerian tourism sector cannot develop faster without a viable National Carrier with the capacity to control the country’s market.
Mr Uko, who is also the organiser of the popular Akwaaba Africa Travel Market, made this assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, on Friday in Abuja.
He said that while some countries used aviation to develop tourism, others were able to grow their aviation industries with the tourism potentials available to them.
According to him, if you already have an airline, you start holiday companies that go with the airline to be able to fill up your seats.
“Those holiday companies help you fill your aircraft with passengers because tourism rides on the wings of airlines as most travellers today go by air.
“You cannot run a tourism industry without the air access; it is very difficult because both aviation and tourism depend on each other to succeed.
“In Nigeria, because we don’t have a national carrier, there are just airlines that are taking people to their destinations.
“Nigeria is a big outbound market because of the absence of the national carrier that supposed to drive the market.
“We need our own national carrier that would bring people to Nigeria and market our tourism.
“So, some countries would start with an airline and tourism will follow while some who already have airline would develop their tourism to drive the airline,” he said.
Mr Uko disclosed that Emirates Airlines used aviation to promote tourism in Dubai; Kenya Airways market Kenya tourism, while South African Airways market South African tourism.
He added that Ethiopian Airlines was currently marketing Ethiopian tourism through its Holiday Company even though the country was not a popular destination at the moment.
The expert said that Nigeria had the best opportunity for emerging tourism brand like nice meetings, incentives, congresses and exhibition with huge returns for the experience.
He said that the huge tourism potential in Nigeria includes the Nollywood and the Calabar Carnival, adding that people needed to come into the country to see those things.
According to him, Calabar carnival is the biggest street party in Africa and one of the leading ones in the world, while Nigerian churches are the biggest draw in Africa.
“These are things that we already have that we can use to bring people here because the opportunities are there but the marketing and organisation are what we need to work on,’’ he said.
Mr Uko said that much needed to be done to help Nigerian carrier to reclaim the country’s air transport market by domestic carriers.
He added that non-African airlines still control about 80 percent of the market, adding that Medview was the only Nigerian airline in the top 20 airlines in Africa on number 19.