The Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has commended the management of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the very remarkable reforms and infrastructural developments in airports across the country.
Runsewe, who gave the commendation at the maiden edition of FAAN national aviation conference held at the International Conference Abuja with the theme ‘Advancing the Frontiers of Possibilities for Safe, Secure and Profitable Air Transport’, said the theme underscores the critical importance of the aviation industry to the socio-economic development of any nation.
The NCAC Boss, who delivered a key lecture titled ‘Nigerian Airports: Gateway To Developing And Managing Tourist Destinations in Nigeria’, said for the aviation industry to successfully and profitably drive the development of any nation, it must be safe, secure, reliable and enjoy the confidence of air transport users.
“It is for this reason that the organisers of this programme must be commended for evolving this platform for key industry players to brainstorm on how the aviation industry in Nigeria can be strengthened to fully respond to the dynamics of air transportation system in the world.
“May I also sincerely commend the Management of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the very remarkable reforms and infrastructural developments in our airports. The establishment of additional terminals in some of our international airports, like the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos (Terminal 2), Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Port Harcourt International Airport and others. which are efforts geared towards enhancing the standards of the international airports in Nigeria are a clear commitment of the airports authority to the adherence to international best practices,” Runsewe said.
Runsewe, who shared his experience as the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), a position he held for close to eight years, said travel and tourism played a very important role in the civilisation of mankind.
He said, “As societies developed and the means of transportation became more sophisticated, travelling became increasingly complex with varying purposes. With the evolution of travel came tourism. While tourism inevitably involves travel, not all forms of travel can be said to be tourism. The word travel entails all forms of movement irrespective of the motive for the movement. On the other hand, tourism is motive specific. Thus, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines tourism as ‘activities of a person travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not less than 24 hours for leisure, business and other purposes’”.
According to him, tourists do not just travel for the sake of it. “They travel because they want to have an experience of a facility or a service they consider as an object of pleasure or satisfaction. It could be to explore nature, to experience a festival, to reflect on history through relics or monuments, to engage in adventure, to watch sporting events among other things. “There are various forms of attraction. They include theme Parks, Museums and Galleries, National Parks, Wildlife Parks, Gardens, Heritage Sites and Centres, Sports Centres, Festivals and Events, among others.”
He said that with the advent of modern means of communication and transportation, the world has become a global village. “Air transportation has comparative advantage over other means of transportation because of its speed, security, comfort and punctuality. Because of its globalised nature, it helps to connect different continents, countries and cultures. It also facilitates efficient travel to distant places, thereby enriching human life and experience in the process.
“Aerospace Global Report in 2011 indicates that over 2,000 airlines operating more than 23,000 aircrafts serve 3,700 airports around the world. The sector is still expanding as the years run by. It contributes significantly to the economic development of nations through the facilitation of trade, direct and indirect employment and contribution to the Gross Domestic Products of nations.
“The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is quoted by Asiegbu Benjamin et al as stating that air transportation directly employs four million people worldwide and generates $400 billion in output. It submits further that the efficient and quality improvements in air passengers’ services contribute to the growth of other sectors such as tourism and hospitality. In fact, air transportation and tourism complement each other and are mutually reinforcing. This brings to the fore the importance of engendering the growth and development of the transportation. Without transportation the development of tourism is greatly impaired. The free flow of people and information, together with improved air cargo operations promote trade and improve the efficiency of the overall economy. It is therefore evident that a strong and viable air transportation is crucial to the development of a viable and profitable tourism sector and the growth of the economy generally. It is for this reason that the Nigerian Aviation Industry must be developed and strengthened as a veritable means of sustainable tourism, economic growth and development,” Runsewe noted.
Runsewe, who noted that tourists are essentially in search of recreation/leisure and adventure, said their total experience of a destination must be built around these cardinal desires.
“For the international tourists, first experience matters. As the first window of exposure for the international tourists, the experience he has at the airport would have a lasting impression on his overall assessment of the country of his destination. Therefore, facilities at the airport must be of standard and fully operational. These facilities includes but not restricted to the following: security screening points, check-in counters, a clean and fascinating environment, multi-layer baggage sorting, arrival and departure gates, guest room and spa, directional signages, clean toilets, good restaurants, effective protocol system, fully and effectively manned information desks, free wireless internet system, iconic cultural items projecting Nigerian national identity: iconic figures and personalities, artistic materials, etc, .retail shops for the display and sale of artistic products unique to Nigeria.
“The character and disposition of the workers at the airport is also of great importance. The customs, immigration and other security officers must be polite, friendly and ready to render assistance. The transportation network within the airport, and between the airports, hotels or final destinations of the tourists must be effective. Metro system has become a conventional means of transportation within the airport. Only well trained cab drivers should be registered to undertake commercial business between the airports and the final destination of tourists. Registered tour operating companies with knowledgeable tour guides would also go a long way in adding to the total experience of the tourists.”
Speaking on some challenges facing air transport system in Nigeria, Runsewe said although the air transportation system in Nigeria has performed creditably, the sector is still faced with some serious challenges that are militating against its efficiency and optimal performance.
“Some of these challenges include inadequate funding, decaying facilities, inadequate security network, intermittent air crashes, etc. These challenges have tended to project the air transport system in Nigeria as not too safe and reliable. For example, the cargo system is vulnerable to several security threats such as the placement of explosives aboard aircrafts, illegal shipment of contrabands, smuggling, theft, sabotage and other forms of unwholesome practices.
“Very often, we hear reports of domestic animals straying into the terminals of the airports due to lack of solid perimeter fencing or the collapse of the existing ones. All these threats, and more, greatly militate against the growth of the aviation sector in Nigeria and give the sector a very bad international image.
To enhance travellers’ comfort, confidence, satisfaction and experience in order to fully and effectively support the growth of the tourism industry in Nigeria, the NCAC boss recommended adequate security.
“All tourists are sensitive to safety and security issues. No tourist will take the risk to visit a destination where the security of his or her life is not guaranteed. Consequently, adequate security measures should be put in place to meet up with the international best practice in the aviation sector. Perimeter fencing of the airports should be of utmost priority to further enhance the airport security architecture. The airports environment should be well illuminated to facilitate a 24 hours operation at the airports. The Regulatory bodies like FAAN, NAMA, and NCAA should put in place adequate regulatory frameworks to ensure safety and security in the Nigeria air transportation system.
“Effective monitoring of all airlines should be regularly conducted to ensure that the aircrafts are in good condition. The relevant authorities must carry out checks on the aircrafts before take-off and at arrival to minimise the level of risks by avoiding any technical loophole. This will greatly boost the confidence of air travellers and project the international image and reputation of the Nigerian Aviation sector. Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that these regulatory bodies should be fully and adequately funded and empowered with appropriate regulatory policies to support their performance.”
He said as Nigeria aspires to harness the huge economic benefits in our vast tourism potential and take advantage of the huge global funds in the tourism sector, “we must constantly update facilities in the air transportation system that is a key driver of our economy.”