Early in life while studying Homer’s Ilyad and the history of Ancient Greek, especially the story of Achilles and all the adventures that checkered the ten years Trojan war, I understood that some deeds are more of instrumental good than intrinsic (borrowing Aristotle’s thinking model) Presumably, every of life’s actions it seems carries within them the values of unheard melodies which John Keats said in his Ode to a Grecian Urn tastes sweeter than the highly treasured heard melodies. I have since applied this principle to judging almost everything in life. So in this piece, using this idea, I try to bring the national carrier debate to mainstream, citing it as a veritable tool in the quest to grow tourism in Nigeria.
In answering the question: What is holding our tourism industry back? I figured as an integral factor the absence of a national carrier. This position draws premise from the exploits of fellow African countries like Ethiopia and Kenya in tourism. Their growth in tourism helps understand why those countries hold on to a business in airline operations despite its myriad of uncertainties .
In 2015 alone, Kenya Airways lost 2billion dollars while Ethiopian Airways only managed to even up. However, despite these setbacks, it seems, these carriers only dressed their wounds, jogged to the frontline in record time to continue the mission as though losing money was merely a slight inconvenience.
This quick recovery reveals to a keen observer that there is very likely a balancing somewhere outside aviation. And Kenya’s exploits in the Tourism sector offers this attestation. Her deficit in Aviation is getting its balance of profit (BoP) from a larger, buoyant tourism industry. On the average, Kenya has raked in well over 50 billion dollars in half a decade from tourism.
The benefits of tourism to a nation’s prosperity cannot be over-emphasized. John Dewey in Human Nature and Conduct, explains how everything starts with an impulse. A pulling impulse like one country’s national carrier flying across your golf course can spur you into considering it as a destination for your next vacation. Who knows… a first time experience might translate into a lifetime patronage. Paris-the city of love- and Dubai can tell us how many hundreds of thousands of love and union they have witnessed and sealed. Not long ago, celebrities in Nigeria gathered together in Dubai for popular OAP Toolz’s white wedding. It was another event like hundreds of others boosting the UAE economy through tourism.
What about New York and London as headquarters of business meetings in the world? China, yes, China. Don’t leave out China. Or the two religious capitals of Jerusalem and Mecca? The benefits of those visitations have contributed in volumes to the prosperity of host nations.
Understandably, arguments against a national carrier have been furnished with the operations of independents like British Airways and others. Advocates believe that airline operators like Arik Nigeria are functioning just the same way as any national carrier would. What then is the big deal? This stance, to a very logical extent, is commendable. However, the role of government in stimulating that strategic segment is very essential especially at this crucial period of our national life. If the government sees the birth of a new national carrier as a challenging option at the moment then it can adopt Arik Nigeria or any other indigenous private airline operator.
The #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira can also extend to #flyNaija. American presidents do their best to be the number one marketer of American products in foreign trips. Boeing has reaped so much from this kind of gesture. This is another way of telling stakeholders of this Nigerian project that we must support our indigenous airline operators in order to reap profit from tourism.
Tourism is a good parameter to measure the progress of any nation. If people don’t want to come around, it means we are not creating any form of value. Interestingly, tourist visitation can include any reason, from fun to health to pilgrimage, even education.
We understand that there is so much to do to stimulate tourism in Nigeria but it can start with a vigorous support for indigenous airline brands or better still, why not a national carrier!
*Rex Showunmi ( @remirex )