BusinessDay

Emirates ban: Nigerians’ visa applications to Egypt rise by 900%

Egypt’s ambassador to Nigeria, Ihab Moustafa Awad has disclosed that in the past, Egypt’s embassy in Abuja used to receive about 30 visa applications daily but during the ban of Emirates flights, the number increased to 300 applications, showing a 900 percent increase.

Awad however acknowledged the slow pace of the applications attributing it to lack of capacity both at the Egypt Embassy in Nigeria and the Nigerian embassy in Egypt but revealed that his administration is working on an electronic visa that would make it easier for applicants to send in their applications from anywhere in the country instead of travelling to Abuja.

On February 1, 2021, Emirates airline directed that Nigerian travellers at the Lagos and Abuja airports must conduct rapid COVID-19 tests before departure. The Federal Government reciprocated and imposed a ban on Emirates flights into Nigeria.

While the ban lasted, African national carriers like EgyptAir took advantage of the situation by collaborating with the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) on increasing intra African trade and tourism. The effect of that collaboration saw a huge influx of tourists from Nigeria to Cairo, Egypt’s capital.

Speaking during a meeting at the Lagos office of Egypt Air recently, Susan Akporiaye, the President of NANTA, said before now, travel agents often sell Dubai route more than other routes but when the ban on flights happened, the association had to collaborate with African carriers to explore better options and Egypt has since become the most preferred destination for tourists.

“Covid-19 enabled everyone to start looking inwards and we started having a rethink on what we can do because we needed to find a way to keep living and doing business. Borders were not closed so much in Africa and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agenda came up strongly. For us in the travel sector, we decided to push the tourism sector.

Read also: Emirates to resume daily flight to Nigeria Dec. 5

“So the NANTA team visited all the African countries that have a national carrier flying into Nigeria and Egypt Air was among the airlines we visited. Since we started the campaign to open up new destinations, Egypt has been the best destination for us. We found out that there is a huge clothing and textile industry in Egypt and that is one of the things that take Nigerians to Dubai, yet we have it in Africa,” Akporiaye said.

She added that since NANTA started the campaign, Egypt Air has had full flights.

Muharram Abdel Rahman, the country manager for EgyptAir, said when the governments of Nigeria and UAE banned flights to and from Dubai, Egypt Air saw an opportunity and decided to take advantage of it by collaborating with NANTA on how to increase trade and tourism between Nigeria and Egypt.

Rahman said the result of the collaboration saw a 400 percent increase of Nigerian tourists to Egypt.

“In every field, when opportunities present themselves, you should be able to catch them. So when there was the suspension of flights between the UAE and Nigeria, it was a great opportunity for us to take advantage of it. After our meeting with NANTA, we started advertising Egypt as a favourable destination for Nigerians for tourism and trade.

“In the past, we used to have about 50 tourists weekly but now that number has grown to about 250 weekly of people visiting Egypt from Nigeria weekly and our flights are always full,” he said.

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