This year’s summer travel is losing momentum for many Nigerian holiday makers who are now cancelling foreign leisure and travel plans following the surge in the new Delta variant of coronavirus pandemic.
The Nigerian wanderlusts, who shelved their summer trips last year due to the ravaging pandemic, are further cancelling this year’s holiday abroad because of the continued imposition of restrictions in desired destinations, stress of several COVID-19 tests, fear of being quarantined, visa issues, scarcity of flight and high cost of airfare, hotel accommodation, among other challenges.
According to the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), there has been a 60 percent drop in summer ticket sales this year compared with 2019 because of the decline in bookings for foreign destinations.
However, the challenges have become gains for some African destinations that are now opening their doors and reaping huge traffic from Nigerian holiday makers.
According to most tour operators, Egypt is the leading destination for Nigerians this summer, followed by East African countries of Mauritius, Kenya, Rwanda, while Ghana and the Gambia draw a few from their West African neighbour.
“The destination that is trending now for summer is Egypt. It is where a lot of people are going in the last two months because it is the only place that is open and Nigerians can shop. Dubai and Turkey are not open,” Ikechi Uko, CEO, Akwaaba African Travel Market and top executive of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), says.
Uko, an African tourism, hospitality and aviation expert, explains that while some people are going to Mauritius, Kenya and other places in East Africa, the numbers are going to Egypt.
According to Uko, the development is a loss for Dubai, where many Nigerians throng for holiday until COVID-19 disruption and a huge gain for Egypt and Africa at large.
Confirming the trend, Busola Audu, another tour operator, notes that Egypt has never been on the map for Nigerian tourists like it is now, while attributing the positive turn to easy visa, cheap flights and breath-taking attractions, including great shopping opportunities.
She also notes that East Africa is not a surprise because of the years of consistence in developing their tourism, awesome wildlife, aggressive marketing to Nigerians, easy entry and several flight options.
“South Africa used to draw more Nigerian tourists than any other African country during summer, but the challenges posed by the pandemic, which is very high there, lack of flights; Air Peace has stopped flights to SA, then the impossible visa and high cost as well, all combined to make trips to Johannesburg or Cape Town difficult this summer,” she states.
Also confirming the shift to African destinations, Susan Akporiaye, president, NANTA, says many intending Nigerian holiday makers who usually visit European countries, US and Dubai for summer are holding back on travels this year as a result of the new travel restrictions and fear of contacting the COVID-19.
“COVID-19 is still there and it is disrupting travels because people still have reservations about travelling and countries are refusing to lift the conditions,” Akporiaye says.
The NANTA president explains further that the 10-day quarantine imposed by UK government has continued to discourage Nigerians from travelling this summer.
“Some of our clients want to travel but they do not want to do quarantine. Usually for summer, people travel with children, but now, nobody wants to expose their children to COVID-19. Travel bookings for summer this period are essential travels. The entire family trip that we usually have for summer is no longer happening,” she states.
She however observes that more people are travelling to Canada not for summer, but for relocation.
Summer travels are picking up especially to African destinations, with travel agents now getting requests to Egypt, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya and Zanzibar for summer, she confirms what others earlier say
According to Akporiaye, since the Dubai ban, people are travelling to African countries that have visa-on-arrival policy.
“Rwanda is now becoming the Dubai of Nigerians. It is a very beautiful place with visa-on-arrival, so there is a lot of rush for Rwanda this summer,” she states further.
“People are concerned about the Delta variant,” Glenn Fogel, CEO, Booking Holdings Inc., an online-travel agency, says in an interview.
As well, travel agents decry slight pullback in booking trends in July compared with June.
The highly contagious variant, according to them, is the spoiler, when the world is hoping to use this year’s summer sales to boost the recovery of the tourism sector.
At present, the US bars most non-US citizens, who within the last 14 days have been in the UK, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without internal border controls, or in Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
The US travel restrictions were first imposed on China in January 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. Other countries have since been added, most recently India in early May.