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Extreme innovation will save hospitality, travel industry Post COVID-19

….as domestic airline operators Clamor for removal of VAT

Experts in the hospitality, travel and related sectors have stated that in a world after the COVID-19 pandemic, only companies that are agile and quick to innovate will be productive and see a rise in earnings in the last quarter of 2020.

This assertion was made at a video-conference themed “Impact of COVID-19 on the Hospitality and Tourism Sectors in Nigeria,” on Thursday April 16, 2020 via Zoom.

The conference organized by Hotel Expo Nigeria (HEN) was supported by Women In hospitality Nigeria (WIHN), Aviators Magazine, The Hayche Network and BusinessDay media

The panelists at the conference were Obi Mbanuzuo, Dana Airlines MD, Aisha Yusuf of Hayche hospitality network, Amaka Amatokwu founder of WIHN, Jihane Khoury, Rooms Division manager, Ekohotels, Bruce Prins MD of MP hotels, Tunji Andrews Economist and financial Advisor and Jonathan Hanson, brand and marketing consultant of Milewave communications. The event was moderated by Ekwi Dashur.

At the session, panelists examined the past, the current and the future of the hospitality and tourism industry.  While talking about the first quarter of 2020, all the panelists agreed that the first quarter in the hospitality and tourism industry was very promising and even exceeded set projections and earnings.

However, the outbreak of the coronavirus towards the end of the first quarter, led to cancellations of flights and accommodation bookings even before the government announced a shutdown of commercial activities except essential services to halt the spread of the disease. These actions have led to the predictable lull in the industry this current quarter.

Tunji pointed out that there may be an economic recession in Nigeria once regular commercial activities are resumed. This he stated, will affect local leisure activities.

Mbanuzuo of Dana agreed with him and stated the plans the airline industry was making to survive the new ways of travel that will arise after now. He also stated that while the plan of the CBN to provide a stimulus package for the commercial sector was laudable, it would be more beneficial for the domestic carriers if the Value Added Tax (VAT) was removed. He stated that removing VAT from local flights was a more beneficial and practical move for the local airline industry.

Olaolu Akingbola, a US based hospitality practitioner also contributed to the conversation by stating how the US government was coming up with packages and policies to sustain the hospitality and tourism sector post-COVID-19 to the benefit of global trade.

Amaka , Jihane and Bruce all agreed that the hospitality industry needs innovative ideas and concepts to continue to attract patronage from their local and international guests.

During the question and answer segment, an often-asked question was around the loss of jobs in the hospitality and tourism sector. Aisha stated that while there may be an initial reduction in staff strength at the end of the lockdown period, eventually, the industry will need more experienced personnel as the sector experiences boom again.

Hanson pointed out that one way to mitigate this occurrence was to foster collaboration with the key players: airlines, hotels and ride sharing companies.

The video conference session replaces the second edition of HEN which was earlier slated for May 21-22, 2020 at Landmark Event Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos but had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BUNMI BAILEY

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