Africa: Visa on arrival, Stakeholders react to false news
Major stakeholders and experts in the tourism industry have reacted to the celebrated rumour of Nigeria declaring visa on arrival (VOA) as sensitive and saddening.
The unconfirmed news which turned out to be a bruit has attracted comments from destination marketers and tourism promoters who have flooded the internet with all sorts of congratulatory messages, trending on the social media, while the news has been debunked by the Minister of Information and Culture.
However, it is important to have a coordinated voice as a country when it comes to a sensitive issue like the VOA, so that Nigeria’s image will note be projected badly internationally.
Also the Nigeria embassy abroad should by all standard do their homework well to avoid misconception and misinterpretation of information.
In view of this, it will be recalled that some African countries have started operating visa on arrival with the aim of making seamless travel the order of the day to boost tourism.
Also this development has raised high hopes among the VOA countries to look on Nigeria as a big brother in Africa to join the VOA league before the celebrated rumour which turned to be false news.
Following the development of the rumour and initial agitation for visa on arrival by travel and tourism stakeholders in Nigeria, travelpulse and MICE was out to feel the pulse of travel and tourism stakeholders on the issue.
The Founder, The Team Africa and organiser of Akwaaba, Mr Ikechi Uko, said “Visa on arrival for all Africans will ease the movement of people into a country. It has contributed up to 22 per cent to business and tourism growth in Seychelles and Rwanda.
“Nigeria can benefit even without tourism infrastructure because we already have a thriving social culture that attracts. We have high soft power index, even if government does nothing”.
According to Uko, ‘‘If Nigeria starts VOA it will put pressure on other African countries to join, and it will move trade and tourism in Africa to a higher level.”
Uko who frowned at the rumour added, “So the fake news is saddening. Twice the Nigerian Embassy in Addis Ababa has embarrassed the country. First, was last month, when they gave a false announcement that Ethiopian Airlines had taken over Arik, and now they have issued a memo that was denied by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.”
Another travel expert who spoke on the matter, Chief Executive Officer of Jemmy Alade Tours, Mr Jemmy Alade, said Nigeria is not at all ready to implement VOA.
He explained that Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) does not have the capability to implement the process of visa on arrival, adding that data collation is still a big challenge for Nigeria. “Visitors and residents arriving the country are still being processed manually and also there is lack of synergy between the foreign department and the NIS. Government desires to improve on the ease of doing business in the country and announcement of the VOA without adequate preparation for its implementation, things will be difficult.
‘‘Relevant government agencies would need to improve their game for VOA to work successfuly.”
Also the President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mr Bankole Bernard, who spoke with candour said ‘‘Nigeria is a confused state and as long as decisions are taken without the input of the stakeholders they will fail.”
According to Bankole, ‘‘It is better you put the horse before the cart and not cart before the horse. Why visa on arrival when you have not done a proper homework on how you intend to grow domestic tourism? The visa on arrival is for whom in particular, Africa or the entire world? Must we legalise criminality? The day the government takes tourism to be a real business; everything will start to fall in place.
“We create a means of corruption for the immigration officers. Record has shown Indians and Chinese are flooding our country and milking our system simply because we lack structure and proper guidance on how to control our border
“Can they give account of all the visas issued on arrival since the programme started and the economic gain? We can’t confuse the world and think we are moving forward. Rwanda has better system than Nigeria in terms of border control and influx of people into the country.”
Tilting a little bit from other voices, the President of National Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) Mr Ekereuwen Onung, explained that “VOA is essential to boost tourism arrivals for any country doing tourism. What to do, is to set parameters for issuance and it should not be abused. All we need to do is to put in place the appropriate framework and it will fly.
“The problem is when you have systems that do not value structures and the institutions are not working, it will dovetail to confusion.”
Onung who recalled the impact of Presidential Council on Tourism instituted during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “If this decision was taken at PCT for instance, there will be no discordant voices.”
“Also, because we do not operate tourism as a business with a define vision, targets and set goals, we become quite unserious in its approach. For instance, Ghana targets 1.5 million arrivals and South Africa has crossed 10 million arrivals this year and wants to do better. This will galvanise them to take the processes serious. Moreover, we need to establish the issue of citizenship
Consenting to some of the views of stakeholders on this issue, the President, Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Mr Rabo Kazeem Saleh noted “Well, there is the need for visa on arrival if we are to grow international arrivals and develop tourism. Yes, all countries that want to grow international arrivals will have to introduce visa on arrival policy.
“We need to put things in order like security, infrastructure, development of tourist sites and good marketing and publicity for tourism benefits.
“It is not good to say that we have started implementing visa on arrival when we have not .They have to go back and look at the way forward and try to actualise it, which will be better for the growth of tourism industry.”