Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture [NCAC]Otunba Olusegun Runsewe

The Chief Executive of the National Arts and Culture Council, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has commended the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the very remarkable reforms and infrastructural developments in the country’s airports.

Runsewe, who awarded the commendation at the first edition of the FAAN National Aviation Conference held at the Abuja International Conference on the theme “Advancing the Frontiers of Possibilities for Safe, Secure and Cost Effective Air Transport” , said the theme highlights the crucial importance of the aviation industry to the socio-economic development of any nation.

The NCAC boss, who delivered a key lecture titled “Nigerian Airports: Gateway to Tourism Destination Development and Management in Nigeria,” said that for the aviation industry to successfully and profitably drive the development of any nation, it must be safe, secure, reliable and enjoy the confidence of air transport users.

“It is for this reason that the organizers of this program are to be commended for evolving this platform for key industry players to reflect on how the aviation industry in Nigeria can be strengthened to fully meet to the dynamics of the air transport system in the world.

“May I also sincerely commend the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the very remarkable reforms and infrastructural developments in our airports. Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos (Terminal 2), Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Port Harcourt International Airport and others who are efforts to improve the standards of international airports in Nigeria are a clear commitment from airport authority in adhering to international best practice,” Runsewe said.

Runsewe, who shared his experience as Managing Director of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), a position he held for nearly eight years, said travel and tourism played a very important role in civilization of humanity.

He said: “As societies developed and means of transportation became more sophisticated, travel became increasingly complex with varying purposes. With the evolution of travel came tourism. Although tourism inevitably involves travel, not all forms of travel can be considered tourism. The word travel implies all forms of movement, regardless of the motive for the movement. On the other hand, tourism is a specific motive. Thus, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines tourism as “the activities of a person traveling and staying in places outside his usual environment for at least 24 hours for the purpose of recreation, business and others.

According to him, tourists do not travel just for pleasure. “They travel because they want to experience an establishment or service that they consider an object of pleasure or satisfaction. It can be exploring nature, experiencing a festival, reflecting on history through relics or monuments, embarking on an adventure, watching sporting events, among others. “There are different forms of attraction. They include theme parks, museums and galleries, national parks, animal parks, gardens, heritage sites and centers, sports centers, festivals and events, among others.

He said that with the advent of modern means of communication and transportation, the world has become a global village. “Air transport has a comparative advantage over other means of transport due to its speed, safety, comfort and punctuality. Due to its globalized nature, it helps to connect different continents, countries and cultures. It also facilitates efficient travel to remote locations, enriching human life and experience in the process.

“The 2011 World Aerospace Report indicates that more than 2,000 airlines operating more than 23,000 aircraft serve 3,700 airports worldwide. The sector continues to grow over the years. It contributes significantly to the economic development of nations through trade facilitation, direct and indirect employment and contribution to the gross domestic product of nations.

“The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is quoted by Asiegbu Benjamin et al as stating that air transport directly employs four million people worldwide and generates $400 billion in production. It further argues that improving the efficiency and quality of air passenger services contributes to the growth of other sectors such as tourism and hospitality. In fact, air transport and tourism complement and reinforce each other. This highlights the importance of generating transport growth and development. Without transport, the development of tourism is greatly hampered. The free movement of people and information, coupled with improved air cargo operations, promotes trade and improves the efficiency of the economy as a whole. It is therefore evident that a strong and viable air transport is essential to the development of a viable and profitable tourism sector and to the growth of the economy in general. It is for this reason that the Nigerian aviation industry needs to be developed and strengthened as a true vehicle for sustainable tourism, economic growth and development,” Runsewe noted.

Runsewe, who noted that tourists are primarily looking for recreation and adventure, said their total experience of a destination must be built around these core desires.

“For international tourists, the first experience counts. As the first exposure window for international tourists, the experience he has at the airport will have a lasting impression on his overall appreciation of the country of his destination. Therefore, airport facilities must be up to standard and fully operational. These facilities include, but are not limited to, the following: security checkpoints, check-in counters, a clean and attractive environment, multi-layer baggage sorting, arrival and departure gates, guesthouse and spa, signage, clean restrooms, good restaurants, efficient protocol system, fully and efficiently equipped information desks, free wireless internet system, iconic cultural artifacts projecting Nigerian national identity : iconic characters and personalities, art materials, etc., retail stores for the display and sale of unique art products in Nigeria.

“The character and disposition of airport workers is also of great importance. Customs, immigration and other security officers must be polite, friendly and ready to help. The transport network at the within the airport, and between airports, hotels or tourist final destinations should be efficient.The metro system has become a conventional means of transport within the airport.Only well-trained taxi drivers should be registered to undertake commercial activities between the airports and the final destination of tourists.Registered tour operators with knowledgeable tour guides would also greatly contribute to the total experience of tourists.

Speaking on some challenges facing the air transport system in Nigeria, Runsewe said that although the air transport system in Nigeria has performed creditably, the sector still faces serious challenges which militate against its efficiency. and its optimal performance.

“Some of these challenges include insufficient funding, decaying facilities, inadequate security network, intermittent air crashes, etc. These challenges have tended to project the air transport system in Nigeria as not too safe and reliable. For example, the cargo system is vulnerable to several security threats such as placing explosives on board aircraft, illegal shipment of contraband, smuggling, theft, sabotage, and other forms of unsound practices.

“Very often we hear reports of pets straying into airport terminals due to the lack of strong perimeter fencing or the collapse of existing ones. All of these threats, and more, greatly militate against the growth of the aviation sector in Nigeria and give the sector a very bad image internationally.

To enhance the comfort, confidence, satisfaction and experience of travelers to fully and effectively support the growth of the tourism industry in Nigeria, the NCAC boss recommended adequate security.

“All tourists are sensitive to safety and security issues. No tourist will take the risk of visiting a destination where the safety of his life is not guaranteed. Therefore, adequate security measures must be put in place to comply with international best practices in the aviation sector. Airport perimeter fencing should be a top priority to further improve airport security architecture. The environment of airports should be well lit to facilitate round-the-clock operation at airports. Regulatory bodies such as FAAN, NAMA and NCAA should put in place adequate regulatory frameworks to ensure the safety and security of the Nigerian air transport system.

“Effective monitoring of all airlines should be carried out regularly to ensure that planes are in good condition. The competent authorities must carry out checks on aircraft before take-off and on arrival in order to minimize the level of risk by avoiding any technical failure. This will significantly boost the confidence of air travelers and project the international image and reputation of the Nigerian aviation sector. Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that these regulatory bodies be fully and adequately funded and provided with appropriate regulatory policies to support their performance.

He said that as Nigeria aspires to harness the enormous economic benefits of our vast tourism potential and tap into the enormous global funds in the tourism sector, “we must constantly update the facilities of the air transport system which is a key driver of our economy.”