The Federal Government of Nigeria recently signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with Seychelles, one of the biggest tourism destinations in the world.
BASA is an air transport agreement between two countries that allows designated airlines to operate commercial flights, covering transportation of passengers and cargoes.
Advocates for BASA say if well utilised, it will promote air services and connectivity between two countries, enhance business, and promote tourism.
This implies that there would soon be direct flights from Nigeria to Seychelles.
However, experts have explained that beyond just direct flight advantages and connectivity, there are some negative and positive implications of the BASA for Nigeria’s tourism and travel sector.
Olumide Ohunayo, an aviation analyst, told BusinessDay that just like other BASAs (almost 70) signed in the past, the Nigeria-Seychelles BASA would mean little or nothing to Nigeria’s aviation sector if there are no strong airlines to reciprocate the flight operations into Nigeria.
According to Ohunayo, Seychelles is a small country but big when it comes to tourism and a lot of Nigerians now fly there.
He said: “Nigerians stay and work in Seychelles; so there is a big Nigerian population in Seychelles. It is a good move to have the BASA between these two countries. I am sure the country’s airline, Air Seychelles, will operate direct flights in and out of Nigeria but I am not sure a Nigerian carrier would operate.
“If Air Seychelles starts, it would give Nigerians more options and more capacity for flight outside Nigeria and will help with competitive fares, especially during the Christmas period and high season. It is a good one and I hope that before long, an operator will capitalise on the opportunity that this presents.”
He explained that passengers would benefit more as airlines would carry Nigerians who are regular travellers to points beyond their capital either for tourism or other travel purposes.
He however hinted that like what happened in the past, Nigeria signed lots of BASAs but is not operating any one because domestic airlines do not have capacity to reciprocate the traffic.
For Sindy Foster, principal managing partner, Avaero Capital Partners, another BASA may not really impact or benefit the industry unless a Nigerian airline had requested access to the route.
According to Foster, tourism to the Seychelles from Nigeria is probably in the low hundreds and it’s more likely a honeymoon destination than a family holiday destination at this point with limited business travel.
She said direct flights may change that narrative, adding that it will take a lot of route development and marketing. “Nigerians tend to travel to destinations where they do business or shop. Travel from Seychelles to Nigeria is likely to be even more limited,” she said.
She said signing more and more BASA routes without taking any action or providing any support for Nigerian airlines to enable them to benefit from BASA doesn’t make much sense, rather concentration on high traffic routes, which currently have no Nigerian airline participating in the BASA, would be a better use of valuable resources and time.
“Nigeria gets to tick a box. Another BASA agreed! To what end? Only time will tell. There’s no immediate disadvantage, it’s more a case of fooling itself that it has done something,” Foster added.
BASA, founded on the principle of reciprocity, is a deal that enables a country’s airlines to enjoy equal leverage, in terms of flight operations in countries with which their home country has an air agreement.
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But Nigeria has continued to lose out on this huge revenue potential because it does not have a national carrier.
The Single African Air Transport Market, which is part of the BASA agreements, is a flagship project of AU Agenda 2063, which aspires to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, liberalise civil aviation in Africa, and motivate the continent’s economic integration agenda.
The agreement has seen more foreign airlines such as Sudanese Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, RwandAir, Emirates, and Qatar Airways open more routes and increase frequencies in Nigeria, while Nigerian airlines suspend operations into foreign countries.
There are over 10 foreign airlines operating in Nigeria, and most operate into Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, while only one Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, currently flies into or from West African countries, United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
But Seyi Adewale, chief executive officer of Mainstream Cargo Limited, said the BASA would favour the travel and tourism industry as travel and tourism agencies in Nigeria will have great opportunities to offer increased bouquet of travel options to their clients as Dubai, one of the topmost Nigerian tourist destination, has been stopped.
According to him, this is a very good alternative.
Adewale said the BASA will increase intra-Africa travel options, especially for domestic airlines that can partner the travel and tourism agencies to develop (potentially) good routes to generate more revenue.
He said this will increase cultural exchanges that are possible between both countries and thus increase intra-Africa collaboration.
Adewale said: “We need to examine in detail what is contained within the BASA agreement. I’m certain this will be of benefit to our entertainment industry, corporate benefits and psychological ease of travel vacation (option) for Nigerians. Certainly, Seychelles will benefit more in terms of travel expenditures like hotel booking, shopping, passenger tickets purchase ‘exportation’ etc.
“However, Nigerians have a way to dominate markets via entrepreneurship anywhere they go and potentially could increase remittances back home in the long run if Seychelles decides to accommodate Nigerians in a very friendly fashion. The federal government needs to show to its citizens that they care about what matters to them.”