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A Comparative Study Of Air Travel And Tourism In Port Harcourt And Murtala Muhammed International Airports

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This research work is the relationship between air travel and tourism: a comparative case study of Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport. The work will assess/ explore the disparity and activities of the airports as well as its benefit to tourism growth in Nigeria internationally. For a clear understanding and discretion, the work is divided into five chapters. Chapter one discusses the preliminary issues in research, namely: statement of the problem, the research questions, the objectives, the methodology, the significance and the limitations of the study. Chapter two discusses the literature review. They include the theoretical literature, the empirical literature as well as the theoretical orientation. The background information is discussed under the chapter three while chapter four deals with the data presentation and analyzes. Finally, the chapter five deals with the summary, recommendations and conclusion.



Over the years, travel has been essential since the history and origin of man. People have travelled over time for different purposes and motives which include events, pleasure, relaxation, discovery, exploration, as well as getting to know and appreciate other cultures. Travel and exploration are basic to nature (Walker and Walker, 2011:14). Travel is the movement of people or objects (such as airplanes, boats, trains, and other conveyance) between relatively distant geographical locations.

In the words of Ashamu (2007:19), Travel is as old as mankind, and differs from tourism. He further explained that the evolution of travel leads to tourism. Travel may occur by human-powered transport such as walking or bicycling, or with vehicles, such as public transport, automobiles, trains and airplanes . Reasons for travelling include recreation, tourism or vacationing, research travel for the gathering of information, for holiday to visit people, volunteer travel for charity, migration to begin life somewhere else, religious pilgrimages, business travel, and other reasons such as to obtain healthcare services among other reasons. Travel may be local, regional, national (domestic) or international.

From the prehistoric period to the Neolithic age precisely between 3000 and 4000 B.C, people travelled across paths, fields, landscapes and forest, in search of survival and basic necessities of life. Wheel and sailing vessels were invented and built in Egypt, travelling became much easier (Ashamu, 2007:20). He further opined that travelling is an adventure and all travels before Industrial Revolution was largely a matter of pilgrimages. This simply indicates that from time immemorial, man has been travelling from one place to another in search of food, shelter, learning new skills and things. In fact travelling as we know is part of education.

However, the terms ‘travel’ and ‘tourism’ are often interchanged within the published literature on tourism, but they are normally meant to encompass the field of research on human and business activities associated with one or more aspects of the temporary movement of persons away from their immediate home, communities and daily work environments for business, pleasure or personal reasons (Chadwick 1994:65) cited in Page and Connell (2006:11). Tourism is an integral part of life that involves the temporary movement of people out of their homes for a limited time frame. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees tourism as the process whereby people travel to and stay in places outsides their usual environment for not more than one conservative year for leisure, business, and other purposes (Walker and Walker, 2011:7). This simply means that tourism and travel connote the same thing.

Having noted this, it is then appropriate to carry out a research on the relationship between air travel and tourism with the aim of laying much emphasis on the Lagos and Port Harcourt international airports in Nigeria using a comparative approach. Owing to the fact that the two airports under study were commissioned just about the same time and have been operational for over 30 years now, it is therefore important to ascertain their contribution to tourism development in the country and their relevance to international tourists. On the other hand, enabling travel is an essential criterion for tourism; roads, cars, aircraft and airports are all needed to permit the easy passage of tourists from home to destination and back again (Page and Connell, 2006:375). This is an indication that the two international airports under study have a major role to play in tourism development and its growth in Nigeria, particularly to international tourists. Air travel is a common means of transport. Worldwide, over one billion people (one fifth of the world’s population) now travel by air. Airports require expanse of land in order to operate safely and efficiently (Page and Connell, 2006:375). According to Cooper et al (2005:480), travelling by air is probably the most important transport innovation of the twentieth century. It has enabled the transportation of passengers in the shortest time and has boosted the demand for long haul trips.

However, it is noted by (Walker and Walker, 2011:454) that the development of air travel is closely linked to the growth of the travel and tourism industry. In the short space of 70 years, it has brought the world together. They also noted that air travel has made it possible to build great resorts on remote islands; it has fostered multinational enterprises and broadened the horizons of hundreds of millions of people. However, without the airplanes, and other modes of transportation, many resort destinations would have been virtually impossible to build. In fact no part of the world is now more than 24 hours’ flying time from any other part (Cooper et al 2005:480). It is however glaring that, airplanes make travel and journey faster, easier and more convenient and as a result the most remote location is just a few hours away by plane. Despite the number of air mishaps recorded in the country, it is still the most preferred and it has significantly boosted the transport system around the world. With the rising demand for both domestic and international air travel in Nigeria, Ekechukwu (2006:159) commented that a number of indigenous carriers have come into operation in the last two or three decades. They are competing favourably with the foreign suppliers of international air travel to Nigeria, especially on long haul destinations.

Furthermore, the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria have been showing signs of expansion in recent years especially with the transformation agenda going on presently in all the airports across the country. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry’s contribution to the National Gross Domestic product has grown steadily over the past few years on the back of concerted efforts by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to enlarge its potential in the country. It is also noted here that, with continuously fluctuating oil prices caused by the recent global recession, the government now considers travel and tourism as one of the priority to launch the revival of the economy. The government has also embarked on measures to transform the industry into a money spinner and has also made it a key instrument to move Nigeria into a league of top economies of the world by the year 2020 (Jetlife 2012:7). Having noted this, it is then glaring that the remodeling and renovations going on at the Murtala Muhammed international Airport and that of Port Harcourt is an indication that federal government has finally known the importance of tourism and its economic relevance in  Nigeria.

It is also pertinent to note that airports form an essential part of the air transport system (Ashford et al (1991) cited in Page, (2005:280). It is the gateway to the nation’s cultural, economic, environmental, technological, and development standard and success. Currently, the four major international airports in Nigeria which are Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Port Harcourt International Airport in Omagwa, and the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano among others are undergoing reconstruction to meet up with the aviation standard and safety measures. The Nigerian aviation sector is being repositioned to be pivotal to the growth of key economic sectors (including travel and tourism, agriculture, rural development, trade and commerce, manufacturing and other non-oil sectors) which are critical to economic transformation of any nation.

It is therefore on this ground that the researcher is doing a comparative study of MMIA and PHIA to probe and examine their overall operations which will give an insight into the number of tourist movement and its growth in the country. The role and contributions of other organizational aviation sector like Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in the airports.

1.1 Statement of Problem

It is axiomatic to point out here that despite the expansion and improvement of air travel in Nigeria since independence, the Nigerian airports so to say are still facing some challenges. Findings have shown that the first plane crash in Nigeria occurred on November 20, 1969 when a government-owned DC 10 aircraft on a flight from London crash landed in Lagos. It killed all 87 passenger and the crew on board. Since then similar tragic incident resulting in various air crash which has claimed a lot of lives have remained obvious in the aviation sector in Nigeria.

For over two decades, from 1990 to 2012 to mention but a few, Nigerian aviation sector, both civilian and military had witnessed a number of unfortunate calamities and deteriorations. In September 1992, a Hercules C -130, military plane crashed in Ejibgo, Lagos five minutes after take-off, in which 192 middle ranking and senior military officers perished. In November 1996, 142 people died when an ADC Boeing 727 plane plunged into a lagoon near Lagos, and in May 2002, an EAS Airline plane crashed in Kano killing 148 people and non-passengers on the ground. On 23 October 2005, a Bellview airline crashed immediately after take-off, killing all on board passenger, and in December 11, of the same year, many lives of young school children were lost when a Sosoliso airline – Flight 1145 crashed in Port Harcourt. In September 19, 2006, a military plane, Dornier 228 crashed at Mbakumu, Benue State, claiming the lives of 13 senior military officers (Osaremen, 2012:1). The most sorrowful was the recent Dana air crash of June 2012 claiming the lives of all 153 passenger on board and those in the comfort of their houses in Lagos just five minutes before landing. All these boil down to lack of good practice in the aviation sector and not taking adequate measures in the maintenance of air craft and airline operators in the country. Regrettably, despite the pain and agonies, grief and the loss of lives associated with air mishaps, the usual way the federal government and the aviation sector attend to them shows lack of competence in the aviation sector and most likely to be caricatured in the real sense.

Having examined this, the government has finally realized that travel and tourism holds the key to the much-needed diversification of the economy and has been initiating measures to reposition the industry as an alternative source of foreign exchange. Through diversification, travel and tourism is expected to continue gaining recognition as an important tool for stimulating rapid economic growth in Nigeria. Nonetheless, more efforts are needed to develop this industry to match other African countries like Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa.

Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between areas of high tourist movement and high airport traffic in Africa, which shows the increasingly mutually-dependent state of air transport and tourism in modern economies. Airports in Africa that have traffic above 5 million passengers are linked to regions with well-developed tourism sites and strong tourism arrivals. However, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos (MMIA), which is no doubt located in the one-time capital of Nigeria and Nigeria’s commercial capital, recorded 6,748,290 traffic in 2011 alongside other airports in Africa which recorded theirs respectively.

The Port Harcourt International Airport which used to operate fully as an international airport has been experiencing some problems since the shutdown in the half quarter of 2006. Though it has started operation, yet there is nothing to show that it is an international airport. Findings on ground still shows that passengers at both domestic and international terminals go through difficulties with the process of getting themselves checked in even when they have made online booking which is supposed to make things easier. The renovation and construction work going on at both arrival and departure halls is not showing any sign of completing very soon, thus passengers have been on constant complaint.

However, the major problem of both airports boils down to the Federal Government’s attitude towards executing projects and their inability to monitor them properly to the end to achieve their desired goals. The problem of the contractors handling this projects tend to pose another major setback in the full operations of these airports especially the Port Harcourt International airport which is going through different phases of renovation before its completion.  Apparently the questions that come to mind are; is it not time for the sector to completely deviate from the usual nonchalant approach to aviation safety concerns and embrace modern management practices? With the current government’s attitude toward our aviation sector, what is the prospect of the tourism industry especially as it affects international tourism? And lastly, what is the current condition of the airports?

 1.2 Research Questions

v What is the organizational structure of the study areas?

v What are the terminal and airport facilities as well as the present conditions of the study areas?

v What are the operational activities of the two airports as it affects international tourism?

v What are the importances of air travel to tourism development in Nigeria?

v What are the problems and challenges associated with air travel and tourism in the study areas and the role of federal government in the aviation sector?

v What are the possible solutions to these problems for the future of air travel and the study areas?

1.3 Research Objectives

Based on the above problems and questions, the general objective of this research work is aimed at the following:

v To examine the organizational structure of the study areas, the actual grading as well as who is in-charge.

v To ascertain the terminal/airport facilities of Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, as well as the present condition of the airports.

v To examine the operational activities of the airport with the aim of achieving their overall tourist activities especially with international tourists in the country.

v To evaluate the importance of air travel and tourism in Nigeria especially in the study areas using a comparative approach;

v To identify the problems, challenges associated with air travel and tourism in the study areas and Nigeria at large and the role of federal government in the aviation sector.



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