It was a sunny afternoon when I walked into the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja. Just as I got to the entrance of the hotel, the Janitor politely stopped me, asked me to drop my purse for scanning, and then checked my temperature with the hand-held thermometer.
Afterward, I had to submit myself to be disinfected. For about 30 seconds, I stood in front of a fan-like fumigator with my mask on, as it sprayed its contents all over me. That was not all, I still had to thoroughly sanitise my hands before I was allowed into the reception arena.
This is the situation in most hotels as you enter into the premises for any form of business or visit. There appears to be a consensus among them that they cannot afford a slip at this time, as the discovery of even one case in a hotel can cause it to be shut down for as long as the authorities deem it necessary.
When the Federal Government shut the economy down in April, all businesses in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun States were directed to cease operations, except for the essential services providers. For the purpose of the lockdown, essential service providers were limited to health workers and those in the food industry.
Hotels, being in the hospitality sector, were not considered essential and were asked to shut down operations as well. Only a few were kept open, to be used as isolation centres in the efforts to contain the spread of the virus and keep infected patients. The adverse effects led to a drastic slide in revenue and subsequent loss of jobs in some cases.
When the government announced a gradual and phased reopening of the economy, hotels were still not included in the list of businesses allowed to open. After the second phase of the gradual reopening, hotels, and other businesses in the hospitality industry are already opening up while some have announced dates.
With the lift of the ban, hotels across Lagos state have resumed operations, albeit with the highest regards for the guidelines spelt out by the relevant authorities and agencies.
Eko Hotel for instance has already re-opened operations, along with Raddison Blu (VI and Ikeja), Sheraton hotels Ikeja. The George Hotel (Ikoyi) is also opened for business.
Southern Sun hotels and Wheat baker hotels have slated its resumption for 1st September, while Intercontinental hotels and Federal Palace Hotel are yet to fix a date for resumption.
The question now is how prepared are they to deal with the influx that would follow their reopening, as well as the resumption of international flights.
One thing common to all the hotels visited is a visible improvement in hygiene practices. Though the hotels have always maintained clean premises, there are obvious efforts in place to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 infection, or at least ensure that it does not get spread through their premises.
At the Radisson Blu hotel, for example, the hotel premises looked as though it had only been recently disinfected. In addition, the spray disinfectant used on all visitors to the hotel is targeted at ensuring that the highest hygiene standards are maintained.
The same was the case at Sheraton hotels, Citiheight hotels, Airport hotel, Watercross hotel, and Purple crown hotels. Nose masks are a compulsory requirement before one can be allowed into the premises.
Just as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 have directed, all of the hotels have their janitors check visitors’ temperature, and flag down any that might be suggestive of a fever.
In addition, visitors also have to sanitize at the entrance and at the reception, disinfecting both hands and luggage before any staff handles them.
Visits to the hotels showed that while some have resumed dining services, others are still making critical observations before they do.
Radisson blu hotel already has dining services ongoing. In the short time spent in the hotel, one could easily see that a table meant for 4 persons was not allowed to have more than 2 persons seated. Also once a table was occupied, the attendants tried to ensure that the next table was vacant.
About hosting a small gathering of 10 friends, the staffs showed us an enclosed space where we could have some privacy if we desired, but insisted that in line with the physical distancing directives, space (which I estimate to be about 10ft by 24ft) could not hold more than 6 persons.
We were instead offered the general dining room to use, on the condition that the tables would be spaced with not more than 2 on each table. How that arrangement amounts to a get-together is the question no one could answer.
The same was the situation at Citiheight hotels which is only a short distance away. The hotel has started receiving dine-in guests in the dining room and the bar. When asked if they could make arrangements for a get-together of 10 persons, they offered to arrange some tables together, but with each of the seats surrounding the table adequately spaced.
For Sheraton hotels, however, dining is not yet allowed inside the restaurant. According to a staff who spoke to Nairametrics, the management is still making critical observations, before deciding whether it would be a profitable decision to resume operations in the restaurant or not.
Instead, the lounge and bar behind the hotel is being used so that customers can dine in an open space, where even the tables have been physically distanced, one from the other.
When we inquired if we could host a small get-together with 10 friends in the dining room, the staff declined to explain that giving the directives they now had to work with, they could not allow 10 persons in an enclosed space. They suggested instead that we use the lounge or the poolside where there would be sufficient space and ventilation.
With the resumption of commercial activities, patronage has resumed in the hotels. The hotels surveyed have started receiving guests for lodging, although skeletal.
Though none of them offered comments on it, they have not yet been booked to capacity. The staff however sounded hopeful that lodging activities would pick up in September.
Air Passengers to United States must test negative for Covid-19 before boarding flight
The United States Government wants all international passengers must provide a negative Covid-19 test before they board a flight into the country.
The United States Government wants all international passengers to provide a negative Covid-19 test before they board a flight into the country. This is according to a report from the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention in the US.
The new rule will also affect United States citizens in the country.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) “Before departure to the United States, a required test, combined with the CDC recommendations to get tested again 3-5 days after arrival and stay home for 7 days post-travel, will help slow the spread of COVID-19 within US communities from travel-related infections. Pre-departure testing with results known and acted upon before travel begins will help identify infected travelers before they board airplanes.”
Based on this, all Air Passengers are required to conduct a test within 3 days before their flight to the US. departs.
“Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.”
The order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021, and will become effective on January 26, 2021.
Last week the US imposed a testing requirement for travelers from the United Kingdom over cases of a new strain of the virus which has also been reported in the US.
What this means: New travel requirements for the negative Covid-19 test will negatively affect the global aviation sector which attracts over 340 million arrivals annually according to 2019 data seen by Nairametrics.
- For third-world countries like Nigeria, travellers into the US will need to conduct the Covid-19 test before they depart from the United States piling pressure on testing centers across the country.
- Though a requirement that most Nigerians are already familiar with, there will likely be pressure to avoid testing positive a few days before departure to the US.
- Nigerians who travelled to Dubai during the Christmas holiday were also required to undertake covid-19 tests
- Nigeria also requires visitors into the country to take the Covid-19 test before departing for Nigeria.
The global Covid-19 caseloads topped 90 million with the United States leading the pack with 22.7 million cases and over 379,000 deaths
Just last week, the United Kingdom said that all passengers arriving in the country will be required to show negative Covid-19 test results taken within 72 hours of the commencement of their journey to prove they do not have the disease. Ireland also announced new travel rules which require visitors into the country to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before arriving in the country.
Going further, the United Kingdom said on Thursday that it would extend a ban to international passengers from Southern African countries coming into the country, as part of the measures aimed at preventing the spread of a new strain of Covid-19 variant identified in South Africa.
Nigeria also requires travellers into the country to carry out a second Covid-19 test after arrival into the country or face consequences. Last week the Nigerian immigration service announced the suspension of 100 passports belonging to Nigerian passengers who refused to undergo second Covid-19 tests within 7 days of arrival into Nigeria from overseas travel.
This article was updated following new information.
Nigerian Aviation: Exchange rate, 7.5% VAT suspension and other factors to determine survival – Experts
Stakeholders share their expectations and factors that must be addressed by the FG to aid the rebound of the sector in 2021.
The aviation sector suffered setbacks due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as the lockdown effected by many countries led to travel restrictions, reduced revenue and mass loss of jobs.
In the case of Nigeria, operators in the sector felt the impact of the pandemic more than their counterparts, as ‘old illness’ suffered by the airlines was exacerbated by the pandemic and left the operators writhing in pains.
For the sector to survive in 2021 – in the heat of the second wave of the pandemic, stakeholders shared their expectations and factors that must be addressed by the federal government to aid the rebound of the sector.
They listed stable exchange rate, reduction of cost of operations, waivers on Customs tariffs for aircraft and spares and cost of aircraft insurance, a reversal of 25% remittance of earnings, amongst others.
Unstable exchange rate
In an interview with Nairametrics, the Managing Director, Aero Mainstream Cargo Services, Ajibade Adewale, explained that the unstable exchange rate, especially for aviation stakeholders, has been a clog in the wheel of operations of the airlines, and most of them cannot afford to inflate their charges in line with the unstable rate.
“Operations of the airlines are largely dollar-denominated. Operations like aircraft purchase plus maintenance and training of staff amongst others can only be done in dollars. The only thing they do in local currency would be salaries.
“Either airlines are allowed to access stable rates or the federal government creates an enabling environment for aircrafts maintenance or repairs here.
“The rubber industry should be revived for investors to set up tyre manufacturing factories in Nigeria, in order to stop importing aircrafts tyres from other parts of the world. Most of the aircraft tyres are manufactured and imported from the United Kingdom (Dunlop), France (Michelin), United States of America (Goodyear), and Bridgestone (Japan).”
He insisted that if enabling environment is created by the government, some of these companies will return to Nigeria and this will reduce cost of maintenance for the airlines.
Lack of skills to execute right policies
On creating an enabling environment, especially for maintenance factory, Capt. David Olubadewo, Managing Director, Starburst Aviation Limited and a Nigerian based in UK, explained that aviation in Nigeria is a very difficult business because the environment is unfriendly.
“Aside from the role of the government, the industry has always been given a bad name in that light. It is not that we don’t have the people to fix it, but there are different aspects that have been compounded over the years. That is why we are where we are today.
“We have lots of very qualified people, there are lots of engineers in the United Kingdom and the United States who are Nigerians. We have people that are overqualified, but we lack the skills to execute the right policies to grow the sector.”
Olubadewo explained that most of the airlines and other industry stakeholders could not access cheaper loans because banks believe that the sector is too difficult to invest in.
“But that is wrong. It is not different from other sectors. We are all in it to make profit at the end of the day. I don’t obtain loans from Nigerian banks, because I will end up with -25% loss or more, but that is not happening in the UK where I pay far less interest rate.
“If I take such loan in Nigeria, it means I am -28 per cent (interest rate) in red, and by the time you get to the top, you are owing millions. I cannot approach any of the banks to give me local money to do business in Nigeria. If I can go through that, you can imagine the experiences of the airlines.”
Suspension of 7.5% VAT
Recently, a member of the finance bill drafting committee and West Africa Tax Lead, PwC Nigeria, Taiwo Oyedele, disclosed via a tweet, that the federal government has again suspended the deduction of 7.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on airfares and other air transport services.
According to him, the latest suspension order was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021, as it is contained in the 2020 finance act recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Operators in the aviation sector are convinced that its implementation would ease the burden on them in 2021.
Effective 1st Jan 2021, commercial flight tickets have been exempted from VAT.
Next time you fly, cross check that you're not wrongly charged VAT (and hopefully air fares should come down). #FinanceAct2020
— Taiwo Oyedele (@taiwoyedele) January 5, 2021
Media and Communications Manager, Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, explained that his airline would be excited to plow back the proceeds of VAT removal to the business and ticket fares subsidy.
“But that may not happen soon, the expected gains are subject to the actual implementation of the policy and the review of other multiple charges in the aviation industry.”
What you should know
- The FG in June 2018 issued an executive order on the suspension of VAT in air transport, but the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) claimed to be unaware of such a directive, hence it was never implemented.
- Airline operators had complained that Nigeria is the only country that still charges VAT on air transport services. The VAT plus 36 other charges, according to the airlines, account for at least 40% of total revenue and N10 billion in taxes yearly, leaving the airlines heavily indebted and in financial distress or both in most cases.
Human remains, plane wreckage of Indonesian Sriwijaya Air found at crash site
Wreckage of the missing Indonesian plane, Sriwijaya Air flight 182, a Boeing 737-500 has been found.
Human body parts and parts of the wreckage have been found at the crash site of the Sriwijaya Air flight 182 which was reported missing yesterday, January 9, 2021.
The Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 was carrying 62 people when it vanished from radar on its journey to Pontianak, crashing 10,000 feet into the ocean.
Earlier, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency said it had found several pieces of debris believed to be from the missing plane but bad weather and poor visibility had hampered the search overnight.
Indonesian Navy divers on Sunday found wreckage from flight SJY 182 after locating a signal from the aircraft’s fuselage, CNN reports. The black boxes have also been recovered at the crash site.
According to the coordinator of the rescue mission, Rasman MS, five body bags containing victims of the crash located by the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) have so far been handed over to the disaster victim investigation unit in Jakarta for identification.
The National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) teams have also begun an investigation into the cause of the crash.
What you should know
- The Sriwijaya Air passenger plane departed from Jakarta airport at 14:36 local time (07:36 GMT) on Saturday.
- The Sriwijaya Air flight 182 – a Boeing 737-500 – was heading from Jakarta to the city of Pontianak,
- At 14:40, the last contact with the plane was recorded, with the call sign SJY182, according to the transport ministry.
- The plane, registered PK CLC, was a 26-year-old Boeing 737-500, according to Flightradar24.
- Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.