There are strong indications that many Nigerians have been shunning trips to South Africa in the last two weeks.
According to reports gathered by newsmen on Thursday, since the latest xenophobic attacks on Nigerians by South Africans, many travellers had been boycotting trips to the former apartheid enclave.
Also on Thursday, the House of Representatives described the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama’s denial of its invitation as an insult.
The House stated this just as the Federal Government disclosed that Nigeria and South Africa would set up a bilateral-commission aimed at ending xenophobia.
In spite of the peace initiative, a number of travel agents told one of our correspondents that Nigerians were not buying tickets to South Africa, except for special reasons.
“I have not booked a single ticket to Johannesburg in the last two weeks,” a travel agent, who did not want to be named, told The PUNCH.
“Nobody is going there at the moment. It is as if there is a total boycott except it is extremely important. Since the problem between Nigeria and South Africa began, the only people travelling are those that had booked their flights long before now and students that need to return to school and have no choice but to resume,” the agent said.
Another Lagos-based agent said the situation had degenerated to the point that special travel packages that were put together for tourists to the country had either been cancelled or diverted to some other destinations as people were no longer interested.
According to the agent, Nigerian tourists are changing their vacation destinations to Dubai, Mauritius and other places.
“There are people with pending tickets that have requested change of airline or destination. Even people scheduled to travel; some have said they no longer want to travel to South Africa,” he said.
Findings show that South African Airways, which operates daily flights between Lagos and Johannesburg, has been affected.
South African Airways enjoys a near monopoly on the route being the only airline that offers direct flights from Lagos to Johannesburg; other airlines on that route such as Kenyan Airway and Rwandair have to get to Nairobi and Kigali respectively, before taking off to Johannesburg. The airline, when contacted, declined to comment on the issue.