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Why fewer Nigerians now visit Dubai

For many Nigerians who couldn’t afford to go to Europe or America for their holidays, weddings and even birthdays, Dubai, the exotic layout in the…

For many Nigerians who couldn’t afford to go to Europe or America for their holidays, weddings and even birthdays, Dubai, the exotic layout in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an apt substitute. 
Then there were the traders in their hordes, to whom flights to Dubai to purchase wares for sale in Nigeria were virtually a daily ritual. Of course, it would be amnesiac not to mention the property buyers, many of whom discovered in Dubai the right place to launder their monies as cash flowed freely over the last 15 years and obtaining dollars for foreign trips was sweat-free.    
Up until last year, it was not unusual to see flights by Emirates, the UAE airline that operates many flights directly from Nigeria to Dubai, mostly populated by Nigerians who were travelling to the UAE commercial and fun city for either commerce or simply even for the weekend. 
But it seems the party is over. One, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, beleaguered by illiquidity arising from drastic fall in its revenue from crude sales, has turned off the free cash tap, so for many politicians and their cronies, military chiefs, top civil servants and privileged private sector players who had for long feasted on cheap public funds, the rush to Dubai is no longer feasible.
Two, and more excruciating, the scarcity of the dollar, as well as its unfavourable exchange rate to the naira, has rendered trips to Dubai difficult.  Since last year, naira value has steadily depreciated against the dollar and other foreign currencies. This week, the dollar sold at N322 to a dollar in the black market, more than a 100 per cent increase in the rate at the beginning of last year.   
Now, it seems to be lamentation all round. Isaac Onoja, a civil servant who admitted to have visited Dubai every year in the last four years at different times, has ruled out such a luxury this year.
 Onoja said: “We began visiting there after we were refused a schengen visa twice and a friend suggested I tried Dubai. But I don’t think I will be going this year because I cannot afford to pay for my family and I to go as we usually do. Between my wife and I, we spent about N2 million for any one trip to Dubai, accommodation, tickets and all, including sightseeing.”
 This year, from his calculations, the price is double their usual budget. Onoja explained: “When we calculated just last week, it came to roughly N4.3m if we were all to go. So we had to shelve the idea for this year, hoping that next year, the situation will be better.”
Hajiya Maimuna Sani, a major dealer in fabrics, female outfits and household items said she has been unable to go to Dubai since April last year.
Said Hajiya Sani: “I have materials there which I had sent to be sewn since last December, but I have been unable to go and pick them. Last year, they cost between N9,000 and N10,000 to make. But now due to the exchange rate, I will have to pay between N18,000 and N22,000 for the sewing alone.”
Business people like Sani, who owns Nimat Home of Fabrics, have been hopeful that the exchange rates will get back to being favourable for their businesses. “We are still thinking it through and are not sure yet what to do. But if by June it is still the same, we will be forced to look at alternative means,” Sani said.
 Responding to a question on considering an option like Senegal for fabrics and embroidered clothings, she said: “Even that isn’t profitable at the moment because it’s one of the places where I shop. The CFA is about N500 now. If the dollar doesn’t come down, we’ll have to search around locally for alternatives.”
 For the managing director of Outeredge Globals, Ogwuoma Ochei, Dubai tickets were once one of her most selling destinations, but that story has changed in recent times due to the current exchange rate.
 Said the travel agent: “Ticket sales and travels have taken a nosedive since the foreign exchange rates went crazy. Sales are really expensive, because though airlines are still selling at the rate of N200 to the dollar, they cannot remit the sales money to their countries as they were doing. So their monies are tied up here. This has caused flight prices to shoot up.
 “Last year, tickets which sold for about N200,000 at this time now sell for between N500,000 and N800,000, depending on the airline.”
Ochei added: “The airlines have asked us to stop BTA tickets whereby the passenger can buy their tickets while they are abroad and make payments when they return here. They have also stopped discounted fares. As a result, sales have drastically reduced. Only a few airlines like Ethiopian Airlines and Turkish Airlines have tried to maintain their old rates or made minimal increases.
Lekan Shobowale of the Turkish Airlines explained: “We have had a slight increase in our prices but not so much as to affect our sales drastically. Since we started flying from Abuja last year, this year is somewhat better for us, especially as we still try to sell at the Central Bank rate of N200 to the dollar.”
Shobowale added that: “However, passengers who buy their tickets while abroad have been the most affected by the rise in foreign exchange rates. Where they may buy a ticket from us at the rate of N15,000 for instance, if they were buying from Nigeria, they would now have to pay about N75,000 if they are buying while overseas.
 “For us to keep our customers on this route, we still allow for some kind of discounted tickets if they buy them well in advance of their trips rather than close to their travel dates.”

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