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The big travel agents like Satguru, Wahiguru, Blueberry and others particularly based in India and South East Asia take advantage of the relative ease in ticket issuance through APG IET and other Global Distribution Systems (GDS) like Amadeus, Galileo and Sabre among others issue what is generally known as Sold OutsideTicketed Outside (SOTO) tickets.
Your airline ticket is a SOTO, (Sold Inside Ticketed Outside), Sold Outside Ticketed Inside (SOTI), or Sold Inside Ticketed Inside (SITI) ticket will make a big difference when it comes to fares. Due to special fare construction rules and regulations, tickets sold outside the origin country (SOTO) will incur additional fees.
For example, if a UK traveller buys their ticket in the UK but they’re travelling from New York to Los Angeles that will be a SOTO ticket. With regards to the location of these operations relative to the origin of the traveller, tickets may also be SITI, SITO, or SOTI, specifying inside or outside.
What these agencies based outside Nigeria do according to a travel expert who spoke with Aviation Metric is that they prefer to issue tickets originating from Nigeria, pay in Nigerian currency, the Naira but collect dollars from their clients.
They pay for the tickets in Naira at the official rate while they sell at the black market rate; thereby making a huge amount of money. They are syndicates that operate profitably in third world countries or in an economy that has dual foreign currency exchange rates.
The activities of these syndicates from India and Asia last month made APG IET tinker with the idea of making airlines that are their affiliates start selling tickets in dollars and the second reason of making the repatriation of foreign airlines’ $ $283 million (N117.6 billion) trapped funds in Nigeria easier for them.
This was however shut down as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was irked by the decision which forced the management of APG IET to rescind the implementation of the decision that would have taken place on April 19, 2022.
The CBN Governor told the operators of Travel Management Companies (TMC) and travel agents that Nigeria is a Naira currency market which they strictly complied with.
There are indications also that the CBN may blacklist the Indian firms as the apex Bank is said to be compiling the names of the firms with a view to wielding the big stick against them following complaints from indigenous travel agencies of their nefarious activities.
Chairman, APG IET Nigeria, Mr Femi Adefope who spoke at the APG IET Day at the weekend where he took the trade partners through many of the advantages the organization had had in their business lamented that some unscrupulous powerful travel agents from outside the country, particularly from India like Satguru, Wahiguru, Blueberry and others are taking advantage to rip-off, off genuine local travel agents.
“I have spoken to a few of my colleagues to say enough is enough. You cannot come into the country and start sabotaging us economically. They are the same group of people doing everything wrong at the Port, trying to export things illegally and unethical practices. That is our biggest challenge at this point in time and they are big. Their customer base is not here in Nigeria”.
Their customer base is outside of Nigeria. They are taking advantage of the currency situation. That is what they do. It is an area the CBN has not taken action on because nobody came up to complain but we the indigenous travel agencies are concerned and we are saying private companies in Nigeria should work on local content, and deal with Nigerian travel companies who are not here to sabotage our economy or take advantage of them.
“It is a major challenge. A lot of airlines have stopped selling SOTO tickets because these companies who are some of the top performers are doing it to service other countries because those tickets don’t even come to Nigeria. They sell them through Burundi and some other places”, Adefope fumed.
Speaking on the foreign airlines’ trapped funds, Adefope said the Federal Government was working at releasing the funds, saying it would be sooner than expected.
“I think each and every one of us is going through difficult times. We have to do our own bit. We have our customers to look after and the CBN Governor has promised that airlines and other facilitators like us will get the remittances soon the CBN Governor is working very hard for us through the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which is working with them. We work closely with the ICCS which is done through IATA”, he added.