Chief Sanjay Jain is President, Association of Resident Indians in Nigeria. In this interview with SHOLA ADEKOLA, he speaks on the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic on travel and tourism and how to minimise the impact by taking precautionary measures while urging the populace to get vaccinated. Excerpts:
The COVID-19 factor is still around with a new variant Omicron, do you think it will limit people’s joy about the season?
The Omicron is real. It is ravaging almost all the countries on the globe. As health experts are educating, narrating that it spreads faster than the previous variant – Delta, it is advisable to completely avoid crowded places, use face masks without fail, washing of hands should be frequent and unnecessary travels must be avoided.
Now, at this time of the year people travel to meet their families, they go for picnics and tourisms to enjoy these holidays. In view of the advisory from the health experts throughout the world, unnecessary travel must be avoided. Hence, in the process, the joy of meeting their relatives, joy of tourism, joy of going on picnics will definitely disappear. But, it is for the good of mankind. More such seasons will come and then more enjoyments can be had – let the pandemic go away forever.
You travelled recently, what bottlenecks did you experience during the journey or what did the travel protocols look like, and do you think they were in order?
Yes, there were lots of travel protocols. Many of them are still there like getting the PCR test done before and after travel, wearing of the mask all the time, keeping social distancing among others.
But, personally, I feel that these are very necessary. Pandemic is still hovering around us and the risk has not gone completely; hence the travel protocols are necessary and are in the interest of the travellers as well as the populace in general. Though, one can get annoyed easily as these protocols make life difficult and travel very complicated but as I said, they are necessary. So these should continue as per the experts’ advice.
We understand that they are fewer people that are travelling now do you see an improvement in the volume of travel in the year 2022?
This is the fact. Due to the pandemic, many people opt not to take up travel and they try to avoid wherever possible. People do not go on vacation rather they remain at their stations where they are as a result of the pandemic.
Even several government officials have reduced their journeys. Commercial flights have not fully resumed or operated at the optimum. There are fewer international flights.
But with a great number of people getting vaccinated, it appears that there shall be a huge desire to take to air travel. The people are fed up as a result of no travel. That is even felt by the authorities. So, as a result, there shall be more flights which shall be allowed in the New Year. Unfortunately, the new OMICRON variant is creating havoc again and till it cools down, there shall be restrictions still on travel.
Do you see local travel and tourism within Nigeria becoming more attractive than international travel?
This is a very valid point. As a result of fear from the COVID-19, where experts advised to avoid the long hour flights, domestic travel for holidays is being considered by many in view of this holiday season. On one hand, people were and are fed up sitting at home inside, working from home, etc. and on other hand, after getting vaccinated, people are feeling protected and more confident, they wish to take up domestic travels which to them is safer, thereby embracing local tourism.
What is your take on the skyrocketing international airfare?
As a result of less number of flights operating currently, the cost of travel has gone up. This is the time the airlines also wish to recover their losses which they suffered in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 that practically shut down air travel.
What does this end of the season mean to you?
The end of the season or the year-end is the time when one is expected to take stock of what he/she has achieved or done in the year previous and makes a resolution for the new year. Basically, it is the time when one retrospect through the year and tries to assess whether he/she could achieve what he/she decided to achieve last year at the same time as the New Year resolution.
In the same vein, I also take stock to see if I could achieve what was envisaged by me and then I try to make more realistic New Year resolutions.
In fact, this exercise must be done by each and everyone regularly but at the close of the year, it is most relevant as our minds are tuned with this time so perfectly that we almost are forced to think very seriously on this issue at this time of the year. Looking back through the year 2021, I would say it was better than the year 2020 definitely, the year 2021 was better
The year 2020 brought in the pandemic and scores of people passed away as a result of that. The year 2020 brought unprecedented hardships to the entire mankind. People caught Covid and suffered. There was no treatment known to the medical experts for this ailment/disease.
As a result of that, hospitals were filled up and that too without any treatment, people lost their near and dear ones, no hope of getting out of that, governments imposed lockdowns wherein the populace lost their livelihood and it affected their businesses very adversely, etc. – an atmosphere of complete chaos.
Whereas, the year 2021 brought in the biggest hope of the century – the Vaccine for covid. Not only that, it saves humanity from collapse, it also gave us the confidence to the populace that mankind can fight the dreaded pandemic.
What is your message to Nigerians, Indians and everyone at this time of the year?
I wish all a very happy New Year. I wish them great success in whatever they are doing. I pray that the New Year will bring more hopes in ending the dreaded pandemic and therefore, make the life of all Nigerians and Indians staying in Nigeria much safer and better. It is my wish that the New Year shall bring more joys and more smiles on each and everyone’s faces. People shall cherish their relationship more and more.
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