Over the years, travel has been essential since the history and origin of man. People have travelled over time for different purposes and motives which include events, pleasure, relaxation, discovery, exploration, as well as getting to know and appreciate other cultures. Travel and exploration are basic to nature (Walker and Walker, 2011:14). Travel is the movement of people or objects (such as airplanes, boats, trains, and other conveyance) between relatively distant geographical locations.

In the words of Ashamu (2007:19), Travel is as old as mankind, and differs from tourism. He further explained that the evolution of travel leads to tourism. Travel may occur by human-powered transport such as walking or bicycling, or with vehicles, such as public transport, automobiles, trains and airplanes (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/travel). Reasons for travelling include recreation, tourism or vacationing, research travel for the gathering of information, for holiday to visit people, volunteer travel for charity, migration to begin life somewhere else, religious pilgrimages, business travel, and other reasons such as to obtain healthcare services among other reasons. Travel may be local, regional, national (domestic) or international.

From the prehistoric period to the Neolithic age precisely between 3000 and 4000 B.C, people travelled across paths, fields, landscapes and forest, in search of survival and basic necessities of life. Wheel and sailing vessels were invented and built in Egypt, travelling became much easier (Ashamu, 2007:20). He further opined that travelling is an adventure and all travels before Industrial Revolution was largely a matter of pilgrimages. This simply indicates that from time immemorial, man has been travelling from one place to another in search of food, shelter, learning new skills and things. In fact travelling as we know is part of education.

However, the terms ‘travel’ and ‘tourism’ are often interchanged within the published literature on tourism, but they are normally meant to encompass the field of research on human and business activities associated with one or more aspects of the temporary movement of persons away from their immediate home, communities and daily work environments for business, pleasure or personal reasons (Chadwick 1994:65) cited in Page and Connell (2006:11). Tourism is an integral part of life that involves the temporary movement of people out of their homes for a limited time frame. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees tourism as the process whereby people travel to and stay in places outsides their usual environment for not more than one conservative year for leisure, business, and other purposes (Walker and Walker, 2011:7). This simply means that tourism and travel connote the same thing.

Having noted this, it is then appropriate to carry out a research on the relationship between air travel and tourism with the aim of laying much emphasis on the Lagos and Port Harcourt international airports in Nigeria using a comparative approach. Owing to the fact that the two airports under study were commissioned just about the same time and have been operational for over 30 years now, it is therefore important to ascertain their contribution to tourism development in the country and their relevance to international tourists. On the other hand, enabling travel is an essential criterion for tourism; roads, cars, aircraft and airports are all needed to permit the easy passage of tourists from home to destination and back again (Page and Connell, 2006:375). This is an indication that the two international airports under study have a major role to play in tourism development and its growth in Nigeria, particularly to international tourists. Air travel is a common means of transport. Worldwide, over one billion people (one fifth of the world’s population) now travel by air. Airports require expanse of land in order to operate safely and efficiently (Page and Connell, 2006:375). According to Cooper et al (2005:480), travelling by air is probably the most important transport innovation of the twentieth century. It has enabled the transportation of passengers in the shortest time and has boosted the demand for long haul trips.

However, it is noted by (Walker and Walker, 2011:454) that the development of air travel is closely linked to the growth of the travel and tourism industry. In the short space of 70 years, it has brought the world together. They also noted that air travel has made it possible to build great resorts on remote islands; it has fostered multinational enterprises and broadened the horizons of hundreds of millions of people. However, without the airplanes, and other modes of transportation, many resort destinations would have been virtually impossible to build. In fact no part of the world is now more than 24 hours’ flying time from any other part (Cooper et al 2005:480). It is however glaring that, airplanes make travel and journey faster, easier and more convenient and as a result the most remote location is just a few hours away by plane. Despite the number of air mishaps recorded in the country, it is still the most preferred and it has significantly boosted the transport system around the world. With the rising demand for both domestic and international air travel in Nigeria, Ekechukwu (2006:159) commented that a number of indigenous carriers have come into operation in the last two or three decades. They are competing favourably with the foreign suppliers of international air travel to Nigeria, especially on long haul destinations.

Furthermore, the travel and tourism sector in Nigeria have been showing signs of expansion in recent years especially with the transformation agenda going on presently in all the airports across the country. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry’s contribution to the National Gross Domestic product has grown steadily over the past few years on the back of concerted efforts by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to enlarge its potential in the country. It is also noted here that, with continuously fluctuating oil prices caused by the recent global recession, the government now considers travel and tourism as one of the priority to launch the revival of the economy. The government has also embarked on measures to transform the industry into a money spinner and has also made it a key instrument to move Nigeria into a league of top economies of the world by the year 2020 (Jetlife 2012:7). Having noted this, it is then glaring that the remodeling and renovations going on at the Murtala Muhammed international Airport and that of Port Harcourt is an indication that federal government has finally known the importance of tourism and its economic relevance in  Nigeria.

It is also pertinent to note that airports form an essential part of the air transport system (Ashford et al (1991) cited in Page, (2005:280). It is the gateway to the nation’s cultural, economic, environmental, technological, and development standard and success. Currently, the four major international airports in Nigeria which are Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Port Harcourt International Airport in Omagwa, and the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano among others are undergoing reconstruction to meet up with the aviation standard and safety measures. The Nigerian aviation sector is being repositioned to be pivotal to the growth of key economic sectors (including travel and tourism, agriculture, rural development, trade and commerce, manufacturing and other non-oil sectors) which are critical to economic transformation of any nation.

It is therefore on this ground that the researcher is doing a comparative study of MMIA and PHIA to probe and examine their overall operations which will give an insight into the number of tourist movement and its growth in the country. The role and contributions of other organizational aviation sector like Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in the airports.







1.1 Statement of Problem

It is axiomatic to point out here that despite the expansion and improvement of air travel in Nigeria since independence, the Nigerian airports so to say are still facing some challenges. Findings have shown that the first plane crash in Nigeria occurred on November 20, 1969 when a government-owned DC 10 aircraft on a flight from London crash landed in Lagos. It killed all 87 passenger and the crew on board. Since then similar tragic incident resulting in various air crash which has claimed a lot of lives have remained obvious in the aviation sector in Nigeria.

For over two decades, from 1990 to 2012 to mention but a few, Nigerian aviation sector, both civilian and military had witnessed a number of unfortunate calamities and deteriorations. In September 1992, a Hercules C -130, military plane crashed in Ejibgo, Lagos five minutes after take-off, in which 192 middle ranking and senior military officers perished. In November 1996, 142 people died when an ADC Boeing 727 plane plunged into a lagoon near Lagos, and in May 2002, an EAS Airline plane crashed in Kano killing 148 people and non-passengers on the ground. On 23 October 2005, a Bellview airline crashed immediately after take-off, killing all on board passenger, and in December 11, of the same year, many lives of young school children were lost when a Sosoliso airline – Flight 1145 crashed in Port Harcourt. In September 19, 2006, a military plane, Dornier 228 crashed at Mbakumu, Benue State, claiming the lives of 13 senior military officers (Osaremen, 2012:1). The most sorrowful was the recent Dana air crash of June 2012 claiming the lives of all 153 passenger on board and those in the comfort of their houses in Lagos just five minutes before landing. All these boil down to lack of good practice in the aviation sector and not taking adequate measures in the maintenance of air craft and airline operators in the country. Regrettably, despite the pain and agonies, grief and the loss of lives associated with air mishaps, the usual way the federal government and the aviation sector attend to them shows lack of competence in the aviation sector and most likely to be caricatured in the real sense.

Having examined this, the government has finally realized that travel and tourism holds the key to the much-needed diversification of the economy and has been initiating measures to reposition the industry as an alternative source of foreign exchange. Through diversification, travel and tourism is expected to continue gaining recognition as an important tool for stimulating rapid economic growth in Nigeria (www.euromonitor.com/traveland-tourism). Nonetheless, more efforts are needed to develop this industry to match other African countries like Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa.

Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between areas of high tourist movement and high airport traffic in Africa, which shows the increasingly mutually-dependent state of air transport and tourism in modern economies. Airports in Africa that have traffic above 5 million passengers are linked to regions with well-developed tourism sites and strong tourism arrivals. However, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos (MMIA), which is no doubt located in the one-time capital of Nigeria and Nigeria’s commercial capital, recorded 6,748,290 traffic in 2011 alongside other airports in Africa which recorded theirs respectively.

The Port Harcourt International Airport which used to operate fully as an international airport has been experiencing some problems since the shutdown in the half quarter of 2006. Though it has started operation, yet there is nothing to show that it is an international airport. Findings on ground still shows that passengers at both domestic and international terminals go through difficulties with the process of getting themselves checked in even when they have made online booking which is supposed to make things easier. The renovation and construction work going on at both arrival and departure halls is not showing any sign of completing very soon, thus passengers have been on constant complaint.

However, the major problem of both airports boils down to the Federal Government’s attitude towards executing projects and their inability to monitor them properly to the end to achieve their desired goals. The problem of the contractors handling this projects tend to pose another major setback in the full operations of these airports especially the Port Harcourt International airport which is going through different phases of renovation before its completion.  Apparently the questions that come to mind are; is it not time for the sector to completely deviate from the usual nonchalant approach to aviation safety concerns and embrace modern management practices? With the current government’s attitude toward our aviation sector, what is the prospect of the tourism industry especially as it affects international tourism? And lastly, what is the current condition of the airports?

 1.2 Research Questions


  • What is the organizational structure of the study areas?
  • What are the terminal and airport facilities as well as the present conditions of the study areas?
  • What are the operational activities of the two airports as it affects international tourism?
  • What are the importances of air travel to tourism development in Nigeria?
  • What are the problems and challenges associated with air travel and tourism in the study areas and the role of federal government in the aviation sector?
  • What are the possible solutions to these problems for the future of air travel and the study areas?

1.3 Research Objectives

Based on the above problems and questions, the general objective of this research work is aimed at the following:

  • To examine the organizational structure of the study areas, the actual grading as well as who is in-charge.
  • To ascertain the terminal/airport facilities of Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, as well as the present condition of the airports.
  • To examine the operational activities of the airport with the aim of achieving their overall tourist activities especially with international tourists in the country.
  • To evaluate the importance of air travel and tourism in Nigeria especially in the study areas using a comparative approach;
  • To identify the problems, challenges associated with air travel and tourism in the study areas and Nigeria at large and the role of federal government in the aviation sector.
  • To proffer possible solutions to the problems for the future of air travel and airports at the study areas.


  • Research Methodology

Research methodology entails the systematic methods or techniques that will be used in the conduct and collection of data for this research project. According to Kothari (2004:1) it is actually a voyage of discovery, an original contribution to the existing stock of knowledge making for its advancement. The following is the systematic research methodology employed during the research:

  • Research Design

Research design simply explains how the research is being structured. It is the plan of study and steps that should be followed which guide the conduct of the research. Therefore, the research design to be used is qualitative research method because it provides relevant solutions to the research problem. This involves going to the field to see, to participate and also to ask relevant questions that will yields maximal information.

For this research, the study is primarily aimed at knowing the importance of  air travel and tourism which focuses on doing a comparative study of Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa and Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. This will enable the researcher to ascertain and compare their operations, facilities, number of international airline operators and domestic airline operators, and the criteria for establishing international airports in Nigeria. The study also focuses on visiting other parastatals like FAAN, NAMA, and NCAA among others, to understand their roles as well as to know their relationships among each other in the aviation sector.

1.4.2 Method and Instrument of Data Collection

The ethnographic method of data collection using semi-structured interview as well as direct observation were used to be able to elicit information from the two airports. Hence the preparation of interview schedule or guides was employed.  Thus, NAMA, NCAA, and FAAN will be visited and interviewed to ascertain their role at the airports as well as their contribution in tourism development.

The use of existing materials and literature from different source were used. Available textbooks and journals relevant to air travel and tourism as well as on airports were studied, photographic documentation will be used to add validity to the work and do the comparative analysis to the work. This will actually help the researcher in proffering possible solutions to the problems which was observed during the research work as well as filling those gaps.

1.4.3 Method of Data Analysis

The data collected using the semi-structured interview guide during the research work will be interpreted and also analyzed using qualitative method. This will help in knowing the passenger movement at the study areas as well as to ascertain the number of domestic airlines operating. In addition, the secondary data from the library will be used, as well as direct observation, to elicit information vital to the study which will in turn proffer possible solution to the aviation sector in Nigeria. All these will be listed and tabulated in order to know the growth of tourism in Nigeria.

1.5    Significance of Study

The research is focused on the comparative study of air travel and tourism using Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport as comparative case studies. Interestingly, tourism is one of the major economic impacts in the world and Nigeria no doubt is not an exception. However, Nigeria is blessed with numerous cultural and natural resources and attractions which would increase the influx of tourists if proper measures were being taken.

Apparently, the findings of this work and the recommendations will provide material guide and be of immense benefits to the study areas, public, and students as it will expose them to new area of work on air travel and tourism as well as airports in Nigeria especially the Port Harcourt International Airport and Murtala Muhammed International Airport. It will expose the role of FAAN, NAMA, and NCAA at the airport, and the facilities provided to give comfort to both international and domestic tourists. It will expose the current state of our so called international airports and the role of the aviation industry in the on-going remodeling of the airports under study. It will also provide useful guide in the operational activities, and functions of airports in Lagos and Port Harcourt taking into cognizance that airports are the first point of contact to tourists flying by air.

Significantly, the research work will be different in its own way because it will bring to the public and researchers the obvious disparity in MMIA and PHIA, the challenges facing our airports as well as the deep/ their importance to air travel and tourism.  It will also make the federal government to boost the aviation sector while allowing the industry room to grow and maintain an international standard.

  • Scope of Study

Transport is a pre-requisite for the evolution of tourism. Tourism is a collection of small and large interrelated industries that have an impact on the country’s economy and the world at large. Our airports, so to say have a lot of role to play in Nigeria economic and tourism recognition around the world. Nigeria has about four major international airports including that of Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu and Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar.

This research work will be explored and limited only to the International airports in Port Harcourt and Lagos. The work will focused mainly on their operational activities, organizational structures, functions, their relationships with tourist and other organizations, present condition, statistics, problems encountered as well as their future.  The aim is to ascertain the level of disparity between the two airports and their contributions to the growth of tourism in Nigeria. The roles of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) will be explored to ensure their commitment in the airport and the aviation sector in general.

1.7 Limitations of Study

There were some limiting factors that directly or indirectly affect the conduct of any research work which in turn affect the report results. Some of the factors which limited my work to some extent are as follows:

Financial limitation is one of the major problems the researcher encountered during this research considering the distance from school to the study areas. Particularly in Lagos where the incessant traffic jam almost posed a hindrance which led to the use of private taxi which is quite on a high side.

The issue of security challenges facing the country recently, posed another major problem faced during this research. The researcher was not allowed in the apron and tarmac of both airports during the research. The issue of poor documentation especially with regards to the history of the Port Harcourt Airport at the airport posed another major concern to the researcher as there was no vivid record with regards to that.

Finally, taking of photographs was hindered to some extent because of the on-going remodeling work, and the present security situation at these airports under study. There was also a problem of snapping some informants. However, despite the above limitations, the researcher was able to obtain information for the understanding of the research work.

1.8 Clarification of Terms/Concepts

A critical examination of this research work shows that certain terms/concepts were used more often and on them hinges a greater part of the write-up. Therefore, clarifying them is necessary because it will enable the reader to absorb and comprehend easily the content of this work. These terms are travel, air travel, transportation, tourism, and airport.

  1. Travel: This is the undertaking of a journey or trip from one place to another. Ashamu (2007:21) regard travel as the movement from the usual place of residence to another irrespective of the motive for travel. T9ravel is the act of going from one place to another. There are two types of travel: domestic and international travel. Domestic travel relates to trips within one’s country while the international travel relates to trips from one’s country to another with the aim not connected with recreation and tourism activities (Ashamu 2007:21).

Travel is also the movement of people between relatively distant geographical locations, and can involve travel by foot, bicycle, automobile, train, boat, airplane, or other means, with or without luggage, and can be one way or round trip. This also can include relatively short stays between consecutive movements. Motives to travel include pleasure, relaxation, discovery and exploration, as well as getting to know other cultures. Travel may also be local, regional, national or international and it is important to take precautions to ensure travel safety when travelling. These precautions may include knowing the condition of the mode of transportation system you want use.

  1. Air travel: This is simply the travel that is made via aircraft. It includes the different stages prior to the journey which ranges from making choices of the flight or airline to board, the booking of the flight as well as obtaining the ticket. From checking-in and obtaining the boarding pass which allows the passenger entrance to the booked aircraft or flight that he or she would fly in. Air travel is probably the most important transport innovation of the twentieth century (Cooper et al, 2005:480). It has managed in the past few decades to gain a very significant share of the transport market, especially for movements over 500 kilometres. Air travel is a form of travel in vehicles such as airplanes, helicopters, hot air balloons, blimps, gliders, hang gliding, parachuting, or anything else that can sustain flight. Air travel can be classified into two general classifications which are: national/domestic and international flights.

Flights from one point to another within the same country are called domestic flights while flights from a point in one country to a point within a different country are known as international flights. Air transport is by far the most effective transport mode (Rodrigue, 2013:416).

  1. Transportation: The act of moving something from one location to another is called transportation. Ekechukwu (2006:152) regard transportation as an essential component of the tourism product and in fact one of its vital elements that enables people to travel to their destination as well as move around their destination. There are four major modes of transportation: road, rail, water, and air. Each mode of transportation has had a significant impact on tourism development in any given part of the world. Transport is acknowledged as one of the most significant factors to have contributed to the international development of tourism (Holloway, 2006:303). It forms the focal point for tourist activity in the case of cruising and holidays that contain a significant component of travel. However, each mode of transport has its own infrastructure, vehicles, operation and has unique regulations as well as a separate environment. Walker and Walker (2011:14) added that tourism in the past developed with each new mode of transportation. First came the preindustrial time, and then later came trains, ships automobiles and airplanes. In this light, transportation is simply the movement of people or thing from the original place to another with the aid of several modes transport system.

Air:  Air transport is the second fastest method of transport after space travel. Airplane is a heavier-than-air craft where movement of the air in relation to the wings is used to generate lift. Two things necessary for aircraft are air flow over the wings for lift and an area for landing. However, majority of them need an airport with an infrastructure that will enable their landing and taking off, refueling, cargo, restocking maintenance, loading, cargo and passengers luggage.  Terminal facilities are of great importance to air transport.

Road: The most common road vehicle is automobile, a wheeled passenger vehicle that carries its own motor. A road is an identifiable route through a city or village and can be named as streets, serving a dual function as urban space easement and route. According to Walker and Walker (2011:19), the internal combustion engine automobile was invented in Germany. The idea for automobiles emerged from steam engines in the late 1880s, when Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler built a factory for internal combustion engines, which is now Mercedez-Benz. Other users of road, include buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Water: Water transport is often times overlooked as a result of the slow movement and the dominance of air travel and other mode of transport. However, it is certainly the process of transport where a watercraft, such as a barge, boat, ship or sailboat, cross over bodies of water like river, sea, ocean, lake among others. Though most of them are slow, but there are modern sea transportation which are highly effective method of transporting large quantities of non-perishable goods. Transport by water is significantly less costly than air transport. Within the water-based transport sector, there are three main forms of transport that can be identified: cruising, ferries, and pleasure craft (Page and Connell, 2006:161).

Rail: Rail transport is a means of transport used to convey people to different destinations of their choice. In rail transport, there are different types of classes depending on the train fare of your choice. It is much faster than road transport. As the railways developed, travel organizers began to offer excursions. The first of these was in England where, in 1841, Thomas Cook arranged for 570 passengers to travel round-trip between Leicester and Loughborough. The success of this venture encouraged him to arrange similar excursions using chartered trains (Walker and Walker, 2011:16).

  1. Airport: Airport according to Singh (2007:24), is the gateway to the nation, and is the first point of contact for the tourists, and projects the country state of technological development, its culture, the national aspirations and much more. An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. It consists of at least one surface such as a runway for a plane to take off and make their landing. It also has other facilities such as control towers, hangers and terminal buildings. Most airport names include the location, while many are named after a public figure, commonly a politician, or a prominent figure in an aviation history of the region. According to Graham (2001:1) airport is an essential part of the air transport system. They provide all infrastructures needed to enable passenger and freight to transfer from surface to air modes of transport and allow airlines to take off and land. The basic airport infrastructure consists of runways, taxiways, apron space, gates, passenger and freight terminals and ground transport interchange. The terms aerodrome, airfield, and airstrip may also be used to refer to airports. In colloquial use, the terms airport and aerodrome are often interchanged. In fact, airport is simply a place where various kinds of activities relevant to travelling, including airplanes of various kinds takes off and land at a stipulated time. However, there are different types of works that take place at the airport which include: airport operations which consist of air traffic control, ground control, traffic pattern, navigational aids, taxiway signs, lighting, weather observations, and safety management. Other ones include the airport ground crew and airport security. Conclusively, airport is simply a place where airplanes takes off and land, with other facilities like control tower and hangars providing adequate help for the smooth running of the activities.
  2. Tourism: This entails a short term movement of people to destinations out of their places of usual domain for any activities other than occupations, remunerated from within the destination visited, for not less than 24 hours and not more than one year. Okpoko and Okpoko (2002:21) see tourism simply as any temporary movement of people, either individually or in groups, from one place to another for specific tourism purposes. It is thus a complex and persuasive phenomenon. It touches all aspects of man and society – be they social, political, economic, cultural, historical or physical environment. However, while the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) states that tourism comprises the activities of persons travelling to, and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes, the WTO International Conference of Travel and Tourism in Ottawa in 1991 which reviewed, expanded, and developed technical definitions stated that tourism comprises: the activities of a person travelling outside his or her usual environment for less than a specified period of time and whose main purpose of travel is other than (the) exercise of an activity remunerated from the place visited (WTO 1991in Page and Connell 2006).

McIntosh and Goeldner (1986) in Ezeah (2002) see tourism as the sum of the phenomena and relationship arising from the interaction of tourists, business suppliers, host governments and host communities in the process of attracting tourists and other visitors. Williams and Shaw (1988) cited in Page and Connell (2006) observed that the definition of tourism is a particularly ‘arid pursuit’ but important if one is to understand the nature, scope, impact and magnitude of global tourism. Having noted all this, I can now add that tourism in a nutshell, is the motivated travelling of a person from his or her usual resident for not more than 72 hours to another place for sightseeing, education or other values relevant to life.

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