Travel News

10,697 medical laboratory scientists left Nigeria – Registrar - PUNCH

JANUARY 01, 2024

The Registrar of the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, Dr Tosan Erhabor, says no fewer than 10,697 medical laboratory scientists have migrated abroad in search of greener pastures.

He said in 2023 alone, more than 4,504 medical laboratory scientists left the country.

Erhabor told the News Agency of Nigeria that a policy was being put together by the Federal Ministry of Health to address the current exodus of health workers abroad.

“The total number of medical laboratory scientists that have migrated is 10,697,” he said.

He said the policy, when launched, would regulate migration of Nigerian health workers.

Erhabor said the government had reviewed the hazard allowance of health professionals to boost their productivity.

“Government is considering reviewing the minimum wage and certain peculiar allowance of health professionals. Safe and conducive work environment can be a panacea for reducing the pace of brain drain amongst medical laboratories,” he said.

Erhabor attributed the migration of medical scientists to different reasons.

“Some are leaving as a result of poor remuneration and uncertainties in the career progression in teaching hospitals. Others are leaving in order to study abroad, acquire new skills and enhance their professional status.

“Good numbers are also leaving because of the security situation in the country, poor infrastructure and lack of modern equipment to work with.

“Above all, the rising cost of living is making it practically impossible for an average medical laboratory scientist to provide basic care and quality education for their children,” he said.

Japa: 4,504 Medical Laboratory Scientists Left Nigeria In 2023 - MLSCN - LEADERSHIP

JANUARY 01, 2024

Dr. Tosan Erhabor, Registrar of the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN), has revealed that a total of 10,697 medical laboratory scientists have left the country, including 4,504 that relocated in 2023.

Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Erhabor acknowledged the significant exodus and stressed that the Federal Ministry of Health is actively developing a policy to address the issue. “The total number of medical laboratory scientists who have migrated is 10,697,” he confirmed.

Erhabor explained that the upcoming policy aims to regulate the migration of Nigerian health workers, ensuring a more sustainable healthcare workforce. He also highlighted recent government efforts to improve conditions for medical professionals, including reviewing hazard allowances and considering revisions to the minimum wage and specific allowances.

“Safe and conducive work environments can be key to reducing brain drain among medical laboratories,” Erhabor said..

Statistics reveal that over 4,504 medical laboratory scientists left the country in 2023 alone. Erhabor attributed this exodus to a combination of factors, including poor remuneration and uncertainties in career progression, particularly in Teaching Hospitals; a desire to study abroad, acquire new skills, and enhance professional standing; concerns about the security situation, poor infrastructure, and lack of modern equipment; as well as the rising cost of living, making it challenging for many to provide basic care and quality education for their families.

According to Erhabor, the preferred destinations for these migrating professionals are the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

Australian Home-Price Growth Slows Further as Sydney Cools - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 01, 2024

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s home-price growth showed further signs of cooling in December as deteriorating affordability and rising borrowing costs help take some heat out of the market.

Bellwether Sydney rose 0.2%, while Melbourne declined 0.3% for a price increase in Australia’s major cities of 0.4%, property consultancy CoreLogic Inc. said in a report Tuesday. The weaker pace in the two biggest cities was offset by mining-powered Perth and Brisbane, which rose 1.5% and 1% respectively.

Interest rate hikes, “along with persistent cost of living pressures, worsening affordability challenges, rising advertised stock levels and low consumer sentiment, have progressively taken some heat out of the market through the second half of the year,” said Tim Lawless, research director at CoreLogic. 

The Reserve Bank left interest rates at a 12-year high of 4.35% last month after a surprise hike in November. The central bank, which next meets in February, maintains a hawkish tone as the economy and labor market show ongoing resilience.

Australia’s property market has surprised with a recovery last year even as the central bank raised rates by 4.25 percentage points since May 2022. It has been fueled by a lack of new housing stock and a surge in population growth.

The national home value index rose 8.1% in 2023, a “significant turnaround” from the 4.9% drop in 2022, CoreLogic said.

Bloomberg Economics expects price gains to continue to peter out particularly in Sydney, where housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable with the median home value at almost A$1.13 million ($770,000).

The RBA’s “November rate hike has further eroded borrowing potential, and is still to fully feed through to prices,” Bloomberg economist James McIntyre wrote in a note last week. “That — along with the cumulative effect of tightening through 2022 and 2023 — will weigh on the market until the RBA reverses course and starts to cut rates, likely in 1H24.”

Lawless expects house price growth in the first half of 2024 to be tested by “the interaction of high interest rates and weaker economic conditions.”

“A reduction in the cash rate target through 2024 could help to re-stoke demand later in the year,” he said.

Japa: UK set to lift visa restrictions for Saudi Arabia, 5 other countries - BUSINESSDAY

JANUARY 01, 2024

The United Kingdom government has said that it will lift visa restrictions for passport holders from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, and Bahrain coming into the country very soon.

In essence, passport holders from these countries will not need a visa for entry into the UK.

These countries, all on the Arab Peninsula, will be added to the prestigious list of countries eligible for its Electronic Travel Authorisation system.

According to a South African news agency, the UK government issued a statement announcing that these affected countries are to be moved to the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system.

An ETA is an electronic travel permit for travellers who do not need a visa to visit or transit through the UK for short stays.

Moreover, passport holders from Qatar visiting the UK have been able to enter the UK with an ETA since November 15 this year.

With the Electronic Travel Authorisation, travellers from eligible countries will be allowed to enter the UK from February 22.

Under the new arrangement, eligible travellers are required to apply for an ETA, costing £10 for travel purposes.

According to some travel news organisations, the reason for abolishing the visa entry restrictions for the Gulf countries is that travellers numbering 790,000 in 2022 spent around £2 billion this year.

The ETA scheme will make it easier for people from Gulf countries to visit the UK by cutting costs and visa rules. It’s also meant to boost business and tourism between these countries.

Thailand, China Agree on Visa-Free Travel in Boost for Tourism Recovery - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 02, 2024

BY  Patpicha TanakasempipatBloomberg News

, Source: Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Thailand

(Bloomberg) -- Thailand and China have agreed on a bilateral deal to waive visa requirements for travelers, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, a move likely to accelerate the pace of the post-pandemic recovery in the Southeast Asian nation’s key tourism industry.

Chinese visitors to Thailand will be exempted from visa needs beyond the current temporary scheme ending Feb. 29, Srettha told reporters on Tuesday. China will also grant Thai tourists the same permanent privilege following several rounds of talks, he said.

Chinese were Thailand’s largest group of tourists before the pandemic. They accounted for more than a quarter of the 40 million visitors in 2019 but tallied only about 3.5 million out of the 28 million tourists last year. 

Since taking office in September, Srettha’s government has rolled out several measures to boost tourism — what he calls a “quick win” — to stimulate growth in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy. The sector accounts for about 12% of gross domestic product and nearly a fifth of jobs.

Thailand has also temporarily waived visa requirements for travelers from Russia, Kazakhstan, India and Taiwan and it has also been planning to allow longer stay for tourists from specific countries to induce more spending.

The visa waiver for Thais traveling to China will help “elevate pride in Thai passports,” Srettha said. “The good news is, from March 1, no visas are required for travel between Thailand and China.” 

Thailand is currently ranked 64th on the Henley Passport Index, with its citizens having visa-free access to 80 destinations, below top-ranked Singapore’s 193.

The bilateral agreement will be officially signed by the two countries by the end of February, according to Thai government spokesman Chai Wacharonke. Chinese tourists will be allowed to stay a maximum of 30 days per entry in Thailand and vice versa, Chai told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting. A total of 90 days stay is allowed in case of multiple entries within 180 days. 

The visa exemption will help “further enhance people-to-people exchanges,” Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, said at a briefing, adding that the two countries are “communicating closely on the matter.” 

Earnings Boost

The new visa deal and prospects for a jump in tourist arrivals lifted shares of some Thai airlines, hotel operators and state-controlled Airports of Thailand Pcl, which operates six airports. While AOT gained as much as 4.2%, the most since Nov. 24, Asia Aviation Pcl, which controls the country’s largest budget carrier, jumped as much as 7.5% to the highest level since Nov. 9. Central Plaza Hotel Pcl shares rose as much as 3.4%. 

The visa measures will further bolster the outlook for international arrivals, Koraphat Vorachet, an analyst at Krungsri Securities Pcl, wrote in a note Tuesday. This will help support earnings of operators of airports, airlines and hotels, he said. 

To entice more foreign tourist spending, Thailand’s cabinet also approved cuts in excise tax on fermented alcoholic beverages, Chai said. Wine and sparkling wine varieties will be subject to a unitary tax rate of 5% regardless of price tiers, and a rate of 1,000 baht per liter of pure alcohol by volume, from a maximum rate of 10% and 1,500 baht respectively. A 10% ad valorem tax for local rice wine varieties will be scrapped, he said.

Thailand earned 1.2 trillion baht ($35 billion) from 28 million foreign tourists last year, Tourism Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol said in a statement Tuesday. Malaysian tourists topped the list of visitors at 4.56 million, with Chinese, South Korean, Indian, and Russian tourists making up the rest of the top five. 

The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects tourist arrivals to jump to 35 million this year, including 8.2 million from China. 

--With assistance from Anuchit Nguyen, Pathom Sangwongwanich, Janine Phakdeetham and Dan Murtaugh.

(Updates with Chinese foreign ministry’s comment in ninth paragraph, details of tax cuts on alcohol in 12th paragraph.)

NAHCON Extends Deadline For 2024 Hajj Payment - DAILY TRUST

JANUARY 02, 2024

By Faruk Shuaibu

The National Hajj Commission has extended the deadline for payment of 2024 hajj.

In a statement on Tuesday, its Assistant Director on Public Affairs, Fatima Sanda Usara said the new deadline is now January 31, 2024 as against December 31, 2023.

Daily Trust had reported that the commission was in dilemma over low turnout and might have to extend the deadline.

NAHCON, however, insisted that it would go ahead with the number of intending pilgrims who made the payment before the December 31 deadline.

But the commission has finally backtracked, admitting that the extension was inevitable.

“The extension was in response to the heartfelt concerns raised by religious clerics, State Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards/Agencies/Commissions, State Governors and other stakeholders,” she said.

Usara stated that the federal government’s approval for an extension of the deadline provided an additional opportunity for individuals to participate in this sacred pilgrimage.

“The overwhelming request for extension from various religious communities underscores the significance of ensuring accessibility to a broader spectrum of the faithfuls eager to embark on the spiritual journey of Hajj.

“Consequently, NAHCON is confident that before expiration of the new deadline, with the support of its sister agencies, the commission would have determined the total cost of 2024 Hajj,” she said.

Usara noted that the extension would provide a window for new registrants to do so and by the end of January, those who need to balance up payment would be able to do so as well.

“NAHCON seizes this chance to remind intending pilgrims and other stakeholders that the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has slated 25th February as end date for signing all contracts, signaling the end of payments into IBAN accounts. With this extension, NAHCON has barely a month to finalize payment of all Hajj deposits into its IBAN account for the 2024 Hajj.

“This extension, even though overstretches NAHCON’s preparatory timeline, reflects the Commission’s Chairman, Malam Jalal Ahmad Arabi’s commitment to accommodating the concerns of stakeholders. He expressed gratitude to religious leaders, state boards, and governors for their advocacy on behalf of the pilgrims. Malam Arabi described this collaborative effort as a testament to the shared commitment to facilitating a meaningful and inclusive Hajj experience for all. He prayed all Hajj handlers would utilize this opportunity well for success of 2024 Hajj operations,” she added.

UK’s “Intelligent border” could allow people in without showing passports - BUSINESSDAY

JANUARY 02, 2024


The United Kingdom (UK) border office has proposed new immigration procedures to replace paper passports, using facial recognition and biometrics to ensure seamless and frictionless boarding into the country.

The office plans to leverage advanced technology for this “intelligent border” project by building hi-tech gates that can automatically identify people arriving in the UK without having to present a physical passport. According to them, the gates will feature a “much more frictionless facial recognition system” without going through an eGate or speaking to a Border Force officer.

The Home Office intends the procedure to be implemented for all visitors to the UK who do not need a visa for short stays, including British Nigerians and other European nationals.

The government hopes this new implementation will match standards in other countries which use facial recognition for several nationalities like Dubai airports which claim that “five seconds” is all it takes for passengers to pass through immigration procedures, thanks to their smart gates.

Phil Douglas, director-general of the UK Border Force, who proposed the plan, drew inspiration from Australia and Dubai where he expressed approbation for his seamless boarding experience.

“I had to apply for an electronic travel authorisation in advance and used my smartphone to read the chip in my passport. That sent the image of me in the chip to the Australian authorities. When I arrived in Australia, I didn’t even have to get my passport out of my bag. It is a really interesting concept,”

The UK Border Force assures that details of all travellers will be recorded to simplify the boarding process, stating that passport details of British and Irish travellers have already been obtained as part of the UK’s current application process.

“We will know a lot more information about people upfront. We will know if they’ve been in the UK before. We’ll know what their compliance with immigration laws is. And we’ll know if there’s any records of them on our security systems. So there will be some people who won’t be getting on the plane,” Douglas said.

In December last year, the UK Home Office unveiled a plan to cut net migration and restrict low-income families from bringing families as part of a larger goal to cut down on about 300 thousand migrants.

Trials for the intelligent borders are to begin in airports around the UK this year with a full implementation and hardware procurement following a success.

The UK is already rolling out electronic travel authorisation (ETA) for foreign arrivals including Nigerians jetting into the UK who do not need a visa. The scheme costs £10 per passenger.

Nigerian Govt extends 2024 Hajj registration till Jan. 31 - DAILY POST

JANUARY 02, 2024

By Matthew Atungwu

The Federal Government has okayed an extension of the deadline for the 2024 hajj registration by intending pilgrims.

The Assistant Director, Public Affairs, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, Mrs Fatima Usara, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

She said the extension was in response to the heartfelt concerns raised by religious clerics, State Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards, agencies, commissions, governors and other stakeholders regarding the closure of 2024 Hajj registration.

“The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) is pleased to announce the Federal Government’s approval for an extension of the deadline.

“The new date is set for Jan. 31, providing an additional opportunity for individuals to participate in this sacred pilgrimage.

“The overwhelming request for extension from various religious communities underscores the significance of ensuring accessibility to a broader spectrum of the faithful eager to embark on the spiritual journey of Hajj,” she added

Air Canada ranks last for on-time performance in North America - THE CANADIAN PRESS

JANUARY 02, 2024

MONTREAL — Air Canada notched the worst on-time performance among large airlines in North America in 2023, according to a new report, even as the carrier surged back to profitability.

The country's biggest carrier landed 63 per cent of its flights on time last year, placing it last among the continent's 10 largest airlines. That means roughly 140,000 planes rolled up to the gate late — more than 15 minutes after scheduled arrival.

The score was five percentage points below the second- and third-lowest carriers, JetBlue Airways and Frontier Airlines, respectively.

Canada's other major airline, WestJet, placed seventh in North America with a score of 69 per cent.

"When I joined the industry, good OTP was 75 per cent-plus," said Willy Boulter, a Cirium advisory board member and 35-year aviation veteran.

Targets have gone up since. Delta Air Lines came first with an on-time performance (OTP) of 85 per cent, followed by Alaska Airlines at 82 per cent.

Better technology in areas ranging from jet engines to air traffic control have made on-time goals more achievable than ever, said Boulter.

Other, smaller airlines in Canada and the U.S. may have had worse on-time records than Air Canada's, but weren't included in the report due to their size.

Air Canada said its outcomes reflected challenges that affected carriers across the country last year.

"However, our operation has been consistently improving so that by year-end our monthly on-time performance showed a double-digit improvement over July, a significant increase," said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick in an email.

Forty-nine per cent of Air Canada flights in July arrived late, according to Cirium.

The airline's focus remains on reducing the number of delays and cancellations in 2024, Fitzpatrick said.

In the past, the Montreal-based company has pointed to a shortage of air traffic controllers, bad weather and a network running at full tilt amid high demand, which can mean longer recovery times after a disruption.

CEO Michael Rousseau has acknowledged Air Canada's relatively low ranking, including after a wave of flight delays in June and July.

Despite more staff and revamped technology, the carrier's operations failed to meet "expected levels," he told analysts on a conference call in August.

The chief executive identified "severe weather" — thunderstorms, in particular — and global supply chain issues as among the culprits.

He also acknowledged that high load factors — when all planes are almost fully booked — do result in more "spilling traffic" after flights are cancelled, as passengers scramble to rebook with competitors and may arrive hours or days later than planned.

John Gradek, who teaches aviation management at McGill University, noted that those challenges were not unique to Air Canada, despite its tardier track record. Air Alaska deals with inclement weather too, for example.

Air Canada is "counting on Canadians" to prioritize availability over punctuality, Gradek argued.

"It's more important for us to be able to get a seat to Jamaica or to Dubai or to Bangkok, and the heck with the on-time," he said. "And that's a shame."

Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, says Air Canada's explanations for its low on-time standing "ring hollow."

“WestJet is flying the same weather, the same air traffic control environments," he said.

The results stem partly from a failure to ensure the number of tickets align with the capacity of the whole flight ecosystem, from airport slots to Nav Canada staff.

“The airlines cannot just pretend that the capacity’s in place," he said. “There are no proper systems in place to rein in airlines that do this type of behaviour.”

The summer travel peak poses a slew of obstacles, as carriers look to maximize their fleets to fly as many customers as possible.

"The harder I work the airplane, the higher the risk that that airplane will have a mechanical issue ... and that these airplanes will not operate on time," said Gradek, who worked at Air Canada for 18 years.

"Delta does value on time performance quite highly. Air Canada does not," he claimed, stating that its last-place results partly reflect business decisions around scheduling and route choices.

Other reasons can account for delays. The cold weather in Canada means planes need to be de-iced as early as October, runways need to be cleared of snow, and landing and takeoff times can be more spread out.

The frosty hurdles make achieving parallel on-time performance north of the border a challenge, experts say.

Over the holidays, however, the fairly mild temperatures across the country meant that most passengers enjoyed smooth sailing. That outcome stood in contrast to the tales of travel nightmares from 12 months earlier, when thousands of passengers saw their flights delayed or cancelled largely due to poor weather.

In peak travel season, some fleets are often stretched too thin to find a backup plane right away, Gradek pointed out.

Strained capacity in the sector extends to labour as well, from pilots to baggage handlers. In July, the International Air Transport Association called out air traffic control organizations in North America, which include Nav Canada, for staffing shortages that "continue to produce unacceptable delays and disruptions."

Nav Canada has acknowledged that occasional delays at the country's biggest airports are related in part to a lack of air traffic controllers. More than 400 new recruits are now in training, with 600 more slated to be hired in the next two years, the organization said.

On average, every minute of delay for one airplane costs the carrier about US$100 on average, according to aviation analyst Tony Brooks, drawing on 2022 data from the U.S. Department of Transport.

"It is estimated delays cost over US$1 billion each year to the industry, a vast sum which could be put to better use towards investment in airline and airport infrastructure," he said in the Cirium report.

Air Canada earned $2.08 billion in profit in the first three quarters of 2023. The resurgence followed 11 straight quarters of losses totalling $10.01 billion between 2020 and 2022, when demand for travel dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 2, 2024.

Air Canada has worst on-time performance among North American carriers: Cirium - YAHOO FINANCE

JANUARY 03, 2024

Air Canada (AC.TO) had the worst on-time performance among the largest airlines in North America in 2023, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

Aviation analytics firm Cirium says 63 per cent of the more than 376,000 flights Air Canada flew last year arrived on time, meaning the flights landed within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. That put the airline in last place among the 10 largest North American carriers, behind JetBlue Airways (with a 68 per cent on-time arrival rate) and Frontier Airlines (69 per cent.)

WestJet Airlines ranked 7th, with 69 per cent of the more than 182,000 flights flown in 2023 landing on time. Delta Air Lines topped the list of North American airlines, with 85 per cent of its more than 1.6 million flights flown landing on time.

While the Canadian airlines lag many of their American competitors, last year’s on-time arrival rates are an improvement from the prior year, which was marred by delays, cancellations and airport chaos across the country. In 2022, Air Canada was ranked last, with 55 per cent of the more than 150,000 flights it flew arriving on time. WestJet ranked 9th in 2022, with 59 per cent of the nearly 95,000 flights it flew arriving on time.

Last year saw pent-up travel demand remain strong, particularly during the peak summer travel season, as operations at Canadian airports improved from 2022.

Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau said on the company’s most recent quarterly conference call in October that the peak summer travel season put “extra pressure on the operations”, but that on-time performance “progressively improved.”

Travel demand has so far remained resilient in Canada, although the post-pandemic pent-up demand appears to be tapering off. At the same time, Statistics Canada reported that airfares fell 17.4 per cent in November compared to the same month in 2022.

"In 2023, North American airlines underwent a remarkable transformation," Cirium product marketing director James Hetzel said in the report.

"As we look ahead to 2024, we anticipate sustained operational excellence as challenges arising from labour shortages and airport infrastructure are gradually addressed and resolved."

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.


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