Authorities at the the busiest international airport in Europe, Heathrow Airport, have disclosed that an average Nigerian guest at the retail shop spends an average of £1,059 (approximately N314,000) per visit.
Punch quoted the airport’s Retail Director, Jonathan Coen, as saying: “Heathrow’s VIP was originally designed for dignitaries, such as heads of states. But we recognised that the privacy and exclusivity that we offered was something that many passengers are looking for in their own lives.
“Making the service available to first class and business class passengers, we now provide a quality experience that allows our passengers to enjoy a personalised service and we are delighted to welcome many of these from Nigeria,”
He added: “The personal shopping service is incredibly successful at Heathrow, especially with our international passengers. The service started in October 2013 with a five-member team and just over a year, we have grown to 15 for employees who are on hand from the first to the last flight to offer assistance in 38 languages.”
The newspaper reports further:
The statement, according to a related report by the International Business Times, is based on a study complied by the management of the airport.
“When it comes to splashing cash in duty-free, it seems that Nigerians do it best,” the business magazine suggests.
Reviewing Coen’s statement, Ventures Africa reports that Nigerian shoppers enjoy the option of being catered for by members of Heathrow VIP staff who speak Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo languages.
Heathrow VIP was founded on the philosophy of giving a memorable experience to travellers transiting through the airport, says the company’s site.
Apart from retail service, it offers private lounges to those who are waiting for departure or connecting flights.
This is not the first time Nigerians would be given a pat on the back for contributing so much to the success stories of business brands in the United Kingdom. The Daily Mail, a London-based tabloid had, some years ago, claimed that Nigerian tourists were seriously competing with Arabs for the top-spender position in the UK retail market.
While people from the Middle East had a particular season for tourism, the newspaper suggested, fun lovers of Nigerian origin were in and out of the UK throughout the year.
Sadly, the rosy outlook of Nigeria abroad, especially in the UK, appears to mock the harsh economic reality at home and the depressing statistics churned out by the World Bank and other research organisations yearly.
For instance, ranking by the World Bank puts Nigeria as the third country with the largest number of poor people.
Other researchers have also put the country’s out-of-school and unemployment figures at rates many analysts have described as frightening.
The Heathrow VIP’s statement is causing a social media backlash. Many social media enthusiasts describe the report as a reflection of the injustice in the country’s economy.
One Lanre Akinola, a tweeter, says it shows “another spending milestone” of the Nigerian elite. He wonders why the rich continue to waste enormous resources outside the country while the majority of the ordinary people ae wallowing in poverty.
Others who commented on Facebook and Twitter say the overseas spending sprees shows how insensitive the few wealthy individuals are to the plight of the poor masses.