Chiamaka Ntia nee Obuekwe (Social Prefect) is a name widely known in the travel and tourism world in Nigeria. Her name, social prefect indeed stands out and is a brand on its own. Having a chat with Chiamaka, she led us into her world as an entrepreneur in the travel and tourism space.
“I am a travel and tourism entrepreneur and I am the CEO of Social Prefect tours. Social Prefect Tours is a Nigerian tourism company that is passionate about African tourism and connecting great people. Social Prefect Tours organizes ‘off the beaten path’, unique and interesting tours and adventures around Nigeria and Africa; we organize monthly group tours, school excursions, tours for children, corporate retreats and team bonding, specialized tour packages, vacations and we offer tour guide services as well to foreigners who are new in Nigeria or locals who want to explore within.”
Social Prefect Tours started purely as a passion project. The entrepreneur who studied International Relations and had wanted to become a diplomat ended up being an ambassador of Nigeria culture through travel.
“I fell in love with local tourism in 2014 and this started when I took a few trips to some parts of Nigeria purely for leisure and discovered that there were lots of beautiful destinations that no one was talking about. Most Nigerians spend their holidays outside Nigeria, yet there were vacation worthy destinations and adventure spots in our own country. I was really surprised at the lack of awareness of local travel and tourism and I felt such a burning desire to share.”
This desire drove her to start her blog simply as a way of documenting her experiences and telling the stories of the places she discovered.
“Due to social media, it was not really hard for me to get an audience. People saw the pictures and videos and also read about my experiences online and many of them were fascinated because they did not know that such places existed in Nigeria. Interestingly, people started asking if they could join these trips and we saw that there was a need for local tourism, especially group tours, therefore, Social Prefect Tours was born.”
The uniqueness of her moniker is probably also an attraction to the droves of people who wanted to be part of her tours.
Unexpectedly, as many would have assumed, she was not the social prefect in her secondary school, she came about the nickname as a result of her outgoing nature.
“The name was given to me by my former colleagues who thought I was really outgoing and friendly; they claimed that I should be the social prefect of our work place (back when I had a regular 9-5) and that’s how the name stuck for me. When I wanted to start my blog, I decided to name it Social Prefect and subsequently the tour company.”
How does she plan for her tours? She does so at the beginning of the year. “We usually draw up a calendar of tours for our monthly group tours that will include all the locations we plan on exploring. We determine the locations based on what our target market would like and since our target market are millennials; we choose destinations and experiences that will appeal to them.”
Yes, she admitted to have encountered challenges in her business. “At the beginning, one of the major challenges we encountered was with pricing of the tours. Local tourism is new in Nigeria, so a lot of people expected our tours to be really cheap not considering all that goes into it; so, we had to compromise at the beginning.”
“However, with growth we were able to understand the market properly and know our target market which has helped us to price better. Marketing and advertising our tours to reach our desired clients was also a major challenge when we started. Social media has always been our number one advertising platform, but it was not easy to get clients at the beginning.”
In addition, she wished she had known early on to have a refund policy because that had its effect on her business. “Not having a refund policy when we started out caused us some losses.”
Taking us through her journey, she mentioned being laid off her job as a time she would consider “the spark” to her success.
“This is an irony because that should be considered as a failure not success. However, that push was very pivotal in my career with taking Social Prefect Tours seriously. If I was not laid off, I would not be where I am today.”
Many youths in Nigeria believe you can only venture into a business when you are in possession of a lot of capital, what are your thoughts on this?
Social Prefect debunked the idea of needing to be in possession of a lot of capital to establish a business. “This is not entirely true and I would speak for my industry. For a business like mine, what we needed was social capital and with this age of social media that was not difficult.”
“As long as you have the ideas and you come up with unique packages and creative tours, you can market it online and get customers. I would encourage youths in the service industry to take advantage of social media to promote their businesses.”
She is of the opinion that a lot of the aspiring/start-up tourism entrepreneurs are going into the business with less market research nowadays.
“They do not study the market properly before going into it therefore they come up with services that no one wants to buy.”
“Another mistake a lot of them make is that they come into the market purely as a fast money making venture without any enthusiasm for the industry. This is bad because the industry is definitely not a fast money making business; it takes time, work, dedication and passion to be successful in the tourism industry.”
However, she agreed that doing business in Nigeria is generally not easy irrespective of the industry. “In the tourism industry, we face some distinctive challenges. Local tourism is relatively new and people are just getting used to travelling within Nigeria for leisure and vacation. As a result of this, we have to do a lot of work to do in convincing people to utilize our services.”
“Also, many of the tourist destinations are dilapidated and that is not encouraging as well. Many of the destinations have great potential, but the government needs to do a lot of work in order for tourism to grow in Nigeria. However, there are lots of opportunities in this industry, especially because it is a new industry.”
She believes the travel and tourism industry needs a lot of work to grow and for that growth to happen everyone needs to play a role.
“The government needs to work on creating better infrastructures, good roads and also making the tourist destinations more accessible and attractive for Nigeria to be considered as a tourist attraction.”
“Also, the media and citizenry need to work together to create a positive image of Nigeria. The major reason why Nigeria is not considered a tourist destination is because of the negative image associated with it and this is because of what has been portrayed in the past.”
“Nigeria is truly a beautiful country with amazing sites and diverse culture and this is what the world needs to know. A positive change in the image of Nigeria would greatly affect the tourism industry.”
Chiamaka ended her interview with us by throwing in advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in the travel and tourism industry.
“Passion and enthusiasm are two of the greatest forces for success. If you are passionate about whatever you are doing, it will show and eventually you will succeed. Passion speaks and it would make you stand out from your competitors.”
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. You have to do work that you truly love. Do not compare yourself with others. We are all unique in our own ways and are all called for different purposes on earth. Focus on your own journey.
“Success is a journey and not a destination; success cannot be fast tracked. You need to put in the work and dedication in order to succeed. The spark is that ‘Consistency is key’.”
“Also never give up; you are closer to your place of great recognition than you think. Keep at it.”