Ifedayo Andrew-Ogunbayo is the CEO of Fidol Trip and Travel Services, a Nigeria-based Travel Management Company. She sheds light in this interview on starting up in the travel and tourism industry.
By Ifedayo Andrew-Ogunbayo
I am Mrs. Ifedayo Andrew-Ogunbayo. I am a graduate of Estate Surveying and Valuation from the Federal University of Technology, Minna in Niger State Northern Nigeria. I am the CEO of Fidol Trip and Travel Services, a Nigeria-based Travel Management Company.
At Fidol Trips, we handle travel advisory services like flight reservations, visa assistance services, hotel bookings, travel insurance, destination wedding planning, local and international tour planning, passenger assistance services, training, MICE and a lot more.
As the CEO of Fidol Trips, I am saddled with the responsibility of managing the general day-to-day operations of the company.
Firstly, to be a participant in the travel and tourism space, importantly, there must be passion because without the required level of passion, everything can be frustrating. When the issue of passion is sorted, the next thing to consider very importantly is the associations you belong to and the company you keep in the industry.
It will be important to put in mind that being a formidable player in the travel and tourism space requires a lot of training and retraining. It is not a profession one just jumps into without properly preparing for it. That will be tantamount to setting oneself up for failure.
It is instructive to note that to operate effectively and to be seen as serious, you must operate with a registered business or company name. Most clients find it strange to make payment into a personal account. If you advertise a corporate account, they are more at peace in making payment for services.
It is also important to join relevant professional associations. The associations to consider joining include but definitely not limited to the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), African Business Travel Association (ABTA), Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), and Nigerian Tour Operators (NATOP) amongst others.
Also, it is important to have a website where your activities and products can be advertised. This also addresses the fact that emphasis must be placed on knowledge of the products and the use of eye-catchy graphics to explain what products you have to offer.
Very importantly, one must have a colleague that is accountable or role model who you look up to in order to learn from. This will help to understand the various aspects of the travel industry and products.
The knowledge of at least 2 Global Distribution Service (GDS) which can be called booking engines, is also very important and that will come by way of training. There are 3 major GDS packages; Amadeus, Sabre and Galileo. They all have their merits and demerits hence; one needs to study them to know which of these that the promoter will study deeper. It is safer to know all three however, the knowledge of the application of at least two (2) will be seen as the starting point.
In the past, there was a notion that those in travel sector of the economy are ticketing agents. These days, the job of a travel profession transcends beyond just issuing travel tickets. It is a total package hence, the professionals should be known and referred to as Travel Consultants by virtue of thefact that they are advisors on every matter that relates with travel from ticket to visa to accommodation and so on.
Also, since you may want to operate on a large scale, quality staff will be required to ensure that there are no lapses on the part of any of your team.
Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Like explained earlier, passion is very important. If the passion is genuine, turning it into portfolio will be easier. The Social Media is also a very veritable tool in the promotion of the business. It is advisable to have very interactive and engaging social media pages where industry updates, new deals, products and the likes are on display.
One must also be ready to invest and re-invest in promotion of these deals and to attend programmes and seminars locally and internationally. These involves looking out for familiarization trips in other countries as organized by their Tourism Boards. These help to improve knowledge of other destinations and the more destinations you know about, the more product you have to sell as the major item on offer for sale is the various destination.
Also, one thing that must be put in mind is that the money does not come immediately. It may take a little longer but do not be deterred as surely, it will eventually come with improved hard work and diligence.
Just like in almost all areas of business in Nigeria primarily, access to funds for start-up is a major challenge especially when you consider the minimum cost to start a small business. The infrastructural challenges in Nigeria especially with power is another issue one has to grapple with too. Very importantly also, a lot of fraudsters are in Nigeria parading themselves as good clients however, one must be very finicky to ensure that he or she does not fall into their hands as they come with the sweetest of stories.
Getting dedicated and passionate staff to help do the job is another challenge that will be faced. With due diligence and not discounting the power of prayer though, all these challenges are surmountable.
Also, there is corruption and bribery in high places despite the very unfavourable government regulations. These are just a few of the challenges faced in setting up a small firm as an entrepreneur.
Trends in the Travel and Tourism Industry
Tourism has changed from being a service industry offering you flight, room and some food to offering you experiences. Firstly, the travellers want to have a memorable experience of their trips. In that case, it is important for tour operators to ensure their minimum expectation is at least met.
The trend now is for a travel consultant to guarantee clients easy access to their products and services. People want to be able to make their bookings from the comfort of their homes using their mobile phones and other electronic devices. This dictates that travel consultants have a very responsive website and mobile app. This is the new reality!
There is a new wave of promoting local tourism now. In the past, when one mentions tour or holiday, the first impression is foreign tour however, the trend has changed now. It is important to note that local tourism should be encouraged now rather than channel all energy to the sale of foreign tours.
Ease of Business in Nigeria
It is absolutely true that there is a lack of ease of doing business in Nigeria, however, rather than fold one’s hands and complain, it is better to be up and doing to ensure that one contributes to the economy of the nation, Nigeria. The truth is that if we all sit and complain, nothing gets done. The solution is to join others to ensure the space becomes better.
The Place of Huge Capital in Starting Up
It is actually a fallacy! The major thing to do is firstly do a detailed market research, do your trainings and get an internet-enabled laptop and one can actually start up in a corner of your house. As time goes on, expansion can then take place. If the expansion is done in a systematic way, it will nullify the aspersion that one needs a huge capital to start up.
Although, that is not to say if the huge capital is available, one should not start on a larger scale. It is a matter of availability and readiness.
Other Business Opportunities in the Travel and Tourism Industry
Most people like I said earlier allude being a travel consultant to mean a ticketing agent. This is absolutely wrong! Other business opportunities include hotel reservations, car rentals services, railways, travel insurance, packaged tours and activities, cargo handling services, visa assistance and processing services, planning destination weddings and other events, planning events such as weddings, meetings, launching, team bonding, training other travel consultants and so on.
Firstly, the government should make the sector more attractive with the provision of incentives to operators and showing a lot more commitment and interest in making the industry a better one. Also, there has to be a deliberate and genuine interest from the leaders to look away from oil as the main stay of the country as tourism is the next big thing. There should be total support for local tourism by ensuring there are good and motor-able roads, reduced hotel and airline taxes, granting tax holiday to attract direct foreign investments while also supporting the MSME with the provision of funds for soft loans at cheap interest rates.
The government should also encourage the practitioners by committing to more training of the operators. This can be done with the rebranding and repositioning of the existing government training institute and creating new ones. Also, Nigeria needs to have a more vibrant Tourism Authority like Kenya, Dubai, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the likes where they use every opportunity to promote tourism activities to prospects from within and outside their countries.
This will help to boost the industry!
Most importantly, the government should build up a professional network for themselves by taking advantage of training opportunities in the field. They should also carve out a niche for themselves to become an expert in something. It is also great to experience it as much as possible to be able to sell it better. This can be achieved by participating in familiarization trips, agents’ discount rates and lots of other opportunities.
It is also important to master the basics so as to always be on top of their games. Another way one can create a way is to have a brand identity. This will make people know you for what exactly you offer.
Lastly and very instructively, technology can help to achieve a lot. They must be creative enough to take advantage of this technological advancements. It will help to be more relevant and the dream of becoming a great travel advisor will be much more easily achieved.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.
Ifedayo Andrew-Ogunbayo is an Estate Surveyor by profession. She was educated at Federal University of Technology, Minna, graduating with a B.Tech in Estate Management. In 2012, she setup her business Fidol Trip and Travel Services where she provides customer centric and tailored holiday and travel packages. Ife was the Executive Secretary of African Real Estate Society (AfRES), African Real Estate Society (AfRES), National Association of Nigeria Travel Agents (NANTA), American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), and African Business Travel Association (ABTA) amongst others and she has volunteered with the International Red Cross Society as a First Aider. She is a recipient of several Tourism Awards, a Trainer and Speaker at Tourism events.