• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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‘I joined travel industry to save people from falling into wrong hands’

‘I joined travel industry to save people from falling into wrong hands’

Tina Nwanya is the founder/CEO of NjeTour Limited, a modern technology-driven travel and tours company.

Following the footsteps of her parents who traveled a lot for business, she developed passion for travel by starting her initial tour packaging to Ghana as an undergraduate at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife.

In this interview with Obinna Emelike, she unravels her passion, successful journey in the industry within a decade, how she has grown her travel brand, impact on clients, among related issues.

For those who are meeting you for the first time, who really is Tina Nwanya?

My name is Tina Nwanya and I like to call myself ‘T’ to the ‘I’, to the ‘N’, to the ‘A’ of NjeTours Limited.

I started taking people on tours to Ghana while I was in my final year at Obafemi Awolowo University Ife. We were in the Tourism Club though I read Sociology and Anthropology. I love to explore and I normally would go to Ghana to spend some time and explore. Later, when I got a job and the management said we needed to organise a trip to Ghana for school children, it was very easy because everything about Ghana was at my finger tips.

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Then, we mostly use road transport, ABC Transport, precisely. One thing I love about road transportation is that you get to pass through many countries such as Benin Republic, Togo and then Ghana. That means you get to see things and you get to experience the countries and the cities along the road. Though it is a long journey on the road, it is worth it.

So, what actually pulled me into the travel industry was when one of my siblings wanted to travel out of the country; fortunately or unfortunately, we fell into the wrong hands of a supposed travel agent. Immediately we found out that he was not a genuine person, my mother insisted we call him and said, ‘Hey, let’s settle this thing amicably. We don’t want to involve the police.’ So, he refunded our money and we just ended the whole transaction with him. It was at that point that I said, ‘Okay, I am going into this industry and then save people from falling into wrong hands. That was one of the major incidents that contributed to my joining the industry.

Again, when one wants to travel out of the country, the amount of money they call makes it seem like travelling is only for rich people. Then I said to myself, you know, ‘If I come into the traveling industry, I am going to make my business very affordable so that everybody could travel’. It was after that that I coined out our slogan, ‘Affordable luxury’! The name of my company is Nje Tours Limited. I sat down with my mother to coin the name, ‘Nje Tour’. So, ‘Nje’ is an Igbo word that means ‘journey’, I am from Orlu in Imo State. So, we just came with ‘Onyeije’, meaning a traveler. That is the beauty of using the traditional meaning and the English words together and it became ‘Nje Tours Limited.’

What has been your experience as a travel consultant?

My journey as a travel consultant has not been easy but fun. My experience has been that of the good, the bad and the ugly. You get a situation where some people will call you and say you are not a genuine person. Some will call and tell me that you faulted in this angle, please send my money back. Then, you also get sweet responses, like, ‘Oh thank you for making my dream come true’, ‘Thank you for doing this, thank you for doing that’. I cannot really say it is a bed of roses because once in a while, you will experience some challenges.

Definitely, you need to know how to manage such situations and they just remind us that we are all humans. In such circumstances, you need to calm down and find a common ground. So, being a travel consultant has not been easy. The sweet part of it is when people come to recognize and appreciate your work.

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What is the unique thing about Nje Tour Limited?

One of the unique things about Nje Tour Limited is that you are sure of getting the right information and having those unforgettable and awesome memories when we package your travels and tours. We listen to you to enable us to plan and advise you on your vacation.

What are the basic requirements for traveling to a destination like Mauritius?

To travel to Mauritius, you need to have a valid travel international passport, which must have at least 6 months validity. You need to also have your yellow fever vaccination card. But it might be different for other nationals, who are not Nigerians.

Then, you need your Basic Travel Allowances (BTA) because you may need to do some spending, buy some things for your hubby, family, and have fun and more. You also need to fill an arrival form, that is the health declaration form and you will have a confirmed hotel and flight bookings.

These are some of the basic things that you need to know. So, this is where we come in actually. If you already have these, then we act based on the information you give to us.

What is the average budget for an East African destination like Kenya?

When it comes to travel, the seasons are important. There are low and high seasons.

For instance, if you are traveling during the low season, say from May to July, the budget for one person, including flight tickets and accommodation in a 3-star hotel, will be N1 million and above. If you convert to dollars, it will be around $1,200 to $1,300.

The amount is inclusive of visa fees, flights, accommodation, feeding, and tours.

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How profitable is the travel agency business?

To be honest, the travel agency business is very profitable because everybody will travel, people will buy tickets, people will lodge in hotels, and husbands will like to surprise their wives and more. So, people would always be on the air, always moving within cities, and exchanges are happening. So, the business is profitable if you know what you are doing.

Can you differentiate between normal tours and business tours?

We have what we call, ‘Biztour’, that is business travel with vacation together and we have business, tourism, travel and tours. For instance, we had a group that arrived from Vietnam recently. It was a ‘biztour’ for some people in businesses across hair, clothing, shoe, beauty, and skincare.

When we got to Vietnam, we made sure that their primary assignment was what brought them to the country. So, after they are done, of course, you do not want to take your bags and then go back. You have to relax and see the environment you are in. We include city tours in our packages because the city tour helps you to explore and understand the country. You will get to the beach side, go to the salon, see the people’s everyday life, make purchases and do your calculations on how to sell and make profit.

You will also meet your business partners, exchange contacts and your emails and everything. You need to relax while doing that and that is business and tourism.

It will take you to experience the town while you are doing business.

We also have those who come for only business. So, for this, they have to do business all through. We set up meetings with partners for you. So, this kind of travel is business and it takes a maximum of three or four days and you are done.

If you are going on vacation, ideally, five days to two weeks is fine. But you need to build your travel history to enable easy visa application for countries like Canada, Australia, USA.

If you are going for educational tourism, Canada, Australia, the USA, and the UK are there. So, if you want medical tourism, India is there. We had those who went to India for medical tourism recently. So, for medical, we guide you through from the hospital to the appointment at the embassy, to your flights, and movement in and out of the hospital. So, these are various forms of tourism.

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What are some of the challenges women face in the sector?

There are plenty of them. If you are married, there are some events that if your husband did not approve, you will not attend. If you are going on a trip as a married woman, you need to carry yourself with wisdom and tact. Yes, you are supposed to be free to do this and that and all you have to, but you need to do them with wisdom.

I remember a tour to Mauritius and then our clients wanted to go to a club. I had to call my local DM person and ask where the nearest club was and we went. You are the team leader, and you need to make sure that everybody is good. You have to be careful how you take your drinks when you are out with the group and need to know how to tactfully communicate your displeasure when certain advances come your way and when to change partners if you get uncomfortable with a client’s advances. You just have to be very wise. So, for women in Africa in mind, I will flow with everybody but I know when to say no, when to get very reserved and when you have to restrict them.

What are some of the memorable moments in your career?

One of the memorable moments in my career is when you put out a tour package and you see a lot of people buying into it. Together with one of my colleagues in the industry, some time ago, we organised a tour to Dubai, and people bought into it so much that we were going with about 100 people to Dubai. It was amazing and that was a memorable moment in my career.

I remember when we did a tour to Japan and when we did a tour to Vietnam, they were great. These are destinations that look difficult to penetrate but we were able to break into them.

These are some of the high moments of my travel business.

The awards are also memorable. One of the first awards I got when we started was from the Akwaaba African Travel Market. It was ‘wow’ and people were asking, Nje Tours, who is that girl? If you come into my office, you will see where I hung it. Sun International also recognized Nje Tour Limited as one of the Top Achievers in Nigeria.

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What is your projection for the future of travel and tours business in Nigeria and Africa?

The future of the travel and tour business in this country and Africa is gearing towards collaboration. That is one of the biggest things that will happen in the travel and tour industry because you can see now more tour operators are collaborating. I cannot do this and you cannot do that. But together, we can. Most of the things that limit one person are easy when you form synergy and with that we can break into markets that we feel Africa cannot. For instance, if someone who wants to open a resort or something flies into Nigeria from France and they want to do a survey and they involve Nje Tours Limited, it is because Africa or Nigeria is an important market, or else they would not fly down.

So many Europeans are looking for places outside their market and Kenya is there in Africa. Anybody that is coming to Africa from Europe, who has not been to Kenya, it looks more or less like the person has not even started to tour Africa.

Are you outbound, inbound or both?

We do Africa, Asia and UAE. In most of the countries that we tour, we have partners. We do not just do tours all on our own because, like I said, collaboration is the bedrock of a successful travel and tours company. From last year, we have done tours to almost all the continents in the world; Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam in Asia. Qatar is coming soon. We do Europe, while Canada and the US are private tours.

We do private tours for specific groups, families and individuals. So, we do tours from UAE, Qatar to Africa; Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, Uganda, Rwanda, Gambia and Maldives, which is one of our best selling destinations.

Read also: Ghana Tourism Authority woos Nigerians with getaway spots

Who are your role models?

My first role model is my mother, who has been traveling right from 18 years. She has been to almost all the countries in the world.

She can tell you something about any country, the culture, the people and the economy.

My father travels too. I could remember when my parents used to package Pakistani visas, as far as when I was in primary school.

Again, another of my role models in the travel and tourism industry is Ikechi Uko, CEO of Akwaaba African Travel Market. He is someone I look up to in the industry. He is very private; he is an achiever and does his due diligence about information before he puts it out. Others are Kelani Abolaji of Aerovessel Travel & Tours Limited and Ifedayo of Fidol Trips.

Where is your dream destination in Africa?

Of course, it is Kenya.