Our goal is to enhance travel industry, says Uti

By Chika Goodluck-Ogazi   |   04 December 2015   |   3:47 am  
Irene Uti-Egbeogu

Irene Uti

IRENE Uti is the Chief Executive Officer of Travel Investment Company Limited. In this interview with Aviation Correspondents, Chika Goodluck-Ogazi was there. She revealed plans aimed at lifting up the Nigerian travel industry and tourism. Excerpts:

It is over a year that your company came up with the idea of consolidation for travel agents. How far have you gone?
We have recorded some milestones and more particular in areas where we have explored wider segments and product initiatives into which our partners can tap into for more visibility and higher profitability.

Touchdown, Quantum, Finchglow and Dees Travels are the firms that came together to form the first ever consolidated travel agencies in Nigeria. Today are these companies seeing themselves as rivals or partners in the industry?
They purely see themselves as partners. There is a common goal here, which is to enhance the efficiency of the Nigerian travel industry. This cannot be achieved by a singular body or agency but by a cohesive action by a league of extraordinary travel agencies with that single vision to transforming the industry’s standards of operations and customer service.

TICO gave birth to this project, are you opened to assisting more travel management companies that want to take part in consolidation?
Indeed, we are open to more travel management companies interested in partnering with us in our quest for best practices. Interests within our scope include training, and networking opportunities. We like to believe that travel agencies that have indicated interest in joining us are equally motivated by the same passion that informed this consortium, which is the overall advancement of the Industry.

At the press briefing to launch this consolidation, the partners disclosed that the four agencies raked in N36b in 2014. What is the true size of the country’ travel industry?
Industry trend reports reveal that the Nigerian travel market generates close to Two Billion dollars annually. Clearly you can see that even at N36billion, which is about 200 Million dollars, this is just scraping the surface. While we are making progress in leaps and bounds, we are identifying new areas to foray into and thereby widen our market share aggressively.

This is a money spinning industry, how could it be made attractive so that it could contribute more to the country’s GDP?
Our first impulse would be to say, if anything, government can aid this industry’s growth by providing better infrastructure – good roads, power and truncating the red tape in getting through regulatory bodies. This would be with a view to making Nigeria a prime destination for travellers and tourists; even beyond recreating Nigeria as a tourist attraction to the international business community, we need to build an enabling environment for investors in the hospitality business. It takes funds to build hotels and refurbish or repackage tourist centres and facilitate electronic platforms that enable smooth logistics or accessible hospitality.

There are too many quarks in the industry. How best could sanity be ensured in the sector?
The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) is the Umbrella Body of all Travel Agencies operating in Nigeria. The association, founded in 1973 by travel agents, was born out of the need to harmonise the needs of travel agents and present them to the airlines and governing bodies. One of its mandates, I believe, is to ensure that they comply with local and international regulations and standards.

What is the future for the industry, considering the poor state of the economy and the increasingly low purchasing power of Nigerians?
The prospects in the industry is huge, the reason is that Nigeria has a unique history and character that somehow seems to defy the norm. Even during the economic downturn, people were still travelling as high traffic in travel transactions were recorded. With better standards of operations and customer service, we can indeed defy any circumstance of “shrinking resources” as you put it.



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