BY LOUIS IBA
The Nigerian travel agency industry holds great financial prospect for investors, says Adeola Sesby-Banjo, Managing Director/CEO of Sesby’s Travels and Tours Limited.
Sesby-Banjo said she started her travel agency from her dining table about 12 years ago making use of analogue phones to make bookings and hotel reservation from international airlines and oversea hotels for clients. She said she was, however, not deterred by the initial challenges that came with pioneering the business. With innovations to meet contemporary trends, patience, hardwork and commitment to the realization of her dreams, Adeola said she has grown the company from its humble beginning into a much bigger outfit with multinational oil and gas, telecommunication, banks, and insurance firms among its numerous clients. She said by the end of 2014, the company had recorded a turnover that was in excess of N1billion Excerpts:
What really motivated you into running a travel and tours business?
People always ask what motivated me to go into this business. And I give them the same reply: the passion to ease the burden of travellers. And I can tell you I have found great joy and happiness in doing this job. It has not been that easy. Let me tell you this, I started from the dining table in my house. Immediately I started, I live, eat, sleep and dream travel. That was 12 years ago. It was a humble beginning. I had gone through a lot of experiences with the age I will describe as analogue. You made all the calls to the airlines offices. You also visit there personally. You did all the correspondences, booking, appointments, changes of flight dates, etc all through personal contacts with the personnel of mostly the international airlines. The type of digital gadgets we have today did not exist. But I said someone must step in to make a difference. And so I launched out. I knew where I was going and I believed in my dream and myself. That was the driving force; to serve, and to make a difference. I make my money making other people, the travelling public happy.
Where we are today
Today we have moved from analogue phones to GSM phones and then to a digital phase where most of our clients simply log on to our portals or platforms to do their travel bookings. By the end of last year 2014, we had a turnover of over N1billion. That tells a story. Sesby’s Travels & Tours Limited is now a full service travel shop offering all year round services. We work with all airlines across the globe: book flights, great value hotels, car rentals as well as online check-in. With more than 450 tours in over 130 countries around the world, we can supply a custom-built trip to suit the need of clients.
What is it that can stand out one travel agency from the other?
The difference is usually to be found on the services that you render. For us, that difference starts from the fact that we are not your ideal travel agent, but we see what we do here as that of a travel planner. We are there with you from the beginning to the end. as you come we pay attention to your needs. We try to know your budget and we assist you plan according to what you have. Even when you eventually travel. We keep in contact. We go the extra mile. We want to know that you are comfortable with the airline that you chose or that we chose for you. And with our on-line portal, we now offer competitive fares, sometimes cheaper than what the airlines offer. All of the tours are highly organised and include an experienced tour leader. We put the service and commitment of our clients at the fore of whatever we do. As a matter of fact consistent delivery of the basics is the foundation of everything we do while driving efficiency. We work hard to get it right the first time all the time. Sometimes though, things do not go as planned.
Honeymoon for newly-weds
Oh, there has been an increase in the number of newly married couples who want to go outside to have their honeymoon. They want to relax after the wedding, they want to see the world; they want to catch fun. Sometimes it is funny when such people approach you as an agent to ask questions on how to go about it. Some don’t actually know what they want. They just have this country in mind, they know a particular tourist site in that country, and that is all. They don’t know the airline that can go there, nor the hotels they can sleep. Some will even tell you of a particular airline they want to go with, but when you tell them the fare, it becomes so exorbitant for them.
But they want to go there for their honeymoon all the same.
In the last couple of years, we have had to assist numerous of such couples plan their honeymoon. We resolve so many of the questions that bother such couples. We show them how to secure their visas, and you know visas are the prerogatives of countries. And we assist them get accommodation and the airlines that can match their funds. We ensure that they are safe. Where they need insurance policies we get them one. And even while in their preferred country, we still do follow-ups to ensure they are safe, comfortable and return home happier. Overall, I can say we do honeymoon package at very affordable prices. I can tell you, we have added so much value to couples who go on honeymoon through us.
Will you be willing to merge with another agency in the future?
In the future, anything can happen. We are very open. This is a dynamic business and we are ready to flow with the time. There is nothing permanent in life. If it comes to that then we are ready. In any business you do, or even in life’s pursuit, you have to remain dynamic. Research and development remain vital to the success of any business in a competitive world such as we now have.
Is the absence of a national carrier affecting Nigerian travel agents?
The issue of a national carrier has been over flogged since the liquidation of Nigeria Airways. If you notice, there have been several arguments going to and fro on this subject. And so I may not be the right person to talk about it.
What then has been the major challenge?
In recent years, the major challenge has come from the banks. Nigerian banks want to do the work of travel agents. We now have a lot of banks who have left their core banking jobs to become travel agents. Banking should be about taking money and giving out money. But these days, the banks want to arrange tours. Banks want to sell tickets on behalf of airlines. There have been a lot of such infiltrations. And we all know that It is only travel agents who are licensed and with the requisite personnel to perform such jobs and not the banks. And it is a threat. This is a big challenge to our industry, to our jobs, and profitability. Cash is also a militating factor. A lot of people want to travel but they don’t have all the money to do so. And we don’t have the credit card system working well in Nigeria. And that is the reason we decided to come out with a product that can help such people via the online portal. We worked with our bankers on this and it has made things so easy these days.
Customers can go to our online portal and get everything about the travel details they want while they also have the option of now paying 25 percent of their money and pay the balance later, usually one week before they travel. And it is interest free.
Source : SunOnline