As the Brazil 2014 World Cup draws closer, Demola Ojo highlights how travel and sports service providers are positioning themselves to help ease potential travel hassles...
The World Cup in Brazil is still more than four month away. However, since the draws on December 6, when the 32 teams got to know who they would be playing and in which cities, players, administrators and fans have begun preparations in earnest. The beauty about the 2014 World Cup is not just the fact that it would take place in a country that has some of the most passionate and fanatical football fans on earth, but also because Brazil is renowned for being one of the world's most intriguing and exciting destinations, and a tourists' delight.
From the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and the beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro, to the West African heritage and the old colonial structures of Salvador, to the unspoilt nature of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil has always retained the ability to thrill. It isn't just about natural beauty though. The lifestyle of the many multiracial cities in Brazil encourages fun and party, hence the various carnivals in Brazil annually, especially in February. It is no wonder that hosting the largest single sport event in the world would come naturally to the South American economic powerhouse. It is also not a surprise that football lovers and tourists globally are smacking their lips at the prospect of visiting the "Samba" nation for days or weeks as the case may be, between June and July this year. The Nigerian Angle For Nigerian football fans and tourists in general, the desire to visit Brazil should even be more and not just because we would arrive Brazil as African champions. Apart from a shared love for the beautiful game, there is also shared history between both countries. Many of the slaves that ended up in Brazil during the trans-Atlantic slave trade were from West Africa. A large percentage of them were from places now within the borders of what is now known as Nigeria. Their legacy lives to this day, especially in places like Salvador in Bahia. Here cultural and religious similarities are glaring. The Yoruba language is alive and kicking, along with traditional Yoruba deities and their adherents. Cuisine is another area where West African traditions have been maintained through the centuries.
The Downside of No Direct Flights Considering the history between the people of both countries, Nigeria and Brazil should have closer ties. Along with language (Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, while it is English in Nigeria), connectivity is the biggest hindrance to relations between the people of Brazil and Nigeria.
It is unfortunate that for about 20 years, there have been no direct commercial flights between cities in Nigeria and in Brazil. This means that it sometimes takes about two days to get from one country to another; this for a trip which wouldn't take more than seven hours if flying direct. Nigeria's qualification for the World Cup has once again put this issue of connectivity into focus and hopefully, will help the push for direct flights between both countries. In the meantime, supporters of the Super Eagles and Nigerian tourists would have to defy the twin barriers of language and connectivity to join in the party kicking-off in Sao Paulo on June 12. Using Trusted Service Providers With the above considerations, it was good news when a week ago, the Nigerian Football Federation partnered with renowned online tour operator, wakanow.com, to help ease travel plans for the Nigerian football family in particular and other would-be travellers to Brazil in June.
As the NFF-appointed exclusive tour operator for the 2014 World Cup, Wakanow has varied packages designed to suit a wide range of intending travellers. They range from single-match 5-day packages (which covers the Nigeria versus Argentina match in Porto Alegre) to a 12-day package that encompasses all three group games Nigeria will be involved in. These packages are from around N600,000 to N3miilion depending on the variables.
Entrusting one's travel plans to a reputable tour operator means issues like procuring visas and barriers of language are dealt with easily. Airport transfers and transportation from hotel to stadium are also taken care of. It is also noteworthy that Wakanow have the option of chartered direct flights to cities in Brazil. This surely, would go a long way in enticing supporters of the Super Eagles and lovers of Brazil as a destination to jump on the World Cup train. For example, Nigerians can travel from Lagos straight to the International Airport at Porto Alegre to see the match against Argentina. Beyond the First Round and Tailored Travel It is obvious that for prospective travelers, there are so many things to consider. What if Nigeria goes beyond the first round? What if I would like to see matches other than those involving Nigeria? What if I would rather stay in Rio or Salvador rather than Sao Paulo which is the operational base of the Super Eagles? Travellers to Brazil should realize that it is such a huge country and travel between match venues will almost always involve flight. While this this is the age of "Do It Yourself", it is still very important to assign responsibilities to professionals when necessary. Apart from its mainstream packages, Wakanow can also tweak packages to suit individuals. Integral Sports is another Nigerian-based organization gearing up to help its clients with the logistics of bedding-in in Brazil and thus ensure an unforgettable World Cup experience.
Integral is a sports-focused consulting practice with specialisation across the sports marketing value chain - sponsorships, activations, media rights, hospitality and more. Within the hospitality space, Integral helps brand owners and corporations with some of their corporate hospitality interventions.
While speaking with THISDAY, Abimbola Ilo, managing director at Integral said, "For the World Cup, we are working with a handful of local destination management companies (in Brazil), including MATCH Connections operated by Grupo Aguia, who are the preferred logistics provider for the competition.
"What this means is that we therefore have solutions for the entire range of logistics required by people visiting Brazil - transportation, internal flights, access to accommodation inventory, tours and sightseeing opportunities, interpreters, tour guides and everything one would expect from the largest destination management group in Brazil." Ilo further explains how and why Integral will benefit intending travelers to Brazil. "Due to our working relationship with Soccerex, we have been going to Brazil now for the past four years, since when the Soccerex Global Convention has been hosted by the Rio Government, using that platform as a sort of test case for the World Cup.
That has given us the opportunity to have firsthand knowledge of the country, and also exposed us to a plethora of local businesses to partner with. When one looks at the logistics required to plan a seamless trip to follow Nigeria for instance - three different host cities with a combined flight time between the cities of approximately 6 hours - one begins to understand that there are complexities in planning these incentive trips which requires a high level of professional expertise and market knowledge. That's what Integral brings to the table: end-to-end, start-to-finish logistics solutions." Going Forward Despite the challenges, planning towards the World Cup is an exercise worth looking forward to. The TRAVEL section of this paper will from time-to-time, furnish readers with relevant pieces of information; from the cities where Nigeria would play her group matches - Cuiaba, Curitiba and Porto Alegre - to a general overview of Brazil as a tourist destination, to how best to take advantage of the opportunities to get an unforgettable World Cup experience.