Wole Shenbanjo is the Chief Executive Officer of Shenbee Travels, a travel and tourism agency, located in Ikoyi area of Lagos. With experience in investment banking, enterprise risk management, mergers and acquisitions, PFAs, across AXA Mansard and GTB, he brings a shrewd knowledge of financing and management to the travel and tourism industry. As one of the sponsors of the last Pan Atlantic University's EDC Small and Medium Enterprise Week, Shenbanjo speaks about the challenges and opportunities in the travel and tourism industry locally and globally. He spoke with Charles Ajunwa. Excerpts:
The travel and tourism industry in Rwanda is said to contribute 4.5 per cent to the country's GDP while Nigeria only garners 1.7 per cent from same. Why is Nigeria lagging behind even in the travel and tourism industry in Africa?
The poor state of airport infrastructure and stringent visa policies in Nigeria are some of the major constraints affecting the travel and tourism sector. However, this is being addressed as the government recently announced ease of obtaining visa on arrival in Nigeria.
Can you please tell us some of the features, both natural and economical, that make a destination attractive to tourists and travelers?
By definition, a tourist attraction is a place of interest where tourists visit, typically for its inherent or an exhibited natural or cultural value, historical significance, natural or built beauty, offering leisure and amusement. The features that attract tourists to a particular destination are Good climate (which Nigeria enjoys), beautiful scenery, good and clean beaches, zoos, museums, nice shopping areas and of course all of this within a relatively safe and secure environment.
Obviously, the world has seen constant changes, but more than ever new trends are emerging to challenge pre-existing traditions across industries; what are the trends that will dictate the pace in the travel and tourism industry within the next decade?
In terms of trends, the world is constantly evolving and the effect is being felt in virtually every industry. As a matter of fact, some of the businesses we have today did not exist a couple of years ago and the ones that will change the world haven't even yet been formed.
In the travel and tourism industry, technology has come in to play a major role in how we conduct our businesses. Currently, travel industry market research reveals that 41 per cent of the business and 60 per cent of leisure travel arrangements are nowadays made online. These statistics is bound to grow. Any business that is not leveraging technology is at a great disadvantage. We are at a point where more people than ever are traveling or are interested in traveling and now more than ever they want to do it from the comfort of their homes or offices or even their phones while on the move. Another trend now is more people are looking to explore what we refer to as the less conventional or less popular destinations and want these tour packages personalised. So over the next decade, we would see a lot more online bookings, a lot more tour interests to diverse destinations around the world and heavy reliance.
How can Nigeria, and its African neighbours, position themselves to take advantage of the trends?
A. What we need to do is to position ourselves to capture this new emergence. Let's take a look at the global travel giant Thomas Cook who recently slipped into liquidation and filed bankruptcy, one of the challenges they faced was that they refused to go with the trend. They were still investing in brick and mortar while the world had moved online. So we as Nigerians and by extension Africans need to develop our own progressive digital strategy to make the most in the market.
What roles do the government and bodies such as the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and businesses play to stimulate any meaningful advantage?
The government has a huge role in terms of policies, regulation and support. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism needs to live up to expectations as to why they were set up. I travel around the world attending travel exhibitions and I meet people who are eager to come to Nigeria. What's not to love about Nigeria? 923,768sq km of land area with 200 million population with amazing attractions. There is a huge potential for inbound tourism. Travel and tour companies in Nigerian have the capacity to create packages but the government needs to fix certain things for inbound tourism to thrive.
As a business and active player in the industry, kindly tell us what is Shenbee Travels currently doing to ensure local and foreign tourists get the best experience?
Shenbee Travels is at the forefront of promoting tourism in Nigeria. The honest truth is that outbound tourism is what we can push for now. There is the issue of insecurity, bad road network which serves as a great disadvantage to local tourism. We are a registered and active member of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) which is our pressure group in Nigeria and we lend our voice where necessary to the progress of the travel and tourism industry.
We also participate in travel exhibitions around the world. We were at the Arabian Travel market earlier in the year and are already scheduled to attend the World Travel Market exhibition in London next month. At these exhibitions, strategic partnerships are established with various travel suppliers from all over the world to bring very amazing yet affordable packages to our dynamic clientele in Nigeria.
Basically then, what differentiates Shenbee Travels from the competition?
Shenbee Travels is a full-service travel company. We offer services in the area of business travels, retail travel services, tour packages, cruises, visa advisory services and tickets to numerous destinations in the world. Our vision is clear, to demystify the myth around travels and bring it closer to home so that everyone can afford it. We have a very strong social media presence and a fully functional website where clients can book their trips end to end and are assured of a 24hour active customer service. With as low as N300,000-N350,000 people can actually get tickets, hotel accommodation, airport transfers and tours with payment plans that enable them to "travel now and pay later".
We are at the peak period for travel and tourism; what specifically is Shenbee Travels proposing to ensure tourists and travellers get the best experience, considering the hailing economy and security threats all over the world?
Like I said, Shenbee Travels has a clear focus, which is to always deliver amazing pocket-friendly packages to our clientele. For the festive period coming up, we have carefully created tour packages to a couple of destinations and have begun rolling them out on all our social media platforms and our website. We have packages to Dubai, Kenya, Turkey, Singapore, Mauritius and a couple more destinations. Most of these destinations are tourist-friendly and very minimal security threats.
It is been a pleasure talking to you. What do you wish the country since it just celebrated her 59th independence anniversary?
I wish Nigeria the very best as we just celebrated our 59th year of independence. I am an incurable optimist and a firm believer in this great country. We acknowledge the great efforts of some key principal officers in this administration and I am particularly confident that though it might take time, Nigeria will be great again.