In its bid to meet the yearnings of business and leisure travelers, Tour Brokers International (TBI) in partnership with Cruises International, South Africa has brought the Royal Caribbean to Nigeria where guests are assured of tailor-made cruise at the most competitive prices. . In a chat with Omolola Itayemi, Managing Director, TBI, Uloma Egbuna, stated that the imperativeness on Nigerians taking a cruise cannot be over emphasised and the importance of cruise to the travel industry
Why did you go into travel business?
I don’t like to say I came into it by accident like people would always say. I have always had passion for travel even as a young girl. But after I finished my Master’s Degree, and I started work in a construction company, there was then an opportunity to work with a travel agency, and I said this is something I have always wanted to do all my life. So I took up that opportunity and started working with a travel agency called Abbey Travels and Tours. That was in 1990. So I have actually been in the tourism industry for 26 years now. In Abbey Travels and Tours, I started off as their Head of Tourism that was as early as 1990, nobody was really doing travel as at that point in time, so it was something new in the market and that gave me a passion for tourism. So over the years, I have always been more focused to do tours as against selling tickets and that is why I put a company with my partner Mr. Femi Adefope-Tour Brokers International with aim of bringing tourism into Nigeria and also to let people know that we can always provide for then a one-stop-shop to every destination of the world. And I think that was really the advent Package Holidays when we opened up tour brokers international in 2002.
What are your challenges?
Well, the challenge of running a tour company, is that at the initial stages when we started Tour Brokers International in 2002, we were more like a lone voice crying in the wilderness; people were more interested in going on holidays in the US and to the UK and staying with families and friends because they did not understand the concept of package holidays. So, at the initial stage, it was difficult convincing people but once people now realised that they can actually have a one stop shop and have an all-inclusive package and not have to go and share rooms with their families and friends all over the world. It gradually became a fashion in Nigeria. For us, the challenges have not really been bad because it is something that we have a passion for. And you know when your work is your passion, you go beyond them; you go beyond the call of duty to make a difference. So, we have really had clients who have enjoyed our tour packages and continually we keep having referral business. So, I think apart from the current economic situation which is biting hard with the tour operators because we constantly have to remit money abroad, so it is a question of you sell packages in naira, you are having to do your remittance in foreign currency which has been a major challenge for us. But otherwise I think we have done pretty well.
Why are you introducing this specific tour to Nigerians?
In cruising like I said, it is the holiday of the 21st century, a number of people are tired of having the Europe holidays whereby you book your flight, you go to destination, you stay in the hotel and all that. People are looking for other forms of adventure. And so what we have done is to bring that adventure into Nigeria for people. Besides you will find out that it is one of the cheapest means travel in the sense that you pay once and then you probably visiting four or five people in one cruise on a seven night cruise. You don’t have to pack and unpack, or change flight. So, I take off from Barcelona for example, I find myself in Italy, I take off from Italy I find myself in Greece. I take off from Greece I find myself in Turkey and in all of these I haven’t had to pack and unpack; I haven’t had to change flight. So it is all encompassing and because you pay once and you get all the value. Nigerians are looking for value for money at this point in time, with the present economic situation. So we are saying there are other ways to enjoy your vacation without stressing yourself and having it at good prices. And then we all know that Nigerians love to travel with children and we are family people and cruising is one of the easiest vacations you can have with your children. The parents are not stressed and then the children are having a holiday of a life time. You don’t have to border about what you children are eating, because you unlimited food.
How affordable is it?
The cruise is very affordable contrary to people’s belief that cruises are expensive. For a thousand dollars for a couple, you can get a cruise to the Caribbean. People also need to be educated about cruising. You can get all the luxury at a cheaper rate.
Who are your partners?
We are also partnering with three international airlines: Emirates, KLM and Delta Airlines. Emirates, for Arabian Gulf cruise, KLM for Mediterranean cruises and Delta Airlines for Caribbean cruises. We are coming up with all inclusive packages with these three airlines so that when you are buying a cruise you are also buying an all-inclusive package, which includes your ticket, your visas and also the cruise content.
Who is your target market?
We have a cruise package per person to the Arabian Gulf that is as low as $1,250. She noted. We are delighted that clients will now have a one stop cruise shop in Lagos where guests are assured of tailor-made cruise at the most competitive prices.
This is testimony to our excellent relationship with and support from cruises international and Royal Caribbean’s faith in our company.