The British Airways Regional Commercial Manager, West Africa, Mr Kola Olayinka, in this interview with Omolola Itayemiexamines choosing unexpected travel destinations for winter holidays and the preference for United Kingdom
You have been the country manager at British Airways for 6 years, so you are quite familiar with local travel habits and patterns. To which countries do you think Nigerians prefer to travel during winter?
Nigerians love to travel at any time in the year, whether in summer, spring or winter. One major destination that is a firm favourite, for visiting friends and relatives and also because of business ties, is the United Kingdom. The United States and Canada are quite popular with Nigerians too.
A recent British Airways survey shows that Singaporeans travel to the UK to try out new food and also to shop. Although we love to shop, not many Nigerians have very adventurous palates, so new culinary experiences may not top our list. In your experience, why do Nigerians travel, especially during winter?
Shopping of course and football. The 2016/17 Premiership season starts soon and whether travelling on business or pleasure plenty of Nigerians will find an excuse to try and see a game when visiting the UK. We have noticed an increasing tendency for people travelling on business to add a leisure component to their trips. The phenomenon has even been given a name – bleisure travel – and Nigerians are as partial to adding a bit of sightseeing, shopping or a game of football to their business trips as anyone else. Of course, it’s hard to generalise, but popular sights to see would be the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are kept, a river cruise, the London Eye and possibly the London Dungeon or Madame Tussauds. Madam Tussauds is particularly popular with Nigerians especially those with young children. When it comes to shopping, we tend to be big on fashion and technology. On the football front you really are spoilt for choice.
Like you just mentioned Madame Tussauds and also the theatres in the West End are all time favourites on London’s tourist circuit, alongside Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. However, one gets tired of visiting the same places after a while. Which locations off the beaten track can Nigerians explore when they visit the UK?
There are tons of things to see in London. If you want a different take on football, for example, a number of the clubs offer backroom tours of their home grounds. Alternatively, you could learn to ski in Fulham Broadway. The sessions take place on revolving astro turf mats which can be adjusted to suit your abilities. If you’re travelling with younger children, you could visit the Puppet Theatre Barge moored in Little Venice. If your family is a bit older and more adventurous, you may want to take on the rapids at Lee Valley White Water Centre. This is where the kayaking and some other water events were held during the 2012 Olympics.
What about fresh sights to see in the United States and Canada?
I have just started exploring Canada myself, having recently returned from a trip to Toronto, Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa. Canada is a very beautiful country with many interesting cities. There is also a lot of history and culture with Canada and the people are very friendly and welcoming. The variety of food options is interesting and hotels and restaurants are available in very good quantity. For those who want to stick with Nigerian dishes, restaurants offering local Nigerian meals are available especially in Toronto. However, a good afternoon coffee at Tim Hortons and a bag of miniature flavoured donuts do come highly recommended. As for the U.S, the opportunities are limitless and you can really pick and choose from city to city. From the Big apple, New York to the lone Star state of Texas, to Atlanta or Maryland or for the more adventurous, Chicago or the more Westerly parts, travellers are literally spoilt for choice. The good thing is British Airways flies to all major American gateways, so a choice of flights will not be a problem in any way!
2016 has been a challenging year for Nigerians, but it appears the economic difficulties have not significantly impacted the volume of international travel. What are your top tips for traveling in difficult economic times?
I would say do your homework and book early. The internet is a fantastic tool for travellers www.ba.com. You can compare prices and sites such as TripAdvisor give you access to a cross section of honest reviews. Also bear in mind that a number of popular attractions and activities will give you a discount if you book in advance. An added bonus is that advance bookings often mean you can beat the queues. As a general rule of thumb the further ahead you book, the better the deal you will get, so a little forward planning is a good idea.
What special packages would British Airways be offering travellers on its Northern Hemisphere routes in the fourth quarter of the year and what are the best ways to take advantage of these offers?
I will like to keep that close to my heart at the moment, as our Industry is an incredibly competitive one and I will not want to let the cat out of the bag yet. What I can say is that our customers are in for a very big treat in the last quarter of the year. BA will be celebrating 80 wonderful years of operating into Nigeria, so I will say to you and our customers, please keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground!
There’s a new product, British Airways Offers Instant Rewards during Check-in. Tell me about it?
British Airways has commenced an instant rewards scheme for customers in Nigeria, with all travellers who are non-members of the airline’s Executive Club loyalty programme receiving frequent flier miles upon check-in. With this initiative which began last week at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, we have observed that customer details would now be automatically registered for BA Avios, whether or not the customer is a member of the Executive Club. It would be superfluous to say at this point that Nigeria is experiencing challenging economic times. As an active corporate citizen that cherishes its customers, we will keep doing all we can to help.
With the new rewards program, customers will earn miles instantly for every trip. Needless to say, they will earn more miles as they fly, so they can keep a bank of their Avios miles for their children to use as they go to and from school or save them up for a flight to a holiday destination. The Instant Avios programme is also open to travellers who are still planning their trips. They can register for rewards on future flights.