By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Without any doubt, the biggest sporting event happening in the summer this year is the FIFA World Cup 2018. It is also without doubt that Russia will be the busiest destination between June and July when global focus will be on the 11 Russian cities that will play host to 32 national football teams, including Nigeria that qualified for her sixth appearance at the big stage. The World Cup is the biggest football showpiece on earth.
Since Russia got the right to host the mundial, its government has adopted measures to attract tourists and fans with useful information about the host country and the World Cup. It therefore is no surprise that several businesses are taking advantage of this to roll out plans on how to get fans and tourists to Russia. GEO Travel and Tours is one of such.
To give muscle to its claim of truly understanding the terrain, it went the extra mile recently to secure the partnership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) as its travel and tour partner on Russia 2018.
At the unveiling of the partnership with the NFF in Lagos during the week, GEO Travel and Tours showed the media why it is the preferred tour operator of choice that should be number one on the preference list of Russia-bound fans and tourists.
Mr. Alex Ekeoma, a director in the company, toldÂ SATURDAYÂ THISDAY, â€œWe believe that it is the job of a travel agency to not only offer its customers the most enjoyable trips possible. But to also give them a travel experience where their personal comfort is enhanced and their travel needs are met in a manner that is convenient to them, speedy and cost-efficient.â€
Armed with a first degree in Accounting and Finance from BPP, a private university in the United Kingdom and a masterâ€™s degree in International Business from Hult International Business School in Dubai, Ekeoma is one of the brains driving GEO Travel and Tours.
Although he never played the game up to professional level, Ekeoma is passionate about football. He believes the World Cup in Russia presents a perfect opportunity for his company to have a good share of the tourism market. This, perhaps, explains why GEO Travel and Tours did the needful by first partnering football authorities in Nigeria to have the seal of approval.Â It then created packages to fit the pockets of the various segments of the potential fan base who will be heading to Russia for the World Cup. The least of these packages starts from as low as N500, 000. He also explained that Geo Travel and Tours would also adopt a flexible payment plan for Nigerians hoping to book now and pay at a later date.
â€œNigerians will also have the option of choosing from a number of customized packages that gives them the flexibility of choosing to see the first, second or third game only or a combination of the first and second games, second and third or all the games of the Super Eagles,â€ Ekeoma noted.
Interestingly, instead of looking at the profit margin, Geo Travel and Tours is looking first at the social responsibility angle as a Nigeria company that is determined to give maximum support to everyone going to Russia to support the senior national soccer team.
â€œIt is important to make the Super Eagles feel the presence of the home support by turning up a massive crowd in Russia. Geo Travel and Tours will collaborate with the local football loving community to give our full support to the Nigerian football national team by flying proud supporters to Russia to cheer on and support the Super Eagles. Football brings Nigerians together. It doesnâ€™t matter whether you are a Muslim or Christian, southerner or northerner. Football unites us when Eagles are playing,â€ he added.
He went down memory lane to explain how GEO Travel and Tours came into existence: â€œThe company was born because of the increased foreign trips by the management of our parent company- the Neal Group. It eventually started dealing with the travel plans of various corporates. And after six years of being in business it was decided that the company needed fresh ideas and a catalyst. A new team was formed and in just two years, GEO Travel and Tours triples its revenue. Part of our success has to do with the fact that we believe in being unconventional in our business methods and approaches.
â€œWe know the kind of work that is needed in being unconventional and therefore go the extra mile to be successful. Because we have our minds focused on the big picture, we have being working assiduously towards giving our clients the best service through an emotionally engaging atmosphere. Our cutting-edge technology and personnel put us in the lead. This is what we are planning to show again with the World Cup package to Russia.â€
He listed the support base of the company to include, Crenov8, a consulting and digital company with presence in the Middle East, Dubai and Africa.
â€œCrenov8 incorporates management consulting, digital marketing, branding, design, technology research and analysis to solve business problems. It is complimenting GEO Travel and Tours in the area of marketing consultancy and advisory roles,â€ Ekeoma said.
Perhaps informed by the sad experience of some tour operators at the last World Cup in Brazil who failed to deliver on their promise, the GEO boss disclosed that he was working with agents in Russia and Europe as partners.
â€œWe have consultants, people with massive experience in handling the World Cup hospitality business. We have it all covered and there will be none of the sad experience some tour operators made Nigerians go through during the last World Cup in Brazil. With our link with the NFF, our clients are sure of Fan IDs and tickets to matches and hospitality zones. We have it all secured already.
â€œWe are not going to take anybody out of the country without the assurance of good accommodation and match tickets. We have our reputation and name to maintain. We want to leave lasting memories for anyone who is on our package to Russia. We want to demystify Russia and make it as enjoyable as possible for Nigerians.â€
Apart from the World Cup, the tour company is also involved in collaboration with Crenov8 to host two major events this year. They are the Geo Celebrity Crush Easter Dubai Tour as well as the Meet the Farmer Conference also coming up in Dubai.
â€œInstead of going to Europe, with our experience we realise that it is much more rewarding to hold such events in Dubai. They have the experience and the facilities and above all it is a lot cheaper.
â€œThe celebrity tour is promoting Africaâ€™s pop culture in Dubai for the fans as well as the general public while the â€˜Meet the Farmer Conferenceâ€™ in the final quarter of the year is an annual conference focused on agriculture. It is aimed at connecting large scale agro-commodity producers to buyers alike,â€ Ekeoma stated.
The World Cup 2018 will begin onÂ June 14Â with the final match listed forÂ July 15. Nigeriaâ€™s Super Eagles picked Africaâ€™s first qualification ticket to Russia 2018 with a match to spare. Nigeriaâ€™s Franco-German Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, is hoping to surpass Eaglesâ€™ best-ever performance of second round finish. But first, the team has to overcome the Group D hurdles with the likes of Argentina, Iceland and Croatia as opponents.
In Russia, the Super Eaglesâ€™ first match is against Croatia at the 35,000-capacity Kaliningrad Stadium onÂ June 16 at 9 pmÂ (Kaliningrad time). Their second match will fly to Volgograd, where they take on Iceland at the 45,000-capacity Volgograd Arena onÂ June 22 at 6 pm.
Nigeriaâ€™s final group game is against Argentina onÂ June 26Â and the venue is the 68,000-capacity Saint Petersburg Stadium; the second biggest venue at the finals. Time isÂ 9 pm; same time that Croatia and Iceland will battle at the Rostov Arena.