In this interview with Ojo Maduekwe, the C.E.O & Lead Destination Manager of Africholidays Travel, one of Nigeria’s top travel agency, Mrs. Ayomide Condotti, discusses travel in Africa and proffers solutions to the challenges facing the Nigerian travel and tourism industry
2018 Travel Industry Review
One of the biggest topics for 2018 was Tanzania’s partial ban on its visa on arrival policy. Tanzania’s decision to cancel the visa-on-arrival policy for all Nigerians without any formal communication is rather unfortunate. What is more unfortunate is the silence of the Nigerian government to this decision. As a player in Nigeria and Tanzania tourism industry, I can confidently say that Tanzania had a good number of visitors from Nigeria, and tourism receipts from Nigerians positively impacted their GDP.
As a company, AfricHolidays was one of the first and biggest influencers of ‘Travel to Zanzibar’. From an income and trade perspective, it baffles me that while other countries are opening their borders and embracing the ‘One Africa’ policy, Tanzania is closing theirs. It now takes a minimum of three weeks to process a Tanzanian tourist visa and a trip to their Abuja Embassy.
That aside, there were highpoints to Africa’s travel and tourism worth celebrating in 2018. Ethiopia announced Visa on arrival for all Africans, South Africa’s tourism continued to enjoy a boom partly thanks to Visa policies amongst other new tourist regulations by the South African Government, Egypt saw a boom in its health tourism while Kenya and Rwanda welcomed more business and leisure travelers.
African vs Nigerian Travels
At the moment AfricHolidays is focused is on giving our clients the thrill of a relaxed vacation within and outside Nigeria, actively seeking to create more options while promoting local tourism. The local tourism industry is challenged on multiple fronts; a lack of options, shortage of awareness for the little available tourist spots, poor maintenance culture on our tourism spots, lack of tourism grants, lack of the basic structural tool to encourage the development of the industry amongst others.
As a tourist in Nigeria, what are the interesting things to do here? 90 per cent of the answer will revolve around attending music concerts and parties. Of course, we are thankful to the Nigerian entertainment industry for holding the fort, but technically that is not their job, but the travel industry’s role.
The ideal goal would be a Nigeria where each state is a travel destination on its own, each state showcasing its rich culture in a successful revenue generating and deeply entertaining manner. Calabar for its rich Efik culture, Ondo for the food, (hello, Pounded Yam galore), Ogun and Plateau states for hiking expeditions, Bauchi and Gombe for desert safari, I could go on. Nigeria has the tools to actively compete in the travel, and more importantly, the tourism world market space. We have the volume in terms of airline traffic outbound as well as the terrain, weather and culture to support and attract inbound traffic. With the right support, the Nigerian travel and tourism industry is capable is generating more income than the oil and gas industry.
Plans for 2019
For 2019, AfricHolidays wants to be able to showcase the huge value chain in the travel and tourism industry in Nigeria, in not just how much the country can make but in job creation and empowering people. We are also going to be very vocal about the strength of the Nigerian passport and visa approval situations. Not all Nigerians want to relocate; a huge percentage of Nigerians want to travel for strictly tourism, business and shopping purposes.
We will be pushing for the dialogue and the opportunity to proffer other visa assessing tools such that the genuine Nigerian travelers are given the opportunity to truly explore the world. After all, who knows Nigerians more than we Nigerians? In 2019, we also plan to keep supporting the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) in its drive to sanitise the industry.
Future of the Nigerian Travel Industry
2018 saw a consolidation of the Nigerian travel industry under the guide of Mr. Bankole Bernard, President of NANTA, a re-organization and sanitation if I may call it that of the Nigerian travel industry. All Nigerian travel agents are now required to have accredited NANTA ID Card. We make a general appeal to the public to protect themselves and deal only with a NANTA accredited agent. The goal for 2019 is to ensure that the Nigerian public enjoy the best in travel and tour services without fear of being defrauded.
Condotti’s Top Five Cities for 2019
The travel industry is a positive to the health industry, by providing avenues for relaxation for a stressed mind. We all need someplace to go relax. Making this decision can be stressful, if you do not know where to look. You don’t have to feel lost, allow an expert point you in the right direction. Here are Mrs. Condotti’s Top five Travel destination for 2019. Enjoy!
Zanzibar (Tanzania) – As much as the government policy was a negative, I will still recommend this wonderful city to travelers. Everyone needs to go to Nungwi once in their lifetime to chill and experience the serenity of this very beautiful place. I hope the government would rethink its visa on arrival policy, nonetheless I am unapologetic in recommending this wonderful city to any traveler in 2019.
Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) – The second place to visit that would be top of my list will be this beautiful resort town in Egypt, Sharm El Sheikh, which is between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea, and is known for its sandy beaches, clear waters and coral reefs. Photos do not do justice to this town. You just need to visit to get a clearer perspective.
Cape Town (South Africa) – Cape Town will be my third pick. There’s just some good feeling in being able to buy something, eating and strolling on the streets of Cape Town without purpose. The joy in taking in the sight while enjoying the people is so relaxing. Someone can be strolling down the road and begin to dance and then others would join you. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, we don’t speak same language but then we understand each other’s vibe. This to me is life, and light. And to sum it up, you can find some of the most beautiful house music in South Africa.
Banjul (Gambia) – Banjul is like Nigeria, but a calmer and more loving country. Beaches in Banjul and Nigeria are the same, except that they have better structures and maintenance. They intentionally invested in their travel and tourism industry. But the most attractive thing for me about Banjul is that the people are kind. When I started AfricHolidays many years ago, the vendors I had to deal with in the Gambia had never met me, but they dealt with me in trust. Gambians are a beautiful people; they just love and are always eager to welcome you to their culture.
Nairobi (Kenya) – This would be my fifth recommendation. I like the foods in Nairobi. I am not an animal lover, and so all that advertisement that projects Kenya as a place to go see giraffes I find them upsetting; more so because there is more to the country than just the animals. I dislike it that Africa in general, and the country in particular is portrayed this way, just about animals, when there is so much more.
Kigali (Rwanda) – Let me add Kigali as an extra. First of all, I love how Rwanda has reformed itself. Kigali is an example of how someone or something was bad and had hit rock bottom but rose and rebuilt itself. If the people of Rwanda can rebuild Kigali to where it is today then nobody has any excuse. That said, I love Kigali for its cleanliness, security and safety. Also Lake Kivu is a beautiful place to drive to.