The Managing Director, Icon Trip, Adedeji Pelumi, in this interview, speaks on the role the government is playing in promoting Nigeria’s creative industry. Adedayo Adejobi brings the excerpts:
Icontrip is a travel technology company offering travel software solutions to travel agents and hotels. We have partnered with some of the best players in the travel wholesale industry to provide instant availability of hotels, tours, airport pickups and car-hire worldwide. Our global reservation system gives travel agents access to book over 500,000 hotels worldwide, 11,000 sight-seeing options and 1,500 airport pickup options.
We leverage our partnership with global suppliers who give us access to their wholesale inventory which we then make available to travel agents through our cutting edge technology. By the second quarter of 2020, we would be introducing some software’s for hotels and resorts specifically designed for the African market. I have been in the travel industry for over eight years and I kept asking myself why so many things haven’t changed; till the inner me said go ahead and start making the changes. Over the years, we have provided over hundreds of travel agents with hotel reservation running a B2B model. What we have done is to build a global reservations system to make this easier for us and the travel agents. A large number of traditional travel agents in Nigeria are only familiar with booking flights tickets. The industry has also had a large number of travel agents move into selling holiday packages which includes a combination of flight tickets, hotel reservations, airport transfers, sight-seeing activities, cruises etc. The void we are trying to fill is how these travel agents make their bookings. Some of them book through the hotels or tour companies directly, some have partners in many countries while some have global partners. I discovered there was no indigenous travel B2B company providing this kind of service, designed to meet the needs of travel agents so I decided to solve the problem.
Market and Innovation
So far, we have recorded good traction, impressive patronage, and positive feedbacks. We knew what the problem was and we did a good job in solving it. This is for the software as a service; another thing is selling it to travel agents. The market acceptance has been great and our sales teams have done a great job so far. It has been easy for us to sell because once travel agents compare prices, speed and features of our offers; they immediately gain interest and make purchase decisions.
Sometimes, it could be a tough job convincing them to use something new, but we are on a sales journey and we are here to build good and lasting business relationships. At the moment, we only have a physical presence at our office in Ikeja, Lagos. With over 7,000 travel agents in Nigeria, we are on a strategic drive to gain at least a 30 percent market share in the next one year.
The great thing about our global reservation system is that it is expansion-ready. Travel agents anywhere in the world can use our websites as we accept international payments through our payment gateway. We can work with travel agencies worldwide without having a physical presence in every country.
We have been in the industry for years, so we knew what features travel agents would love to see on our platform. Our software has so many other features designed to reduce the time travel agents use in building holiday packages. It’s very easy to use and it requires little or no training. Most importantly, the reason why we have recorded good traction so far is our competitive pricing. Travel agents simply compare the price and discover we have great deals for so many markets.
I knew this was a problem years ago, I saw the gap that was not being filled and I kept on wondering why no one was trying to solve this difficult problem. Clearly because it’s a difficult thing to do and not everyone likes difficult work. In building software as a service, you will encounter problems with writing codes, getting the right interface and not being sure of how long it would take. Also, some other challenges were reaching agreements with our partners. We have lots of partners and we had a lot of back and forth to make sure we give our travel agents the best service and rates.
I would be glad to see Nigeria as a vital tourism hub in the nearest future. We have to solve a lot of problems to do this. The government has done well in securing lives and properties but we still have a long way to go when it comes to attracting tourists and promoting the creative industry. We also have to make do with what we have by curating the forms of tourism we are good at. This includes religious tourism and entertainment tourism. I still wonder why Nigeria has not been able to attract visitors from other African countries for concerts, church programmes, theatre, museum, retail mall, jetty, trains, hotels, Nollywood movies etc. This is being done at the moment but not at the scale it has potentials of reaching. If the government is interested, all these can be achieved.