Africa: Policy somersault is seriously affecting travel industry, says Olotu
Daisi Olotu is the managing director of Dees Travels. He is one of the pioneers of the first ever merger of travel companies in Nigeria known as Quantum Travels, comprising Touch Down Travel, Finchglow and Dees Travels. He spoke with WOLE SHADARE at his new head office in Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, on developments in the Nigeria travel industry
How would you describe your sojourn in the travel industry so far?
We are today (The day of the interview) celebrating Dees Travels 19th anniversary. We also moved to our corporate head office (315B Ikorodu Crescent, Dolphin Estate in Ikoyi). To the glory of God, as the years roll by, Dees Travel has been waxing stronger.
Nothing good comes easy. It comes with a lot of hard work, consistency and as a tennis player; we always have our eyes on the ball. What that means is that we as a company have a goal and the goal is what we are working towards without any distraction.
That has really helped us. It is not an easy task; we had to make a lot of sacrifices. We had to put everything in it; your time, resources without looking back.
How big is Dees Travel now, considering that your life has been inspiration to many? I knew when you started in a small place in Ikeja, but today, you have moved into a bigger space?
The Ikeja branch was our third outlet. Today exactly makes it 19 years ago.
Three days ago, I called the pastor that dedicated our first office in Abibu Oki, inside the market. He said whatever he was doing would be dropped to be here and he was the first person to get to this place today. He said a lot of things about me which I was not even aware of. I have been in this business for over 30 years. I love the job. I have passion for it inspite of all the ups and downs, I still manage to ensure that I keep my eyes on the ball because I have a goal. This is one of it. We are just starting, we still have a lot of things to do. You know in airline business, the discipline must be there. If the discipline is not there, you are not going to get anywhere.
How supportive is your wife to this business?
Any time they see you, your wife is there by your side. I can’t quantify her support. It is like when you say you are supporting your own business and somebody is saying how much support you are giving to your business. It must be total. God has given me a wife who is a sister, mother. She is everything to me. We have been forging ahead, pushing to get to where we are today. She has been very supportive.
You seems to have very dedicated and hospital crop of staff, how have you been able to manage them to achieve this level of success?
We needed to motivate our staff because our business is such that they know what is going on. They know where we are and where we are going. The moment you come in as a member of staff, we tell them this is our vision and we have to be consistent to get to where we are going. They are trained to be warm, courteous and respectful and I am happy they are doing that very well.
What is the latest development on the merger of the four travel agencies, with your agency as one of them to form Travel Investment Company Limited (TICO), the biggest merger, to consolidate on the travel industry?
TICO is there but we discovered that this individualism of a thing is actually not allowing us to thrive.
When we are ready to drop our individual names and become one, of course, we are going to be the biggest not only in Nigeria but in Africa. Some people in the business are actually not comfortable with that and they are working against it.
If you look at the four of us that came together, we are ranked among the top five in the sector, leading travel agencies in Nigeria. You can imagine what happens if four leading travel agencies come together; you can imagine how big they will be.
However, like I said, TICO is still there registered as a liability company. Anything can happen at any time. We are sleeping right now but we will wake up.
How big is the travel industry in Nigeria?
It is very big industry but the thing is that we are even yet to start.
What is our population in Nigeria?
The population of Nigeria if not up to 200 million, we are very close to 200 million because nobody can even say precisely this is the population of Nigeria.
What is the number of people travelling?
If you look at the number of people travelling, it is not up to five million. You can imagine if 10 million people decide to start travelling, that will be times two of what we are doing right now. Right now, it is not as if some of us in the business are not doing well.
The issue is how do we increase the number of people travelling in Nigeria?
How do we get to tell people that listen that it is time to start going for tourism? Travelling can be from Lagos to Uyo, it could be from here to Jos, travelling could be within Nigeria.
In Europe or United States, you could see them moving enmass from one location to the other in the name of tourism. People are happy, people are spending money, enjoying and having a good time. There must be a sort of reorientation. Some work throughout until they die. They need to know that they can enjoy their money, relax, travel for a weekend. It is not by travelling abroad. It can be within.
Ask some people to come and travel, they will tell you they don’t have the money. It is not as if some of them don’t have the money, they will tell you that if they spend all they have on travel; on holiday, they will ask you what are they going to eat when they come back? It all starts with Nigeria’s income per capita thing. It speaks a lot of volume about moving people around and people having a good time. Minimum wage of N18, 000; somebody can put N18, 000 in his pocket right now and by the time he comes back it has finished.
Government needs to be sincere. We need a sincere government to look at what it costs a man to survive in a month?
We are not talking about how people are robbing government, doing deal. Why won’t they do that? You have put somebody earning N18, 000 and he is seeing millions of naira you guys are putting in your pockets. We are not sincere and that is why there is a huge gap between the rich and poor.
Travel management companies like yours are often fingered for neglecting inbound and promoting outbound, why has this persisted despite the abundance of tourist sites in Nigeria?
I said there are a lot of things government needs to put in place. Government is at the centre of everything. They need to encourage public private partnership to improve on services in tourists sites around Nigeria.
Security is also very key. People do not want to go to a war zone. The media too has also created fears in the minds of people outside this country. My brother’s son came in from Germany. He started filming places as he was coming from the airport and starting sending them to his friends in Germany.
They didn’t believe what they saw. They thought he was in New York going by the negative things that have been written about Nigeria. Policy somersault has negatively affected us. There is no continuation in policy by government. I believe that if our government can concentrate we can develop tourism. People will start local tourism first but later branch off to foreign destinations with time. There is nothing to sell in Nigeria.
What is the implication of travel agencies not earning commission from most airlines on travel business in Nigeria?
I will say this to you, those that are not giving us commission, we are really not happy with them. Those that are giving us commission, we are pushing them forward and very well. If you put yourself in my shoes, I have two airlines giving me commission; I will put those airlines forward.
Those that are not giving commission but have other ways of remunerating, we push them forward too. For some of them that are not giving commission, they are not doing anything to encourage us, of course, we continue to look at them.
There has been a lot of politics around this. It is really not easy.