Many people have problems finding their way around when they make a decision to travel. What preparations they need to make, who to talk to, where to go for assistance and requirements they need to meet become a hustle for prospective travelers. In this edition of “Meet the CEO”, Mr. Frank Opata, Managing Director of Absolute Travel Ltd., throws light on the need to travel and the importance of the Travel Agency in assisting a would-be traveler in meeting his goals. In the subsequent edition, we will delve deep into how to identify “quacks” in the travel industry.
WHY DOES ONE NEED TO TRAVEL, BEARING IN MIND THE SAYING, “HOME SWEET HOME”?
There are various reasons why people travel. They can be categorized into about 3 or 4 reasons; business, leisure and widening of scope (educational). The people who travel can be categorized into different age groups. We see them in packets. We see that those who travel for leisure mainly and those who go for educational, sightseeing purposes are in the younger bracket. Those who go mainly for business are (some) young but mainly in the older bracket. So travel is broken into that kind of segment. We have decided to look at the segment that pertains to travelling to explore and traveling for educational purpose and leisure. If you look at the traffic in terms of numbers, that is the higher number in terms of business. This bracket is however not a loyal segment. By loyal I mean they don’t normally repeat business. Business travelers always repeat business that is why we sometimes call it corporate travel. When you engage a corporate entity, all their travels go through you and they have a tendency to repeat travels. However with the ones who travel for leisure, they may go for a particular purpose and when that is fulfilled, they may not go again, or may look for cheapest options of travel. This is what I mean by loyal segment.
CONSIDERING THE STRESS IN VISA ACQUISITION, BUYING OF TICKETS ETC, DO YOU THINK IT IS WORTH TRAVELLING OUTSIDE FOR LEISURE?
It is worth doing that because, we always “say travel and see”, “it gives you experience”, “you know what is going on in other places” and so on. Mind you, we are in a global village. You will not know everything when you are stuck to one place. I would say to everybody, it is worth travelling to at least 2 countries before age 20.
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it”- Samuel Johnson
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PREPARATIONS ONE WILL HAVE TO DO BEFORE EMBARKING ON SUCH A JOURNEY?
First you will have to know where you want to go and then find out what is needed to go there. Now it is easy to find anything including what the requirements are. There are countries that are visa free and those that require visa and you must know why you want to go. For example if you are going for leisure, you could book a hotel or something is giving you and invitation when you are going for conference etc. So you need to know the reason why you are traveling and start preparing based on those reasons.
WHY WOULD A PROSPECTIVE TRAVELLER NEED A TRAVEL AGENT OR AGENCY?
There are so many reasons. The travel agency gives you options because it deals with all airlines. A travel agency is a one stop shop. Travel agencies work around the clock. Most airlines don’t work around the clock. Sometimes travel agencies give you packages which airlines don’t. Travel agencies because they deal with so many embassies and airlines are able to guide and help in visa acquisition and give direction as to what to do to meet the requirements.
MANY PEOPLE DOUBT THE AUTHENTICITY OF MOST TRAVEL AGENCIES. WHAT MAKE ABSOLUTE DIFFERENT FROM THE REST?
In every institution or industry, there are genuine ones and there are quacks. We stand out because we deal with a recognized worldwide agency which is STA. We are not a local or one man business. We are an established business because we have been in this industry for quite a while. We have deals with most of the airlines. Our service is quite different. We are looking at the next generation the way forward in the travel industry. That explains why our core line of business is with the youth.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PACKAGES ABSOLUTE TRAVEL (SYTC) OFFERS TO ITS CLIENTS?
Discounted student fares (which are not in the system). We do language courses, we do year abroad. We do student packages. This gives us an edge over most of the other travel agencies.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROSPECTS IN THE TRAVEL BUSINESS?
The key thing is to be able to know how the market is shaping up and prepare towards it. We are in the digital age where everything is now online. Agencies that want to stay must be agencies of the future.
WHAT ADVISE WILL YOU GIVE TO A LAY PERSON WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE COUNTRY HE/SHE INTENDS TO TRAVEL TO PORTENDS?
One major thing to do is to read about where you are going and what the culture is like. It is not every culture that you can fit into. So it is important to know about the culture of the place you intend to visit. It is also good to know the economic variables because there are some countries that are expensive to live in. You need to be very sure about these things before you make any decision.
Written by: Sedem Attah