Michael Balogun is one of the few tour operators in the country who has experienced tourism in two different worlds: Britain and Nigeria. Of course, you cannot compare the tourism space of both nations. Thankfully, Balogun aggregated all his tourism experiences in Britain and invested it in establishing Tour2Nigeria-which has been organising tours to different Nigerian destinations. Jumia Travel, the leading online travel agency, caught up with Michael Balogun who spoke about Tour2Nigeria, challenges of Nigeria’s tourism industry, his top 5 destinations for Christmas and much more.
Please tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Michael Balogun, CEO and Co-Founder of Xtrm Tours 2 Nigeria Ltd, a tour packaging company. I spent a couple of years in London and the experience of their tourism sector ignited my passion. Together with my friend Mr Kole Majekodunmi, co-founder of Xtrm Tours2Nigeria Ltd, we were able to give this ignited passion an expression. In Nigeria, we felt we could replicate the same experience in terms of selling the memorable experience to tourist and the rest they say is history.
Can you tell us more about Tour2Nigeria? What does your business have to offer intending travellers?
Xtrm Tours 2 Nigeria Ltd is a registered company here in Nigeria. Tour2Nigeria’s main objective is to make the brand a one-stop shop and hub for everything tourism in Nigeria. Also, the core of our business is to promote inbound tourism in Nigeria and in the process help to create employment opportunities as well as promote the image of the country to encourage foreign investors. We have been using our platform to showcase both the Tourism, Cultural & Art aspect of Nigeria. We believe in giving our clients a memorable experience with our tour and customer service.
How many Nigerian states have you visited? Can you share the most exciting and exciting experience? Any weird experience?
I have visited over 30 states in Nigeria. My most exciting and weird experience will be during a private tour of the Lekki conservation centre, and it was during the Canopy walk which is the longest canopy walk in Africa. I have a slight phobia for heights which I had warned my client about. Halfway through the canopy walk, I heard my client telling me, “Michael, do you know you have been saying a lot of prayers and cursing at the same time?” It was hilarious when we got back on the ground because I thought I was murmuring all that inside my mind. That’s another thing about touring and visiting new places that I find exciting, it lets you push yourself beyond your comfort zones at times. You do things, you didn’t think you could; despite my fear of heights I have taken that canopy walk many times.
As an experienced tour operator, how much should an average Nigerian budget for a tour?
With our research and survey, among other factors like the minimum wage in Nigeria, I can say that it can range from about N10,000 to around N100,000. However, a tailored tour can be programmed around whatever budget you have in mind.
We all agree that Nigeria is a beautiful country. Despite this, some Nigerians still prefer to visit Dubai, Paris, Seychelles and London among others for their vacations. What do you think can be done to encourage Nigerians to tour Nigeria?
Nigeria is a beautiful country blessed with so much history, historic sites, landmarks, festivals and culture, not forgetting the culinary aspect too. We have everything here to make it the biggest and best destination hub in sub-Saharan Africa. The major challenge we have had over the years has been the attitude of the government towards the tourism sector due to the focus on oil and gas. There is a need for DMOs (Destination Management Organisations) to be set up to take full charge of destination branding and creating awareness. These countries like Dubai spent billions of dollars to get to where they are today. Take a look back at Dubai in 1985 and see how far they have come to be one of the biggest destinations in the world.
In your opinion, what are the problems or challenges of Nigeria’s tourism industry? What do you think can be done to fix these problems?
The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries with a global economic contribution (over $7.6 trillion in 2016). Our biggest problem in Nigeria is not even the security or infrastructural challenges, but issues of politics, putting square pegs in round holes. We need to have the right people at the helms of affairs in this sector. A lot of efforts too is required from the owners and managers of these resorts and destinations. With the power of the social media, we don’t have any excuse not to do more. Hopefully, our leaders and people in the tourism sector would soon come to a realisation of the importance of the tourism statistics and how much the country is losing out on in terms of revenue and its effect on our GDP.
Based on your experience, do you have any advice for travellers, travel bloggers or any person that might be aspiring to tour Nigeria?
The best advice I can give anyone travelling to Nigeria is to have a clear and an open mindset and make the best of the moment while in Nigeria. This is the best way to enjoy your travel to our beautiful country, Nigeria and indeed to anywhere in the world. For those aspiring to be a travel blogger my advice for you is to give the best opinion of your visits and not just write to drive traffic to your blog.
Can you give us your top 5 Nigerian destinations to visit during Christmas?
Depending on your location within the country: Inagbe Grand Resorts and Leisure, Ikogosi, Lekki Leisure Lake, Agodi Gardens and Calabar Carnival.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to become a tour operator?
A genuine passion for Tourism is the first step. I mean, you should have the passion for bringing culture/history to life. You must be determined and be able to exercise a lot of patience. An excellent interpersonal skill is also a step in the right direction.