Bankole Bernard is The Managing Director Of Finchglow Travels Limited and President Of the National Association Of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA). Bankole Bernard, a banker-turned-travel operator, in this interview with Jimoh Babatunde, he talks about his business and travels
ON passion for travel: My travel agency was opened in 2006 and from 2006 we grew from having staff strength of about five to about 80 and from one location to about eight locations.” By all standards, those are great strides for an agency, which is just 10 years.
This achievement appeared not driven only by the professionalism and value that he has added to his operation but also by his belief that with volume in sales of tickets and many outlets, one is certain to maximise the accruing benefits of the industry.
We started off as a travel agency and I realised that I have a whole lot to learn so I was travelling out to acquire experience from all the travel exhibitions across the world. I was constantly visiting the World Travel Market (WTM), I visited Arabian Travel Market (ATM), ITB Berlin and another one in France.
On his travels: Unfortunately for me, I don’t usually have much leisure during my trips out of Nigeria, because most of my travels are business oriented and always targeted towards particular goal.
In doing that I have visited many countries but there is one country that always stand out among the rest and that is Dubai.
On Dubai as a destination: Why I admire Dubai is because they have taken their time to focus so much on business development, ensuring that major conferences, exhibitions hold in their country to attract people around the world.
At the beginning, I didn’t really understand, but I think by the position of their location in the Middle East , it is like being in the world. So people converged in Dubai and they also have created an enabling environment that is suitable for such conferences and exhibition. They have world class hotels, eateries that are business oriented.
Dubai for me is number one choice when it comes to business travel, because the necessary things a business person needs you will find it there.
On what he takes along on his travel: I do exercise in my hotel, work with my laptop because without my laptop I feel like I am lost. Any time, I am going for business trip, I don’t really go with many things, just few cloths to change, and most of my business trips are usually short, three to four days.
On what he looks out for in a hotel: Location, review of previous people that have used the hotel, the brand name, the security of the hotel and amenities in the rooms, clean beddings, beautiful toilet, working table that is close to the TV, a room that has very good view of either the city or where it is located.
On his best hotel: My best hotel is still Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai, I like the location, the peaceful atmosphere and the people at the hotel and how they take care of their guests.
On his best airline: Emirate is my best airline, I flew it to Dubai and Los Angeles on several occasion. You don’t feel it when it is taking off and also during landing.
On his next destination: Of recent have been thinking of where I can go, but I think I will rather go to Singapore , because it is a peaceful and lovely atmosphere with no stress.
On best destination choice in Nigeria: In Nigeria, Lagos is the only place I feel comfortable. I go to Abuja a lot for business and other commitment, I haven’t had the opportunity of going round the country presently, but I did that when I was younger.
On tourism in Nigeria: If I am to rate tourism in Nigeria, I will say it is non existent, before tourism can flourish, it has to be in the mind of the people.
Impact from tourism
The government does not understand what tourism is, I mean the fact that you wake up in the morning and wear cloth does not mean that you have dressed up, you just wear cloth because you needed to cover your body, and that is what exactly I will say concerning tourism in Nigeria.
So we are just mouthing tourism because we want to be seen as people that are saying it and not doing it.
Tourism takes more than what we think, you have to take conscious effort to develop what you have, and how will you do that, develop it in the mind of the people, change the orientation of the people concerns, what you have that is natural and convert it into tourism.
The countries that have made so much impact from tourism, when you look at them, they invested a lot in educating their people about what tourism is all about, but here in Nigeria we haven’t done that because we have oil and it keeps us busy .