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Meet Fola Akinboro: An amazon reinventing travel business

Akinboro

Fola Akinboro is unarguably one of the most experienced professionals in the travel and tourism business having worked with various renowned local and foreign brands.

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Through hard work, she has creatively evolved into a seasoned expert through the provision of bespoke services in customer service, ticketing, marketing, partnership, sponsorship and advisory services. In this interview, she gives insight into her new online platform and how she has been able to stay ahead of the pack in the highly competitive travel and tourism business.

Background:

I am a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria; I have a Diploma in Human Resources from the University of Leicester and an Executive MBA from the Metropolitan School of Business and Management, all in the United Kingdom.

I have also attended many other training programmes in Nigeria and overseas. I am an affiliate member of the Oxford Chartered Institute of Marketing. Currently, I am the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ajala.ng, an online travel agency in Lagos, Nigeria. Before now, I have worked for Quantum Travels Limited, Etihad Airways, and Virgin Nigeria Airways in various capacities such as Head of Marketing, Marketing Officer, Marketing Coordinator and Customer Service Team Lead respectively.

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How would you describe  your experience so far in the Nigeria online travel and tour services industry?

The online travel and tour service industry in Nigeria is quite expansive and still growing. Because it is online, the business can access myriads of suppliers and trade partners who are willing to offer amazing services across the world at the drop of a hat. On my platform,  ajala.ng, we have reliable relationship with various service providers. This has helped us, over the years to give competitive fares in air tickets, discounted rates on hotels and tour activities worldwide to our customers.

What differentiate your platform from others?

In order to differentiate our platform from others, we have some of the amazing features that have endeared us to Nigerian travelers. These include great travel deals, amazing vacation packages and awesome hotel rates.

For the purpose of our new portal launch, we have made available on the platform remarkable bargain and mouthwatering deals on all our product offerings to further provide quality experience for our customers and trade partners alike. We also have an effective payment option.

This is a core principle we use to provide our customers with well-integrated, user-friendly payments methods. Currently we have integrated the website with Paystack’s platform to facilitate payment, plus GTPay option that allows for bank transfer to provide flexibility to our esteemed customers. Pertinent to note also is that our new platform stores preferred payment option to create a level of ease for our returning customers. Because we understand the importance of fast load times, the new portal is designed to render at a minimum speed delivering content quickly.

What are you doing in terms of value addition to the country’s airline industry?

In a country of about 200 million people, there are lots of value additions that Nigerians require when making their travel decisions and the most important of it all is advisory services. Nigerians want to get the best at the most effective cost which is the core of our business. Other things that we bring to the doorstep of Nigerian travellers include- topflight deals, daily/weekly update to numerous destinations worldwide with unbeatable travel packages to anywhere around the world. In addition, we provide hassle-free online visa processing services; smooth access to book car rentals and hotel bookings. With all these, you can see that we offer a lot of value to all categories of travellers

You recently revamped your platform. What informed this decision?

There is a saying that a business has only 8 seconds to capture the user’s attention once they land on your platform.  This means that you have only 8 seconds to show how amazing the brand is and to compel customers to make a purchase. This is exactly what we have done with our business model. As said by W. Edwards Deming “innovation comes from the producer not from the customer”. We are very mindful of this.

Nigerian travellers often complain of exploitation by travel agencies. How is your platform different from others?

We offer the best fares and most competitive packages to make travel affordable for Nigerians.  We also have the payment by instalment option. With this alternative, customers can book special ticket deals with an initial non-refundable 30% deposit to confirm the ticket.    Completion of payment is required at most two weeks before date of travel. The Ajala Pay Easy process is easy- the customer is required to make reservation on the website; request for Ajala Pay Easy package and agree to terms and conditions.

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Nigerians love comfort and ease. How affordable are your services?

There is no one size fit all tour packages. The package is dependent on the need of the couple; the destination, the hotel they want to lodge, the locations they will want to visit amongst others. This is why our services are bespoke. Everyone gets the package that best suits their purse. For us, at all times, we are poised to eradicate all possible complications on the way of the customers’ at the most favorable rates.

Many Nigerians have complained about fake visa, fake ticket etc. As a Nigerian online airline agency, what are the steps you take to avoid this menace and ensure that your clients are always delighted?

The channel through which Nigerian travellers make their purchases will determine if they will be swindled and given fake visa and ticket. It is very important for people to patronize reputable companies so that they do not run into such complications. For us, as an agency, we provide hassle-free online visa processing services and we help people in booking their tickets across all destinations in the globe. Our utmost goal is to put smile on the faces of every traveller.

What ways can travellers benefit from the expertise of your platform

The first benefit that travellers stand to benefit from our platform is that our services are bespoke. Our platform is renowned for prompt customer and advisory services which creates a delightful travel experience for all travellers. We ensure that travellers enjoy their trip while we handle all of what can stress them while they are away from home.

There is so much competition in your line of business. How do you manage to stay ahead of others?

We have mapped out various marketing strategies to reach out to Nigerian travellers through our platform. We believe that our rates give us a competitive edge. Also, our cheap packages coupled with the fact that our platform is easy to navigate and the rendering speed of the website is very good.

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Also, part of what informed our decision to upgrade to a new platform is the fact that smartphones and mobile devices using various operating systems are used for surfing the internet by many people because it consumes fewer data and has a greater reach. As such, we have put all these into consideration while developing our new platform and we have built our application with a mobile-first strategy.

The new platform is more dynamic and it provides better  engaging web experience on a host of varied devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops and also on all operating systems. Similarly, customers complain about payment options, this we have resolved by  integrating the website with Paystack’s platform to facilitate payment that allows for bank transfer to provide flexibility to our esteemed customers.

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