By AYO ONIKOYI
US-based Travel outfit, JetBlack Travel Group, founded by a Nigerian, Dr. Alkexander Oladele has never curated travel to Nigeria for certain technical reasons. In this interview with AYO ONIKOYI he lists what the country can do to attract travellers and tourists. Excerpt:
So, what were primary objectives behind founding JetBlack and what’s the structure like?
The goal of JetBlack Travel is to curate life changing travel experiences for members of the global community. We have a team dedicated to helping us execute our trips. The beauty of everything is that many of these individuals don’t live in the States.
They are more or less partners of JetBlack Travel living abroad in places such as Colombia, Ghana, South Africa, Dubai etc. We also have an internal team that helps us handle our budgeting, itineraries, social media marketing etc.
One of our partners in particular known as La Creme de La Creme is a concierge and management company based in South Africa, run by Marie Mbow and Rhonda Davis. They helped us facilitate and execute our trip to South Africa with 28 professionals. It’s relationships like these that help to drive the success of JetBlack Travel.
So, what are your goals?
We would like to expose more people, particularly, African Americans to countries outside of the US! I think the importance of traveling is something that we all can agree to. JetBlack Travel aims to be the vehicle that provides these experiences to everyone interested in venturing into other parts of the world!
How does JetBlack choose countries to visit?
We are very particular with the countries we choose. The first question we usually confirm is the safety of the travelers and ensuring that we aren’t visiting a country where our safety would be compromised. Following this, we usually try to identify someone we know from that particular country to help us put together a robust itinerary that would give the travelers a cultural yet entertaining experience.
All this is done by leveraging relationships. Between members of our team and external partners, we pretty much know people all over the world. From this then becomes a decision we make if we believe we can provide travelers with what we call the JetBlack Travel Experience
Can you paint a picture of your activities and experiences in a particular country?
Ghana is a great example where we mixed culture with entertainment and historical perspective. We usually have a welcome and farewell dinner to orient all travelers with one another. During our welcome dinner, all travelers were dressed in some type of African print/Ankara fabric. A few days later, we had a Jollof rice cooking class at the school of culinary arts in Ghana. We didn’t realize how much the travelers would appreciate this experience until we saw the reviews! Additionally, we also included into our itinerary a day where we traveled to Cape Coast, Kumasi and Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, all to immerse each traveler into the culture and rich history of Ghana.
Part of the experience was also the entertainment piece where we partied together at various night clubs, AfroChella and a New Years eve event that helped us bring the New Year in correctly. It truly is a holistic experience that provides a bit of everything to each traveler.
How has social media influenced your operations and the travel industry generally?
Social media is honestly the reason why many travel companies today are as successful as they are. The truth is, social media is the new market place. Whether you put out a travel ad on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, depending on your audience there will be people interested. For JetBlack Travel in particular, we have thousands of followers and immediately when we make a post regarding travel to a particular location, we receive immediate inquiries about process, itineraries, dates etc.
From your experience which country do you get most offers for, and can u proffer reasons behind it?
We also have been discussing opportunities in Nigeria as we think it would be a good experience for travelers if we are able to identify the right partners.
Southeast Asian countries are very popular right now. We put out a post for Bali and within 4 days the trip sold out. Not only did we sell out, we were over capacity by 12 travelers. We even had travelers from previous trips (South Africa & Ghana) that made serious inquiries about visiting Bali. Thailand also sold out quickly which we anticipated due to the proximity of both countries.
We believe the reason these countries are so popular right is based on social media influence. These are countries that have very picturesque scenery which looks very attractive to potential travelers. These countries are also relatively more affordable compared to other countries which we believe helps to convince more potential travelers.
Has there ever been request to visit Nigeria?
Yes, we’ve had quite a few travelers that have asked if we provide trips to Nigeria and we told them we will either this year or next. Nigeria is a country that we believe travelers would truly enjoy especially when you take them to exotic places which you can find in many areas in Nigeria. Outside of that, there are other hidden gems and culturally packed activities that travelers would truly appreciate. Once we identify the right partners to help us execute the trip the way we envision then we are good to go! There are several organizations that want to work with us but until we feel like we’ve found the right one, we will keep searching.
What must Nigeria do to be a travel destination of choice and how can the country improve their tourism potentials?
Nigeria can become a travel destination of choice with ease. There are 2 things that can drive this which we believe involves media activity as well as improvement in some of the logistical challenges in the country. Artists have made their mark in the US and abroad and have significant influence on people. If they started promoting tourism in Nigeria, there is no question that the interest levels will rise immensely.
The second thing is to improve the logistical challenges, which begins at the airport. Having systems in place to increase the efficiency of airport navigation, engagement with customs and even baggage claim would be a significant step forward.
Nigeria already has a wealth of things to do and places to go so the issue is not necessarily the excursions. It all comes down to the logistics. Improving road conditions would also dramatically shift the experience. I believe a big opportunity awaits if the government prioritizes something as simple as better roads as tourism can truly help to stimulate an economy and bring positive exposure to a country.
Because the truth is Nigeria can take over tourism like any other country. We have too much things to do. We would just need support from artists and the government to improve things like roads and airport experience. It would bring so much money into the country.