Travel & Tourism

April 16, 2024

I want to travel to outer space after visiting 65 countries – Agboola, NTT boss

I want to travel to outer space after visiting 65 countries – Agboola, NTT boss

Elizabeth Agboola, the CEO, NTT Global Destinations, with over 8 years of proven track record in the travel industry, has been to over 65 countries in the world across 6 continents and planning to visit outer Space after conquering all there is to see on earth. In this chat with JIMOH BABATUNDE, she talks about transferring her knowledge by curating meaningful travel experiences for Nigerian travellers.

Here is an excerpt:

I’m an avid traveller who has been to over 65 countries in the world across 6 continents and I will move on to Outer Space when I have conquered all there is to see on Earth. I transfer my knowledge by curating meaningful travel experiences for Nigerian travellers.
I also transfer my expertise in the promotion of other destinations to Nigerians into promoting Nigeria to both Nigerians and the inbound market, through halal tourism promotion, events, and cultural diplomacy.

My key achievement in my industry remains to be the one who spearheaded the first ever direct flight between Nigeria & Jamaica in Dec 2020 thereby connecting the two regions by air for the first time, with 132 passengers including the former Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs- H.E Geoffrey Onyeama.

The details are in my book ‘Wings, Roots & Branches’- my quest to connect Africa & The Caribbean by Air.

Journey into tourism
I stumbled upon tourism as a business in 2016, when I decided to open an Instagram account called ‘Nigerians Travel Too’’ to showcase my travel to people on social media.

The timing was perfect as it was also the time when packaged holidays became popular in Nigeria. So my posts generated lots of enquiries around travel for Nigerians- as the name of the page spoke for itself. I was a full-time Human Resources business partner and I never imagined a travel business.

I decided to not ignore the opportunity and learn digital marketing online and various tourism short courses. I fully registered the business in Nigeria in 2018 and it’s safe to say, since inception we’ve catered to over 10,000 travellers in various travel categories, from medical, education groups, incentives, trade missions, leisure travellers across 7 continents ( yes including Antarctica), over50’s packages, sports groups, pilgrimages, familiarization trips for travel agents to countries we manage their tourism account in Nigeria, destination weddings and birthday parties and many more.

In 2022, we fully started promoting Nigerian destinations (especially the North of Nigeria) to our partners across various countries. This led us to start supporting various state Governments with tourism promotion initiatives.

Inspirations for travelling to being too over 65 countries across 6 continents

My mother gave me my first travel bite. I was only 16 when she sent me a message from work and said. “Look up this city. I’ve booked us flights to go there for the weekend.” She booked only because she saw cheap flights. It was my responsibility to search for what to do, where to stay or even what to eat.

We once appeared in Turin, Italy and she said, “Ha, everyone here is speaking Italian.” I told her, “Yes. Mum. It’s Italy.” I proudly brought out my notebook and started speaking the little phrases I wrote down until we found ourselves on the right train.

She practically turned me to her tour guide and I turned her to my funds mama. By the time I could afford my travels, I stopped staying at home. My curiosity deepened over the years and that’s what got me to the 65 countries I’ve now been to.

Must Visit, Should Visit and Never Visit Destination

Must visit: Jamaica. Should visit: Jordan. Never visit… nowhere, haha. Every destination deserves a chance, the experience you build for yourself in the destination is what makes the destination. Don’t visit with empty hopes and expect the destination to have fireworks.

Tourism in the Northern part of Nigeria vis a vis the country as a whole
The first thing is intention. If this is present, then you can achieve this.
I’ll start from North Central – which is Abuja and from there cover Niger State, Nasarawa. You would then get a 3-hour train to Kaduna (where you will change for a 2hrs 30 30-minute drive to Kano.

From Kano State, you can access up to 8 states within 3-6 hours. In terms of the road, I would say most parts are well paved except some parts which are usually a few kilometres.

Must-see tourism destinations in the north

The North is home to the oldest state in Nigeria- Kano state so I’ll say you must visit to see the oldest building Gida Makama for yourself, I would say visit Kastina state where education started, a well-preserved school now a museum. I would say visit Bauchi for the wildlife and the warm springs. For the clearest and purest waterfalls, I’ll say Farin Ruwa in Nassarawa, Niger state is home to Gurara falls- absolutely beautiful lastly I’ll say visit Gombe state if you’re a food lover and a lover of architecture as the palace & mosque of the Emir of Gombe would blow you mind.

Selling tourism in the north
It has been very interesting as a southerner who shuttles between the UK and Nigeria. Promoting Northern states has been highly rewarding for me—on a learning curve to not believe all you see or read in the media. Many friends and family still scream when I say I now live in Kano state when I’m in Nigeria.

The biggest market for the North of Nigeria is their well-preserved culture. It is the biggest export and I have been able to promote it to partner agents in other countries to send their clients and to also promote various Northern states to different diplomatic missions.
Last year we had an amazing turnout of Heads of Missions in Bichi, Kano state for the Durbar festival during the Eid-Al-Ahda holidays, and we look forward to doing more this year.

Difficulty selling Nigeria as a Destination
I actually won’t say Nigeria is difficult to sell as a destination. I would say we haven’t found the right way to sell it. Nigeria is a big country with diverse tourism opportunities. Selling it in one country would be grossly difficult. However, fragmenting it by focusing on either our Geo-political zones or by selling the individual opportunities.

For example, visit the North West for wildlife, culture, and hills, and visit the South West for the beaches, waterfalls, caves etc. Hardly do you see Mexico promoted as one, but you would see campaigns for different parts from Cancun to Acapulco. I had the opportunity last year to represent Nigeria at the recommendation of the Mexico embassy in Nigeria at their Tianguis Mexico travel mart. It was so beautiful to see the individuality of their 32 Federal states.

If we can look inwards and adopt such methods, where each state is responsible for promoting themselves under their Geopolitical zone, then I think the sky is the limit for destination Nigeria.

Halal tourism
Halal tourism often called Muslim-friendly tourism is a subcategory in the tourism industry which caters to the lifestyle or faith-based needs of Muslim travellers. Muslim travellers would need accommodation with a prayer room, they will need to stop for prayers during tours, they will need halal food and most importantly they will need privacy ( so private swimming pools or sand banks).

One of our companies Halaltours. ng caters to Muslim travellers and it’s based in the Kano State, North of Nigeria. We encourage leisure travel to halal-friendly locations as well as Islamic travel (religious obligation umrah & hajj). With the North of Nigeria as the major population of Muslims in Nigeria, we have been encouraging exchange tourism between our Halal Nigeria (the north) and various Halal countries whereby they can visit us in Nigeria for tourism and we can do the same.