Providing innovative solutions in the tourism industry

Chike Nwogu

Chike Nwogu

Bespoke Vacations is an indigenous and unique travel agency that offers pristine vacation packages, Cruise Holidays, MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) experience of exotic destinations, the finest hotels and the most interesting Tours at unbelievable prices. Mr. Chike Nwogu, the Managing Director of the firm affirms that their mission is to inspire a passion for travel by connecting Nigerians with the top quality and competitively priced vacation packages. The debonair Industrial Chemist turned Tourism expert spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.

What informed your choice of business?
Before now, I’ve traveled a whole lot to about forty seven countries and if you combine all of us here, we’ve been to about sixty three countries of the world. Before I started this business, I hadn’t travelled a lot, but since I started, I’ve made it a point of duty to see more countries and every year I see about three new countries and an old one.

The inspiration came sometime ago when I wanted to travel to Dubai. I had everything planned out by a travel agent from the Visa to the flight booking and hotel reservations, only to get to the airport and was told, sorry you are not on this flight. It was a very nasty experience for me and I sat down and thought that this is not a good experience for anyone to go through. At the time, I’ve been to twenty one countries, so I decided to venture into the industry to make travel experience more cheerful for Nigerians at competitive pricing. The beauty of our entry in the industry is that we are not just buying tickets and reserving hotels for clients, rather we are selling an experience.

About Bespoke Vacations:
Bespoke Vacations is a travel management company with a focus to helping our clients, mostly millennials who hardly have time to plan for their holidays, from flight bookings, to hotel reservations, to activities during the trip, as well as to visa advisory services. Many people get their visa requests rejected, not because they are not qualified but because they don’t do things right. Over the years, we’ve seen the mistakes people make and we try to provide guidance. We collaborate with top class Destination Management Companies in the destination countries to tailor all-inclusive vacation packages to meet the needs of our varied customers. Our knowledge of these destinations and the partnerships we have built ensures that our guests have access to the best vacation packages, hotels and resorts, incentives/group packages tours and ground handling services any travel agency can provide.

What can government do differently to help promote local tourism?
There’s a need for high level support for small and medium enterprises by giving them good incentives especially when you see that they have good prospects. But at the core of all this is providing infrastructure. You’ll be surprised that we struggle with everything from power to water, to roads; in fact everything. If you think about the time and resources you use in generating power, it would’ve been put into more productive use. The level of internet penetration is equally a challenge for small businesses unlike what is obtainable in other advanced countries. People pay very little and get robust internet connection abroad but here, we pay so much with nothing to show for it. This also points to the level of infrastructural decay in the country. For industry specific requirements, it cannot be overestimated the impact of having a National carrier will have on the national economy. Think of the jobs that will be created and the multiplier effects on the economy.

What are the unique factors that stand your organisation out of the competition?
The unique thing about us is that we are not like the conventional travel agents out there; we are genuinely interested in making our customer’s travel experience cheerful. For example, when you approach us for Dubai travel, we don’t just look at the cheapest hotel reservation or flight tickets but we holistically look at the how to guide the customer on the travel destination. This is the reason we are skeptical about certain destinations, not because they are not good but our exposure to those destinations is not robust. We constantly invest in learning about destinations globally. What that means is that we make familiarization trips to have a firsthand experience of the destination. If I ask you to settle for a certain location, it’s because I’m certain of the service level in that location. For popular destinations like Dubai etc, we do on sight inspection twice yearly because a lot can change within six months. Any recommendation from us is based on an expert knowledge of the location/destination. We also take time to understand the personal needs of the client to make their travel experience worthwhile. As we encounter challenges in the course of our work, we try to modify the processes so as to avoid a repeat to give a truly inspiring customer travel experience. Beyond that, 24hours after they get to their destinations, we still put a call to them to evaluate all the elements they’ve experienced so as to make corrections, if any, while they are still there. We are not just a player in the industry, we are selling an experience.

From your experience, what are the critical factors for business success?
Technology is critical to sustaining a business enterprise. Everything is going online and you can’t afford not to join if you intend to succeed in business. Getting quality people is equally a critical factor for business success. For example, our prices are very competitive, but sometimes you have clients that are not worried about pricing, all they need is assurances that they will have value for their money, and that decision is based purely on their perception of you. If you are not knowledgeable and passionate about what you do, there are chances they would not make that payment. Your positioning is equally crucial, just look for a niche that you’ll be providing the needed service and if you do it well, people will come, just a matter of time.

In five years:
In the next five years, we are developing a lot of passion for local tourism. When you travel out and see how things work in that environment, you can’t help but wonder why we can’t get it right in our country. When you go to travel exhibitions, you see a lot of Nigerians, but the pain is that they are all buyers, we don’t have sellers. In the next five years, we are looking for the best opportunity to jump into local tourism.

Driving force:
It is still that passion for travelling. If you have a good experience, you want the guy next door to experience same. One thing our customers find intriguing is that we take things personal for them, but that is because we have that overriding commitment to make sure whoever it is gets a wonderful experience. The commitment to serve the people is the biggest driving force for us.

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