Can I travel from London to the UK? Do you think it will be possible to find a resort with a pool in Dubai? What is the safest seat number on a plane in case it crashes?
These are just some of the funny questions Director of Capstone Travels Adeshola Kayode has answered for his clients over the years.
But, being a travel agent is not only about answering funny questions, it also allows you to make a difference in your clients’ lives, according to Kayode.
Travel agents can be superheroes
Kayode has fulfilled many roles in the Nigerian travel industry. He was a member of the Local Organizing Committee (LoC) of the just concluded National Tourism Transport Summit & Expo and is also the Vice President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA-Abuja Zone). In 2014, he was honoured as ‘Peace Ambassador’ by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF).
He explains that his expertise has allowed him to help save the day for his clients on numerous occasions. “I once saved a client from being deported as a result of an unverifiable hotel reservation,” he says. He explains the client had decided to book the hotel online without the help of a travel agent. “I was able to rebook a different hotel for him and send the confirmation link via social media across to the client’s phone abroad.”
Kayode also helped his fair share of stranded passengers. “I once helped by paying the change fee for the airline on behalf of clients who were stranded at the airport because they arrived late at the check-in. This automatically amounts to a ‘no show’ for the airline.”
The most challenging part of being a consultant for Kayode is that clients call you at odd hours of the day (and night) expecting your full attention. He says: “Since the customer is always right, I usually educate them politely on the reason why their request cannot be attended to at that particular period of time.”
Developing a passion for the industry
Kayode says the Nigerian travel industry brings out the best in him. “I love the fact that though the industry is challenging it brings out the best in me. It gives me the opportunity to travel around the world acquiring the knowledge needed to rescue the travel and tourism industry in Nigeria”
He developed his love for the industry thanks to his sister, who first tried to convince him to enter the travel industry in 1995. “I tried to learn, but found the process of learning too tedious and cumbersome,” he laughs. However, ten years later, his sister tried again, and this time, Kayode’s passion for the industry took root.
At that time, in 2006, Kayode was especially attracted by the application of mixed-entries used to Encode /Decode on the Amadeus GDS (Global Distribution System). “In no time, I became a guru in the use of Amadeus. This enhanced my passion for the Industry and gave me the courage to seek employment and learn on the job. As it is, I now have 13 years’ experience in the Travel Industry,” he says.
It’s not all work and no play
On his many travels, Kayode worked hard but also had a lot of fun. He tells Inside Travel one of his colleagues once had a little too much to drink onboard a six-hour flight, but nobody had noticed this. “When we arrived at our destination, he was giving the key to the rental car. While we were all busy arranging our luggage, we heard him shouting: ‘I can’t find the steering wheel or the gears. This car has no steering wheel and no gears!’ We hurried to check, but when we moved closer, we discovered that our friend was actually seated in the rear seat of the car.”
Staying relevant in a changing industry
This year, Capstone Travels celebrates its 10th anniversary. The company began operations in 2008 with just two staff members. Today, Capstone Travels counts 12 qualified staff members who offer air ticket and tour package solutions for both corporate and leisure clients. The agency not only has ticketing authority from more than 22 airlines, it is also the approved ticketing office in Nigeria for Hahn Air.
To stay relevant in the travel industry today, technology has become a non-negotiable. Kayode told Inside Travel that Capstone Travels will soon launch an online booking capability. He said: “We have concluded a deal with one of the renowned Global Distribution System(GDS) providers. They have designed an Online Booking Engine for us where clients from all over the world will be able to book their travels.”
Also in terms of payments, Capstone Travels stays ahead of the game. Kayode explains the agency has introduced the Point of Sales (PoS) machine to allow clients to seamlessly transact business without any hassle in terms of payment.
The Nigerian travel industry still faces many challenges….
The Nigerian travel industry today is still facing many challenges, according to Kayode, including inadequate funding for travel and tourism bodies, inadequate-recognition of the Organised Private Sector (NANTA), inadequate training of personnel in the Industry, inadequate travel and tourism infrastructures, as well as non-functional tourist attraction sites , including National Parks and Recreation Centres.
These challenges can be overcome, he says, if the government can create an enabling environment for practitioners and stakeholders to thrive. “More attention should be channelled towards travel and tourism.”
Kayode urges the government to swiftly pass the long-proposed NANTA bill to become an ACT. “This will allow us to strengthen the Association in order to sanitize and enhance the travel and tourism Industry in Nigeria, “ he says. “Also, our National parks and tourist site should be adequately developed, funded and properly maintained to attract tourists.”
… but a bright future awaits
Despite the challenges, Kayode has great hopes for the future of the travel industry in Nigeria. However, he warns it’s time that the government pays more attention to this sector of the economy.
Travel Agents under the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) have, over the years, been able to sustain the travel sector. The introduction of the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) – a system designed to facilitate and simplify the selling, reporting and remitting procedures of IATA Accredited Passenger Sales Agents, as well as to improve financial control and cash flow for BSP Airlines – has giving a clear picture of just how much travel and tourism contributes to the economy in Nigeria.
Kayode explains travel and tourism has generated over one million jobs in Nigeria, including employment by travel agencies, airlines, hotels, restaurants and other passenger services organisation such as the transport sector. “I love the fact that this industry that has been abandoned for so long is now contributing tremendously to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as the Nigeria Economy as a whole and that this is now verifiable.”