By Bolatito Adebayo
HAVING worked for several years in the banking industry, Kola Anigioro, who is now the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Sky Guide Travels & Tours Limited has many success stories to tell. Anigioro is a business wiz and mogul in travel/ tourism world, he shares with us his wealth of experience in the industry, the challenges in the business and many more.
How long have you been in this business?
Effectively the business has been on for a while. I was somewhere else but I joined the structure about five years ago. But the business has been on for eight years now.
You have a background in banking, so why this line of business?
I was in the banking sector for thirteen years. I was in banking not as a clerk or cashier. I was into branch management. This involves accessing credits, applications reviews, and customer’s visibilities studies. As branch manager, I needed to ensure that the branch target in terms of customer data base, profits and all that makes the branch function well was done. From there, I got an understanding of what one should pursue when time comes and you want to stay on your own. One of the things I took away from that industry is that you should always go in line with where your interest lies because storms will always come. But what will see you through when you have challenges are your passion and your interest.
What makes sky guide different from others?
Sky guide travel is different because we brought in professionalism, transparency, and a high level of customer satisfaction into the industry. We try to ease the burden of our client, although there are a lot of people doing it. Even people who sell recharge cards now will tell you I can get you a visa. You see a lot of junks out there and there are lots of people who have fallen into these hands because of lack of knowledge. Even the so called educated ones fall victims to these unscrupulous people in this industry. We believe that things can be done in the right way and we make sure what we do is plain. Here we will never tell you that we will get you visa because we don’t have authority to do that. The only thing we have is a robust relationship with all these embassies because we are accredited. You see we are not only a travel agency, we are also accredited with the regulatory body called International Air Transport Association (IATA), and IATA coordinates every member travel agency and airline. So we are accredited to sell tickets to all the airlines. We don’t just sell tickets , we look at issues , we help you out so that you can have a hitch free travel.
There have been dollar problem recently in the economy, so how has it affected your business?
It has affected us greatly because directly a lot of the airlines are going through tough times. For instance, the Soto tickets, this is the type of tickets that does not emanate from Nigeria.. But because of the dollar problem now, it is difficult to issue such tickets now. A lot of airlines have even blocked travel agents because of the fluctuations in dollar. The problem they have now is that if they have a price of 220 or 250 naira per dollar, and by the time we want to make remittance to them, it is possible it has shot up to N320. So, they had to block some travel agents and so very few still operate. Also, the cost of flight has gone up, so a journey that should cost two hundred thousand naira, you now cough out three fifty thousand or more. So, I just wonder what will happen when we have summer when more people will be travelling. Presently, we issued a ticket for a family going somewhere in America in August and the cost is five hundred and fifty thousand for one person but before the cost of that trip wasn’t up to that. So some people will have to shelve travelling or postpone it until another time.
How lucrative is the business?
Well, it depends on how you look at it. It is a very lucrative business especially if you play by the rules. You know Nigerians travel a lot and there are diverse reasons why they do, some for holidays, business, honeymoon, medical tourism and to study. So it’s a good business if you want to go into it and it’s profitable too.
If you want to start this business, like how much should you have?
It depends on what you are looking at, if you just want to be an agent that will be checking fares for people, you can get a laptop and it is a business you can do from home. But for you to trade, you need to get yourself to an attached agent to get trained and or you might decide to go to the training school too , so you can be able to issue tickets on your own. Also, you have to be able to meet the requirements of IATA (International Air transport Association), that’s the governing body because there are documentations required. The last one that makes most people to run away is the bank guarantee, it is N32 million bank guarantee and in Nigeria today, you may be lucky to get a bank to issue you with 20 per cent cash equivalent and a property in that amount. Bank guarantee is a contingency liability, like what I explained earlier, we sell on behalf of the airlines. In an agent account, you may see N100 million or N80 million but we remit money on behalf of the airlines once in two weeks. In a travel agent’s account, you may be seeing a hundred million naira or more but the money doesn’t not belong to him because that might just be sales of two weeks and it should be remitted. So because of that, there must be a bank guarantee. When we started, we were asked by the banks to go and get 30 per cent cash and we also got property to secure it. We were able to have about ten million naira that we handed over to the bank, so that’s the last thing you must do because you will be holding money on their behalf. You must be active; they audit your account to affirm that you are credible.
What are the challenges you have been faced with?
One of the challenges we have is government policies , it is affecting the travellers, like we had discussed earlier, the dollar problem is affecting the purchasing power of our customers. When people are not empowered or when their purchasing power is shrinking, of course, it affects us also. May be, you want to go to Dubia and the economy is not favourable, of course, you will postpone the travel and on that trip, I could have made, may be a ten thousand or five thousand naira but because of these things, I can’t make such money. Also, the angle of the airlines, the airlines before had a lot of commission, sometimes as high as 15 per cent commission but now because of howthe economy is, a lot of our airlines are now going back to zero commission. What that means is that you have to make do with your own service charge but because it is a highly competitive industry, you will be driving yourself out of the market if you don’t adjust. You know before someone would have called your organization, he must have called all others too, so your service charge must be reasonable. The other challenge is the people, some people will promise heaven and earth. They will promise you visa as if they are the Consular General and when the chips are down, they will tag all travel agencies bad eggs. You know people will patronize people who will write on the wall: “Get Mexico visa here” and when there’s problem, they start running around. Who told you that you can get American visa without an interview? Well, except you are a diplomat.
Was there a time you were overwhelmed with this challenge that you wanted to pull out?
No, I have never gotten to that level. You know when we started, I said before you go into any business, you must look beyond money because money should not be the focus.
What has been the secret of your success?
It is integrity and transparency. You see, this is a business you can make a lot of money from. It happens often, it makes people come back to you and they will keep recommending you to others.