‘I have burning desire for people to experience something different’
Edinyanga Uko Okopide is the Chief Executive Officer of Travelkulture Limited. With a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics/Statistics from University of Calabar, she also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Development Economics from the University of Port Harcourt. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, the Akwa Ibom State native talks about running a travel company and coping amidst COVID-19.
What inspired you into establishing Travelkulture?
It’s burning desire I had for people to experience something different. During my work stint in a time-share vacation company, I discovered that there was a huge gap in the way people embraced the cultures of the destinations they visited. Most of my clients were not interested in tasting local meals, learning new languages or even engaging in souvenir shopping. After gaining good experience, I decided to birth a travel company, TravelKulture that would serve enriching cultural experiences.
Give us an overview of what Travelkulture brings to the tour table?
Travelkulture was created for the inquisitive traveler. We curate the best off beaten path cultural experiences covering the arts, architecture, food, language, and religion. Our travel experiences and intercultural exchange programmes are designed to leave every traveler as a better and more culturally aware version of themselves.
What were the challenges you faced during your evolving years in business?
Oh, I would say financing; finding the right personnel and team to work with, bridging the gap between what people were used to as regards travel experiences and what I was offering. Also, deciding on what marketing channels would be efficient as well as decisions on office locations
What sets you apart from other tour companies?
The fact that we introduce you to the most authentic unfiltered cultural experiences that will make you truly a global citizen. Our trips and exchange programmes enrich your life with so much knowledge and information to make you a better person.
What are the countries you have curated trips to and which was the most memorable?
We have curated trips to countries including Namibia, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Sweden, Mauritius the UAE, France, the UK, South Africa, Egypt and Singapore. The most memorable we had is Johannesburg -CapeTown trip. South Africa is incredibly beautiful with so much history and culture. The trip educated us so much on Mandela from his house insulate to Robben Island. The local beer tasting, dancing with the Zulus and lots of souvenir shopping… it was an awesome experience.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on travel business and tour industry in general?
The travel and tourism sector has been the most affected since the start of the virus and with travel restrictions came border closures, hotel closures and grounded aircraft. This in turn drastically reduced International travel, which caused a huge loss of revenue for travel companies, hotels, airlines and tour handlers. Job losses and uncertainties for the future also greatly affected the travel industry
Do you foresee any long-term effects of the pandemic despite the vaccines?
Oh definitely! The effects of the pandemic cannot be magically erased with vaccine shots. However, it would help international travel restart tourism, but the road to recovery is still very long. It will also take a while for the economies of different countries to recoup as well as the general living standards of citizens to recover especially those affected through job losses.
What health and safety protocols should outbound travelers stay aware of?
They should know that you need a negative PCR COVID-19 test results from an accredited private lab before you can get on any international flight. All COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and surface sanitising have to be strictly adhered to at all times during trips
How has your business been able to stay afloat in spite of the harsh economic reality?
It has not been the most pleasant of times for TravelKulture especially with the pandemic and an economy that is heavily dependent on oil, unstable policies, and poor infrastructure. However, we have been blessed with an amazing team who were willing to take pay cuts while working from home. We also got some rent exemptions and understanding clients who were also willing to reschedule their trips even after deposits had been made for holidays. We shall also keep innovating and refining our offerings within our travel niche, which is at the moment totally unsaturated.
Are there any recent projects you embarked on and those in the pipeline?
Oh yes! We just concluded working with Yemi Alade to show the cultures and scenery of Namibia through some music videos. We are also organising virtual intercultural exchange programmes for teens in the summer months and a huge Africa fashion project slated for December 2021.
What’s your advice for those planning to start a travel company?
Keep your overheads low and get your bookkeeping and accounts tidy from day one. You can always start from home and automate your processes online. Social media is a great way to get the word out about your offerings. Also ensure you carve a niche for yourself and provide efficient service.
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