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Our attention is on guests at The Envoy By Mantis Abuja

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Our attention is on guests at The Envoy By Mantis Abuja

Dewald Kruger is the General Manager of The Envoy By Mantis Abuja, which recently was named as the best city hotel in Nigeria during the World Travel Awards for Africa and Indian Ocean region; he spoke with DEBORAH OCHENI on the hotel’s facilities and offerings as well as hospitality business in Nigeria

 

Background

Dewald Kruger is a professional hotelier, with a rich knowledge and vast experience in hospitality business. He was educated at the University of Johannesburg, former Wits Hotel School and Witkoppen Cordon Blue and KWV Wine Courses in South Africa. His work experience spans hotels, restaurants, industrial catering, training and human resources management.

 

Having spent about five years in Nigeria, what is your experience like?

First, coming from South Africa, is a shock, infrastructure crumbling, you see poverty, pollution and then you still see vibrant hard working people going about their businesses without waiting for the government to give them jobs. There is no good road, they will make one, no adequate power supply but they still try to survive it by getting a generator. If they don’t have food, they will make a plan and that is really something interesting to see in Nigeria.

 

What makes The Envoy Hotel such an enviable hotel?

It is from the design and quality; the interior, colour and concept should be new and fresh with a touch of simplicity in order for it not to be over decorated. Just plain and simple but very high quality finishing. In the building, I look at good quality craftsmanship especially the tiling is such a visible element of a hotel, you need to make sure that your tiling work is good, your basic construction and design is good as well.

We spent a lot of time and money to get this structure done, we visited Hongkong, London, Paris, and New York to make sure we get the best new element that is available and brought them here for our guest to enjoy. We have a very nice pool area, Zanzibar Pool, the best experience available in Nigeria. We are experiencing good turnout from our guests, our halls are well-booked, and our rooms are popular.

 

What are some of the challenges running a hotel in Nigeria?

There are always challenges and in Nigeria specifically, we are majorly business oriented hotel, so we host business travellers. If there is any disturbance in the country, it will affect travellers from coming here and that is a problem.
We need internal peace and stability and that is the job of the government. We need consistent power supply and that is a problem but we have generators, however, they are uncomfortable, costly and not environmentally friendly so why will you establish a hotel here when you can do it elsewhere that is cheaper?

 

How much is The Envoy spending on diesel monthly?

May be about N3 million a month. You can imagine! How then can you make profit with such expenses? If we can have constant power supply it will cut down expenses and that will affect the rate. We use the most effective air conditioner that is environmentally friendly.

The Nigerian power sector should take their job seriously and attend to the problem because it is a big micro economic problem as the more you try to go forward, you go backward.

 

Which specific areas are you going to focus on in order to lift the fortune of the hotel?

Good structure because from there you can focus on your product, it is easy to focus on your product when your building is sound. Maximum attention should be given to customer service so that you can keep your customers happy by giving them something exciting, especially with meal. Our Nigerian meal is tasty and for the international dishes, we buy fresh food items.

 

What is your view on the Nigerian hospitality sector?

It’s vibrant and very challenging, but it is too easy to say our standard is substandard because it is Nigeria. It shouldn’t be so, we should be competitive in all levels, at all standards, and at all times.

You don’t have all the fine food my guest wants or even beddings, we can’t have them all here because waivers are not given as it is in India, Middle East, or China, so, it is not fine to say supply the ones you can supply.

In terms of human capital, we have skilled staff of good levels, they are expected to do the right thing the first time and thereafter, they disappointing even rubbing our guests.

 

 

Will you say the Nigerian government policy of patronising made in Nigeria goods is negatively affecting hospitality sector?

I think so because hoteliers have to import equipment, products from Middle East and Europe to meet up with international standards and competitors. Aside power, manufacturing sector must come alive to produce for exportation and that is when the big economic wheel will start rolling. Employment will happen, taxes getting paid, and foreign exchange coming in.

 

Do you foresee The Envoy opening branches in other Nigerian cities?

It’s a high-end brand and we are always looking out for more opportunities all over the country. We have been to different destinations but at the upper end, business hotel will be staying close to bigger business centres. So, I can’t foresee that we will be moving into smaller areas but we might look at places like Port Harcourt, Owerri and Asaba. We will be looking into leisure destinations close to nature, waterfalls, mountains and games reserves.

 

Why are international hotel brands attracted to the Nigerian market?

If you look at the world system or membership of bigger brands; their members are international travellers. When they want to travel to Nigeria, they look out for their brand and so we are the only Accor hotel in Abuja. International brands are finding their way here because local brand cannot afford the benefits attached but then, it’s a good competition as we are bringing international travel experience to Abuja.

 

Would you say hotel business is lucrative?

Hotel business is lucrative. Hotel keeping is a good business in the Nigerian environment, there are lots of tourist opportunities but the Nigerian government doesn’t understand that too well. They need to understand the tourist cycle, and it starts at the arrival at the national airports. You can have hotel in ice, trees, caves and even rocks but it must be safe, ecologically friendly and offers authentic experience.

Then you will attract leisure/tourist travellers. For scale, the Notre Dame in Paris attracted 13 million visitors last year and it is 1,000 years – old building. Do we have any statistics for the tourist attractions in Nigeria? Imagine the peripheral spending around this! No wonder the speed at replacing the damage after the recent fire, besides the religious and historic value this building holds.

 

 

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IDA CHAM NJAI: Dine with Ida when in The Gambia

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IDA CHAM NJAI: Dine with Ida when in The Gambia

 

Ida Cham Njai, an hotelier of many years and renowned chef, is the face of The Gambia tourism, noted for her unique promotion of the country’s cultural tourism, life style and culinary offerings, she spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA of her passion for tourism and love for her country

 

Background

 

The Gambia, which is otherwise known as ‘the smiling coast of Africa,’ is noted for its rich and colourful tourism offerings and one of the promoters of the country’s tourism is Ida Cham Njai, the founder of Yabouy Home Cooking. For her unique blend of home cooking, fashion, life style and cultural offerings, she is globally known and is one of the most sought after Gambians, with her face and products adoring many world’s publications and television programmes. A visit to The Gambia without an encounter with her where she treats you to a savoury bouquet of The Gambia’s cultural offerings, is regarded as incomplete.

 

The country’s tourism promoters are always proud to display her as one of their precious exports to the world. Nigerians had a taste of her culinary skill last year when she participated in the jollof rice competition held during Akwaaba African Travel Market, where she came first, beating others to the coveted crown. Though she was around for the event this year but decided to leave the scene for others to prove their mettle.

However, she was a sight and delight to behold all through the three days event as she graced her country’s pavilion, like a precious model, attired in her splendid; colourful and brightly toned signature African’s attire.

 

I love tourism Ida Cham Njai is not one of those whose engagement with the tourism industry is due to happenstance but rather, she was driven into by her innate love for the industry. No wonder, she goes about her various pre – occupations effortlessly. She is her country’s most beloved tourism face and beloved by everyone that comes in contact with her, especially tourists who cherish every moment they spent with her.

‘‘I loved tourism and that was why I studied it. Growing up I saw the potential in it and so I decided to go into it, so that I can at least play my part in the tourism industry,’’ she tells you with some sense of pride and a feeling of accomplishment.

 

Career path She founded Yabouy Home Cooking in 2008. But prior to that the graduate of Hotel Tourism and Catering Management from West London College, United Kingdom, started her career in the tourism industry in 1989 at the Senegambia Beach Hotel, following her return to the country from England on the completion of her study. Between 1989 and 2005, she worked in different capacities at the hotel.

 

These included: Food and beverage coordinator; purchasing manager; guest relations manager; conference manager; and sales and marketing. During her stint with the hotel, she made quite an impact and was recognised as one of the influencers in the industry and as a result represented her country at different foras, especially trade exhibitions across the world. ‘‘Due to my work I used to travel a lot to represent The Gambia in trade fairs,’’ she   says. With the glitz and recognition that came with the work, one would had expected her to keep at it for long, however, she graciously bowed out to face a more challenging task.

 

‘‘But in 2005 I resigned from Senegambia Beach Hotel to a more challenging job,’’ she discloses, pitching her tent with Mandina Eco Lodge at Makasutu Culture Forest. ‘‘I was the general manager. I worked there for two years from 2006 to 2008. Her stint at the eco lodge was for a short period as she again resigned and moved on to a new terrain.

 

‘‘Because I wanted to start something new in the tourism market,’’ she recalls with nostalgic feelings. Birthing Yabouy Home Cooking Her birthing Yabouy Home Cooking was not also something that she chanced on but rather, it has been part of her as she only stepped out of her routine to give a voice to what she had always done by the side while working for others.

 

‘‘When I was working in the hotel industry, I used to invite friends to my house and they always say that I made their holidays. I do realise that most travellers when they travel they will like to go to the local market and they will also like to see how we live. ‘‘Every time that I put on African attire they liked it and so, I said let me combine these two,’’ she reveals of how today she has become a promoter of the culture, life style, fashion and culinary offerings of her people, giving tourists a whole world of experience of The Gambia.

 

This reporter visited her home to experience her home cooking and cultural offerings in the company of other Nigerian travel journalists in one of his visits to the country. Her home was one of the spots explored by us for the best of The Gambian tourism offerings. Till today, there is not letting off steam as she has continued to attract hundreds of tourists to her home who come to savour the rich culinary taste offered by her.

 

She engages the tourists actively in the purchase of the cooking items and in the cooking as well. She offers some details of her style of operation: ‘‘When people come to me they put on African attire, then I give them the   basket, we go to the market, then come back to the house, cook together, eat together, play games and then exchange cultural values.’’ She has made quite a huge progress with the project, as she discloses that: ‘‘I am very proud to say that in 2008 I started with less than 50 pounds, I started with my utensils that I used at home.’’

 

She attributes her success to the unique nature of her offerings and to the fact that: ‘‘I think the beauty of my product is the personal touch.’’ It is no wonder that she has won the heart of everyone, including the tour operators, who go all out to promote her special offerings. ‘‘Instead of me going out to find the customers, the customers come to me. It is the tour operators who are selling or promoting me,’’ she says, adding that: ‘‘Many of the tour operators used me as a success story for sustainable tourism and now I am being hired by The Gambia to cook Gambia foods.’

’ The Gambia food is the best She regards The Gambia food as one of the best in the continent and that it has a vast collection. Perhaps the most distinct and noted of this repertoire, she says: ‘‘We have different types of foods and we put a lot of vegetables in our cooking but the most popular three are: Benachin (One pot), known as jollof rice and originated from the wolof tribe; Domoda, peanut soup, which originated from the Mandika tribe; and Yassa, which is charcoal grill fish or chicken, with spicy onions and originated from the Jola tribe.’’ However, she doesn’t restrict herself to these three only but offers rich variety of foods and recipes to her visitors who most times find it quite a savoury experience.

 

Dine with Ida Aside of the Yabouy Home Cooking, she IDA CHAM NJAI last year introduced a new variant to her offerings, which is known as ‘Dine with Ida.’ ‘‘Last year I also started something new because I realised that some people will like to taste

 

The Gambia food but are not interested in cooking. ‘‘So, I started with dine with Ida. With this, I cook everything myself and people come with their families to dine with me.’’

 

I am happy with what I am doing She expresses a sense of satisfaction with her pre – occupation, especially given the fact that she is not only the face of The Gambia tourism but has also earned global acclaim as people all over the world invite her to cook The Gambia foods for them whenever they have important events. For all of these honours, she says, ‘‘I am very happy about it because I love my country.’’ She also glows in the fact that she enjoys a lot of support from the private sector operators who are her backbone. ‘‘It is because of them that I am known and very popular. They advertise me a lot,’’ she says.

 

 

Giving succour to the indigents Chef Ida, as many of her admirers and followers fondly call her, has also spread her tentacles of influence beyond Yabouy Home Cooking and Dine with Ida to that of creating a community of entrepreneurs through a foundation, which she founded in 2013, to render financial assistance to indigent people who are into business. ‘‘I am also into micro financing, helping the least fortunate.

 

I give them loans and they pay me back without interest,’’ she says, explaining that the loan has a six month repayment span. She also discloses of plans to extend her field to that of creating a new project where she employs and utilises the products made by the beneficiaries of her foundation’s loan scheme, as many of them produce fresh farm products such as peanut butter.

Gambians are the nicest people on earth Proud of her country, she describes her people as warm and the nicest people on earth. ‘‘The Gambia I will say is the smallest country in Africa and the nicest. We are gifted. Gambians are nice naturally and we love strangers. We love our culture as well. We have nice hotels, eco lodges and we have many other things as well. ‘‘We would like everyone to know that The Gambia is a very nice place and we are very welcoming.’’

 

I like bright colours Though she most often maintains a quiet disposition, almost coming across as taciturn and introvert, however, she is given away by her colourful and bright coloured African attire, which stands her out in the crowd.

 

‘‘I like bright colours and The Gambia is very sunny. Anywhere I am I want to stand out. My favourite colours are red, yellow, green and white.’’

 

My favourite food is benachin ‘‘My favourite food is benachin and it is the best. I don’t know why Nigerians and Ghanaians are claiming jollof rice when jollof rice is from our home, our sub region, Wallof. It is from Wallof and I am a Wallof. So, I don’t know why Nigerians are making claim to it.

 

‘‘You can only find that in Senegal and Gambia,’’ she says with pride. Reminding the reporter that she came tops during the jollo rice competition held last year at Akwaaba African Travel Market when she took part, representing her country. Nigerians are nice people too ‘‘Nigerians are very nice as well. Very open. Because just yesterday (A day before the interview) I got somebody who came all the way just to see me, which is an honour. ‘‘Nigeria is very big and there is a lot that

 

the country can do especially for the other smaller countries in Africa.

 

Senegal is my favourite destination

 

For someone who has travelled across the many countries of the world, you would had expected her to name one of the exotic destinations in Europe as her favourite destination of all time.

 

 

But to one’s surprise, she named Senegal, which is neighbouring country to The Gambia as ‘‘my favourite destination.

 

That is where I go to relax always.’

 

I love my bed

‘‘I love my bed. I sleep or I relax on bed. I love that,’’ she tells you when it comes to how she unwinds and get back her groove.

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Abuja set to host Abuja Jabamah, NTIFE, INAC, Abuja Carnival 2019

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Abuja set to host Abuja Jabamah, NTIFE, INAC, Abuja Carnival 2019

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja is set to play host to four major tourism events, all within a period of one week, thus living up to its billing as Nigeria’s leading city for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE).

This is a big plus for the city and Nigeria tourism even though failure of the city’s administrators, tourism operators and the residents to take advantage of its prime setting in promoting its tourism economy has been a source of worry to many.

 

The four events are namely: Abuja Jabamah; International Arts and Craft Exhibition (INAE); Abuja Carnival; and Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2019.

 

With these four events, it is still not clear whether the administrators of the city understand the import of these forthcoming mega celebrations on the city, as there is nothing on ground to show that they are gearing up to work assiduously with the organisers of these events in order for the city to reap from the windfall, with visitors from across the country and other parts of the world expected to converge on the city during the one week period.

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Abuja Jabamah 2019 holds November 18

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Abuja Jabamah 2019 holds November 18

The first of the triple tourism outings is the seventh edition of Abuja Jabamah, a travel and tourism trade conference and exhibition organised annually by the organisers of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Africa Travel Quarterly (atq.com), as part of activities to create a platform for travel operators in the northern part of the country to exhibit their products and services and interact with major players in the industry, travelling public, suppliers and buyers as well as operators from other parts of the country.

 

Billed to hold on November 18 at the exhibition hall of the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja.

The one – day event will feature exhibition, business – to – business (B2B) session, celebration of the Top 100 Tourism Personalities in Nigeria and induction of travel operators from the different fields of the sector into the Tourism 100 Club.

 

Also, there will be an exponential tourism activation, with half – day city tour for operators attending the event to be hosted by the organisers of the event in partnership with other stakeholders in the city. Some of the key partners for this year’s edition include the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Cabo Verde Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and the National Institute for Tourism and Hospitality (NIHOTOUR).

 

Cabo Verde Airlines is making its first appearances at the tourism event and Nigeria market. Previously branded as TACV Cabo Verde Airlines, it is a scheduled passenger and cargo airline based in Praia, Cape Verde.

 

 

 

 

 

It is the national flag carrier of Cape Verde, operating flights to West Africa, Europe, North America and South America. It is billed to commence flight operations from Lagos, Nigeria this December; flying from Lagos to America, Europe and Latin America.

 

NIHOTOUR will host the half day tour and also introduce guests to its different training programmes while NCAC will curate the cultural component of the event as Chef Fatima of Abuja treats the people to some of the unique culinary experiences of Northern Nigeria.

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Abuja Carnival for November 23

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The one week celebration will climax with Abuja Carnival, which is slated to hold between November 23 and 25 under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, with the minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as the chief host.

 

According to the ministry, the carnival will feature the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with each state and FCT, expected to thrill the public with the best of their cultural tourism products and other offerings.

 

With the Eagle Square as the venue of the daily performances, some of the special features of the carnival, according to the ministry, include cultural parade, masquerade display, durbar event and boat regatta. Also on the bill are food, arts and craft exhibition and special presentation by the children.

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NAFEST 2019: Ekiti named Most Creative and Innovative State in Nigeria

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Ekiti State has claimed the first position as the Most Creative and Innovative State in Nigeria category in the recently concluded 39th edition of the National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST) hosted by Edo State in Benin under the auspices of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).

 

This feat, according to the Director General of Ekiti State Council for Arts and Culture, Wale Ojo – Lanre, who led a 48- member contingent, including the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ganiyu Titilope Ibrahim to Benin, is a testimony of the state governor’s commitment to transforming the state creative industry given the huge investment that he has made within a short span. Ojo – Lanre disclosed that the state had gone to the festival with the major aim of showcasing the preparation of royal pounded yam in line with the theme of the festival: Our Royalty, Our Pride. ‘‘

 

Armed with two mortals, four pestles, bags of condiments of local soup preparation, seasoned bush meat and set of Ekiti farm yam tubers, the contingent headed for Benin to culturally showcase the beauty of Ekiti pounded yam,’’ said the DG.

It was commendations from all angles for the state from the first day of the festival when it left no one in doubt of its determination to make a statement with it outstanding performances in the different events that it entered for.

 

The state’s arts and craft exhibition pavilion, which was manned by the President of Ekiti State Association of Professional Artists, Mr. Jacob Ayodele, witnessed a rich display of the beauty of Ekiti State indigenous arts and crafts.

 

It didn’t also disappoint during it presentation at the royal Cuisines section held at Benin Museum, with its exhibition pavilion employing local motifs such as cooking utensils, soup ingredients, method of preparation, serving and eating of pounded yam by the king.

 

The DG of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, who was overwhelmed by the state’s creative presentations, in presenting the award to the state, commended Governor Kayode Fayemi, for his brilliant cultural vision which has continued to glitter globally.

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International Arts and Craft Exhibition begins November 20

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The second in the series of tourism related events for the week is the yearly International Arts and Craft Exhibition organised by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) headed by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe.

 

It is the 12th edition of the arts and craft exhibition, which is billed to open on November 20 at the FCT Exhibition Pavilion by Abuja International Conference Centre (ICC). It is a four- day event spanning November 24 and it is expected to feature states across the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, with over 20 foreign countries in attendance. Smarting from a successful National Festival for Arts and Culture (NAFEST), hosted by Edo State government in Benin and adjudged to be one of the best in the recent history of the festival, NCAC, according to the DG, Runsewe, has promised a very colourful celebration of the unique cultural tourism products of the country among others.

 

 

Runsewe had at a pre – INAC dinner event held for envoys in the country in July hinted that this year’s INAC will be a watershed event as it will break new grounds in cultural diplomacy and feature new activities from the different countries and states as well as operators in the creative industry from across the world.

 

Apart from the arts and craft exhibition, countries and private operators, a number of states and countries are expected to host their cultural days within the four days period, which will also feature workshops and training sections in skill acquisitions, musical entertainment and food exhibition. Apart from the exhibitors, the event is opened to the public who are expected to savour the different presentations that will be featured.

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FTAN’s NTIFE opens Nov 19

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The Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) has disclosed the hosting of its annual tourism exhibition platform, Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) 2019, which is billed to hold between November 19 and 20 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja.

 

 

According to the President of FTAN, and co- chair of the organising committee of NTIFE, Alhaji Saleh Rabo, leading travel brands and government agencies, including the federal and state governments, are expected to attend the two days event to showcase their different offerings.

 

“Our primary goal with NTIFE 2019 is to get a workable consensus among Nigeria tourism stakeholders and facilitate the enactment of a pro-tourism development Act of Parliament,’’ said Rabo of NTIFE.

 

‘‘Considering the inter – governmental and tourism multi-sectoral operative nature of the global tourism industry, Nigeria needs an encompassing legislative framework that clearly stipulates roles and responsibilities of government and the organized private sector in Nigeria,” added Rabo.

 

Given it quest for an Act of parliament to regulate tourism in Nigeria, he said FTAN has chosen as a theme for NTIFE 2019; “An insight into the legal framework of Tourism in Nigeria.”

 

Some of the special guests slated to speak during the two days gathering include the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who will deliver the keystone address and Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sani Nanono, who is also the chairman of the board of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

 

Partners with FTAN for the hosting of this year’s NTIFE are: Emirates Airlines, Eko Hotel and Suites and Transcorp Hilton Hotel.

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Gambia declares visa free for travellers

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In its drive to increase tourist arrivals to the country, The Gambian government has said foreigners seeking to visit the West African nation can now do that without the hassle of visa requirement.

 

The Director of Marketing for The Gambia Tourism Board, Adama Njie, during an interview with this reporter in Akwaaba African Travel Market held in Lagos in September declared that the target of the country in its national plan is to record 350, 000 tourist arrivals in 2021. To this end, he disclosed to this reporter that plans were underway for the government to consider visa free entry for a number of countries in order to easy access to the country.

 

 

This, has finally been achieved with Atqnews.com report stating that the government last month declared a visa free policy for the country, which is meant to cover certain categories of travellers.

 

According to a statement by the government, the free policy adopted by the Ministry of Tourism, The Gambia is now a visa free zone for all chartered and scheduled flights. “The Gambia Tourism Board further wishes to inform that the new visa free policy applies to citizens from the following countries: All Commonwealth countries, All European Union countries, All African countries, and Baltic states,” it further stated. The new policy is expected to increase arrival figures to the country as predicted by Njie.

 

In 2018, non-traditional markets arrival from January to December, witnessed 77, 109, an increase of 21 per cent compared with January to December 2017 arrivals of 63, 492. He further disclosed that: “Nigerian and American markets top the list of arrivals by nationalities from the non-traditional in 2018 both accounting for seven per cent.’’

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Food West Africa Expo set for November 25

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The Nigerian hospitality scene will on November 25 play host to debuting Food West Africa Exhibition in partnership with Agra Innovate West Africa Expo. Billed for Landmark Centre in Lagos, it is a two – day event that will span November 26 and it is expected to be a forum where various players and vendors in the sector will gather to exhibit their products and services for the benefit of the public.

According to the Marketing Manager of Food West Africa, Loy Pinheiro, the exhibition will feature over 50 free practical seminars to be delivered by renowned experts in the field; ‘‘who are billed to discuss fresh market insights and share valuable ideas that will help you stay up-to-date in West Africa’s thriving food and beverage sector.’’

 

He also disclosed that registration for the event is ongoing online while provision will also be made for onsite registration.

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LUKHANYISO GIBA: Urworld Sim eases cost of communication

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LUKHANYISO GIBA: Urworld Sim eases cost of communication

Lukhanyiso Giba is a partner and director of Urworld Sim. She was in Lagos recently to attend Akwaaba African Market Travel Market where she spoke to ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on the cost saving benefits of Urworld SIM for travellers and her passion for travels among other issues.

 

 

Background

Lukhanyiso Giba, a South African, can’t easily disguise her passion for the travel industry, as her love for the industry shines through the moment she begins to make a pitch for her travel product, Urworld SIM, which according to her, is a product of her quest for offering solutions to challenges encountered by travellers. She started her career in the aviation industry, where she cut her teeth, with South African Express Airways, garnering experience in virtually all aspects of the industry, including; marketing, sales, business development and logistics.

With a management development background from the University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa, and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in International Hospitality Management from AGSB- Switzerland. She escribes herself as a hotelier, with a deep passion for service, beautiful spaces, luxury travels, communications, events planning and media. Giba, in the course of her over three years studies in Switzerland, besides picking- up French as a foreign language, she travelled frequently between Switzerland, France, Italy and South Africa, where she engaged actively with some of the major players in the travel industry from both government and private operators.

On her return to her country in 2014, Giba worked with Four Seasons Hotel Group, as a result of a direct transfer from the group’s property in Geneva, Hotel De Bergues. However, this romance didn’t last long as her search for solutions to some of the challenges in the industry, especially in the area of communication, led her to Urworld Sim in 2017, where she became a partner and director.

She presently drives the marketing and sales strategy, as well as business development of the company in Africa. It was for this purpose that she was in Lagos recently for Akwaaba African Travel Market, taking advantage of the platform to pitch for her company and product.

 

 

Inspiration for the travel industry

Excited about travelling, which for her is a passion, Giba describes herself as a ‘nomad outside Africa;’ given her interest in travelling and background. Born and bred in East London, South Africa, but she had also spent time in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Knysna and Cape Town.

‘‘I like to think of myself as a child of the world! I am pretty much from everywhere although originally from East London. I`ve lived in four different Provinces in South Africa, I lived in Europe, I`ve travelled to Asia, Africa, USA, South America and I have friends and family all around the globe.

‘‘So, I like to think of myself as a nomad outside Africa, I grew up pretty much everywhere,’’ she says. For her, the inspiration for travelling is the experience that one derives, especially when it comes to new discoveries and learning. Elements that she is not ready to trade off for anything else.

‘‘I remembered the first time that I travelled and it was my first international travels and I was very excited. I think I was actually going to Florida, I felt like a new person. That I was about to get re-born and learn new things. And I find out that this is more prevalent to travelling. In all honesty, I am all about consuming new experiences and new people!

‘‘Because the more you get out, the more you get exposed. You are exposed to different people, you are exposed to different cultures and not only are you exposed to new things, you are also exposed to a new you. And you suddenly realise that your world is quite small. ‘‘And when you open up, life just gives you wonders and that is what is interesting for me about travelling. Getting to meet new people, and getting to know what other people are doing.’’

 

Turning her passion into business

Today, Giba is a partner and director of Urworld Sim, a company that vends sim cards, which is designed to ease communication and save cost for the international travellers across the various strata of the society. Meeting with her business partner, a Swiss national, was coincidental. ‘‘We got speaking about businesses and comparing beautiful spaces such as Switzerland and South Africa and talking about our passion for travelling. We got talking about the difficulties and challenges of travelling, and one of the challenges was cost saving.

That was how it all developed into partnership,’’ she recalls of her journey into the world of Urworld. Urworld is a Swiss SIM card technology that understands the need to navigate this digital age effortlessly. It understands the needs for mobile users who travel frequently and abroad: Need for instant connectivity, convenience, transparency on the price of data usage and cost savings, effectiveness as well as the necessity for instant connection without having to queue for a local sim card. First of its kind on the African continent, the international Sim card is a one-stop mobile shop in the palm of your hand. With a presence in South Africa, Germany, and Nigeria. Now looking forward to expanding the offering in Kenya in the near future.

 

Urworld is designed to save cost

Staying connected often comes with a high price. But with Urworld, you save up to 80 per cent on roaming and data. Urworld Sim serves as a cost saving solution to assist global travellers as well as the corporate world particularly when it comes to controlling their mobile communication costs when moving in Africa and the rest of the world. Urworld is the perfect travelling companion for those who are hyper-connected in their personal and working lives and need of cheaper and convenient mobile services.

The Sim works in 180 countries, from the minute you step off the plane, you want to be able to connect to call your uber, whatsapp your loved one, and respond to important business emails, find a hotel or a museum. The Sim card seamlessly integrates with your existing smartphone, without configurations to your social apps. Meaning that all your information remains the same, which is an important need for all travellers. ‘‘These days everyone is doing business outside of their borders and language barrier becomes one of the big blockades.

So, one of the lucrative things about our product is that it provides convenience that you can actually insert the sim card at home before you travel so that by the time you are in a new country, it will automatically connect without the stress of having to converse with anybody, saving you time and money,’’ she says. Adding that: ‘‘It is a transparent and trust worthy service.’’ Besides these advantages, she says ‘‘the greatest asset is that it reduces your running cost, because, you only get charged for the calls you make, there are no added or hidden costs involved.’’

Still on the product, she says, ‘‘you can recharge conveniently online as you don’t have to go to any shop for it. All the information and processes you need to buy your airtime and data are clearly stated and you can also transfer credit to another user using the platform.

‘‘You have one for a group, for family and for travel agencies and tour operators.’’ The Sim card has a six months’ validity after your last use and you have an option to subscribe for 12 months or before your six months elapses you could make just one call with it and your initial six months’ life circle is renewed all over again. Therefore, you can use the sim card over and over again. Distribution points for now are in Switzerland, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria. The Sim card is international and it is being used in the USA, UK, and Dubai. In the Nigerian market, Urworld Sim cards, according to her, are available at Lufthansa City Centre (LCC) Tifa Travels and Tours, Ikeja; as well as online shops like Jumia and Habarigt.

 

Making inroads in the market

With the reception that the travel product has received within two years of its launch, Giba is very pleased and excited, as she informs that: ‘‘Everybody loves it, they find it convenient and they find it cheap as well. ‘‘Our customers keep coming back for more! The perception has been phenomenal so far.’’ And for the Nigerian market, she says the sim card is tailored made because Nigerians make more calls and it will save them a lot of costs.

‘‘Nigerians make calls a lot unlike the Europeans who use more data and so that is one of the key learnings. ‘‘It is important to understand how people think of technology as well as their limitations or challenges in engaging with technology and once you take them through the process it becomes easier for them.’’ She also expresses delight over the prospect of the business, saying that appreciable successes have been achieved.

‘‘I am very, very excited compared to where we were last year and where we are today. Unlike other similar products, our strategy really is to focus on Africa. ‘‘The future is to have distribution areas all over Africa. Starting with Lagos and working on Kenya, as we are introducing a lot of sim cards for Kenya and we are also going to be introducing a USA number.’’

 

I am leveraging on my visits to Nigeria to understand the market

 

Giba’s recent visit to Nigeria was her third visits in over two years as she was first in the country last year for Akwaaba and later visited to attend the Nigeria Travel Week event and last month, visited to attend Akwaaba. For her, these visits offers her the opportunities to understand more her market. ‘‘I am using the opportunity to understand the market more.’’ Stressing that she is impressed with Nigerians, describing them as very warm and passionate people: ‘‘Nigerians are very welcoming, and very energetic and very passionate about what they do. I think that is one thing that draws me here all the time. I literarily come here to re-energise.’’

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