A new booking portal, www.flyboku.com, was on Friday in Lagos, launched by the founder of Ashton and Dave Travels and Holidays, Mr. Abiola Lawal.
The new booking platform, according to Lawal is accessible, reliable and customer-friendly such that a traveler can book for flight and plan for holidays at his convenience on a platform fully backed by technology.
He said the booking portal will be different from others because the company also seeks to let Nigerians explore African countries which have hitherto been abandoned, adding that on-time information about such countries and others would be made available on the site always.
“At flyboku.com, we have the vision to make travel accessible, reliable and affordable, we feel that travel or holidaying should not be boring, with technology to, you can conveniently complete your travel plans on your own on flyboku.com because it is a do it yourself platform.
“We have varieties on the site and especially, we feel African should explore their own so we will be showcasing an African country every week, above all, we have zero tolerance for failure because our customers are number one, the payment option is simple, we have activated interswitch and we are working on others”, he added.
Also speaking, Sally Mbanefo, Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) said such initiative should be supported by Nigerians as it contributes to tourism.
According to her, the simplicity of the site a one is enough to attract travelers.
She said tourism is the largest employer of labour in any country adding that if Nigeria’s is explored, it is capable of employing a large number of youths.
“We are initiating a lot of programmes to boost tourism in Nigeria but funding remains an issue”, she said.
Excerpts of Abiola Lawal’s interview:
My name is Abiola Lawal. I am the founder and chairman of Ashton and Dave Travels and Flyboku.com. We are into travel solutions. We are into travel experience and tourism. We are into making sure that every Nigerian has a digital travel agent without paying an arm and a leg. That is what Mr. Boku is here to do. Mr. Boku is a character that is created in the Nigerian parlance; something we can all relate to. If you look at him he is just chilled, cool. Because at some point some of us who were suit and work at some point we put so much stress on our body, our energy are exhausted when we plan our travels. And we need not go to London, UK, US, Canada etc. We can discover Africa; we can discover places in Nigeria with what I call pocket friendly prices. That is our goal. We said there are four things that thing should do: one, it must be accessible. This means that you can even use your phone to book from the site. It is the most reliable. You see the one we demonstrated? Once you follow up, it issues you a ticket.
We have built partnership around the best airlines, the best hotels and the best products. We spent a lot of money and two years to perfect this system. We are not doing it because other people are doing it; we spent a lot of energy to get it done and we are very happy about it. It is successful, reliable and affordable because the best prices are here. Nigerians will appreciate this. As I told you earlier, Ashton and Dave has been in business for over nine years, so we are not a new comer; we have built a sustainable business primarily focused on corporate travels. It is that experience and structure that is now warehousing this flyboku.com.
With the downturn of the economy, what is your projection of the market in the next few months to one year?
I spent the first five years of my carrier working in Los Angeles for Delta Air Lines and when I came back to Nigeria I was chief strategy officer for a major oil and gas company here. So it gives me invaluable experience from customer and service provider perspectives so I know how difficult it is in this market and price sensitivity. Back to your question, projections are interesting, but the most important thing is, before you get market share, you must get mind share. You must earn the trust of Nigerians. Flyboku.com you are seeing today is a dream that started 25 years ago. For us, it is not about counting the money quickly. We made investment, employed staff and provided training, infrastructure and technology. We believe we are going to be a major player in the market, but about the market share, we leave it to Nigerians and God to decide. We want to pay special attention to every customer. My staff knows this.
Travel experts are of the view that Nigerians should patronise African destinations but you know the inclination in Nigeria, many Nigerians like to travel to Europe, the US and so on; so what is the extra length you will go to sensitise Nigerians on the importance of travelling to African destinations?
I will answer this question from three angles. Number one, information is power. Whether you access ticket from my site or not, I want to provide information to Nigerians about this continental travel, particularly regional travels in Africa. it took me time to know Africa so I made the same mistake. I lived in the US for 20 years. An average Nigerian can name many places in Europe but he does not know Kigali; but an Australian guy is making you know where Kigali is. The Australian man will tell you where Banjul, Zanzibar are. Isn’t it a shame to us. These foreigners are looking for fun; they are looking for where God put natural things and we have underestimated what we have. I think the Director General of the National Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Sally Mbanefo said it; that we need to support ourselves and expose these areas of regional travel. So what we are going to do is to put a lot of information out there.
As part of our contribution, we want to showcase one African country every month. We have a long way to go and as we showcase one country every month we sensitise the people and we are spending time and energy with some of them. Nigeria is still a major player and we can improve on what we have. There are fantastic places to visit all over Africa.
If we can make our travellers feel secure. People must feel secure; no one would like to a place that is not safe. We can make our governments improve on safety in various countries but there are a lot of places that are secure.
It is also about making sure that it is affordable. The prices we have at flyboku.com is not because we cannot make those prices higher. But you must gain mind share before you get market share. We are meticulously building this business over time. I have a favourite book called Build to Last. Build to Last is about a company that was so successful and passed over the generation of the founders. You don’t need to get everything at once but we have invested in the right technology, the right people and the right system, we think we will be successful.
As the Director-General of NTDC noted the need to diversify from oil, we can into trade. Nigerians, Africans we are natural traders. The biggest and the richest man in Africa today is a trader. How do you trade? You move from one point to the other. These are things that I am passionate about. It is never too late to call me on phone. There is a reason why you are calling me; and that is what I tell my staff.
What about your partnership with local airlines and what are your payment platforms?
We are doing a lot with Interswitch already. We are doing a lot with one of the most recognised bank already. I think one of the things we must avoid in online payment is making sure you avoid fraud. Credit card fraud will get you out of business faster than when you started flyboku.com. So one of the things we did was to make sure that it is a secured site. I could have come out with a website solution four years ago. We were diligent; we were disciplined. When you get to my site, it is world class; it is global standard, from booking to payment to anything and that is the idea.