Chief Executive Officer, Atlas GT Tours Limited, Emmanuel Nweke, spoke with Punch’s Comfort Oseghale on the pains and gains of running a business in Nigeria.

How did you develop an interest in travel and tours?

While undergoing my national youth service in Lagos, my community development service was on tourism. We toured Lagos and its environs. I and some other National Youth Service Corps members decided to travel to Ghana. I handled the logistics for the trip and I really enjoyed it. By the time I completed my service year, I had turned it into a business, even though I have a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Physics from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. My company, which was established four years ago is focused on West African tourism. I travel from Nigeria to Accra, Ivory Coast, Liberia and other places that you don’t have to apply for visa before visiting.

Is it a capital intensive business?
No, it is not. You don’t need a penny to start a travel agency. What is mostly needed is to get your strategies on point. You need a lot of research; know what people like, how to get it at a discounted price and how to work on your cost. Initially, I didn’t start out because I wanted to make money. I just wanted to sell the experience I had when I travelled to Ghana. Then you need contacts in the places that you are travelling to. There are certain things you can do online which are free. Know how to mark up money when booking a flight for a client. If you are booking a hotel, know how to do a deal with the hotel so that you get a certain percentage. Also, your initial cost has to do with registering your company with Corporate Affairs Commission. Till date, I don’t have employees but I have contacts who bring in jobs and who are in other countries that I can call on when I have clients travelling to such countries. I call them freelancers. Employing people adds to the costs of running a business.

Is your business profitable?
Tourism is profitable but not so much presently because we are trying to create awareness. You don’t set up trying to make all the money at once. You set your rate in such a way that it can cover logistics. The aim is to get people travelling and with time, you can start making your money. That is why I don’t encourage the immediate employment of people because it only increases overhead cost. You start thinking along the route of how to make enough money to pay back. Once you have your system and you can book flights, you just start from there.

What can the government do to make the industry better?
We don’t appreciate tourism in Nigeria. We have a lot of sites that we have read about in our history books. If Nigeria can work on such sites, people will start to visit Nigeria.