Almost everyone loves to take a great vacation. This assumption can be traced to the beaming smiles and happy feelings often expressed by people on a vacation through their pictures, videos and even conversations. Most people who travel more often than usual tend to have a positive attitude towards living, communication & socialization and they affect others with such feelings by proactively encouraging others to travel as well.
Although vacations might seem like a luxury, they are often essential to compliment our overall well-being. Apart from being a relaxation process and an fun-seeking adventure, they can serve as a way of enriching our thoughts, educating our minds and enabling us to be even more creative in whatever we do. Nigeria has so much interesting sites for vacations but very few Nigerians actually visit these places. A young Nigerian has decided to solve this by making a venture out of local tourism. His name is Adedamola Idowu, holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Language from the University of Lagos, and this is his startup story.
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In 2009, I went to Cape Coast, Ghana, with several undergraduates like me, to represent University of Lagos, at the West African University Games. On one of the less busy days during our stay there, we were taken to Elmina Castle and some other attractive sites. After leaving Ghana, I felt like visiting those places again. I also wanted to visit other places across Africa that I had often heard about.
I went to Ghana again in 2010 for the 35th anniversary of ECOWAS which held in Accra. This time, I went with more of my friends and we visited a lot of interesting places. After our visitations, I felt like experiencing the journey over and over again. I had a friend who was also very enthusiastic about travel, we talked about it and decided that we decided we were going to turn our passion into a business. When we returned to Nigeria, we did our research on travel logistics and talked to a lot of people about how to coordinate safe and smooth journeys. We began traveling through Seme, Hilakondji, Aflao borders and it soon became a regular thing, but that didn’t last for too long. After succeeding with such duo travels around Nigeria, I decided I wanted more people to travel with me.
In 2016, I went ahead to organize a road trip for Easter break and it was a success. Then I coordinated another one in celebration of Workers Day, May 1, which was also successful. During the trip planning and coordination, I realized that Nigerians would like to travel to a lot of places but they needed someone to lead them there, a tour guide. I knew I could be that person. On the 3rd of June, after a very hectic day at work, I launched Irinajo on Twitter.
Irinajo is a brand that sells ‘Nigerian destinations’ to fun seekers, corporate organizations, schools & families for leisure, holiday, and vacations. I realized that a lot of people like to travel in groups, so I developed the brand to serve as a point of call for group tours. The brand caters for everyone especially those who can’t afford to travel out of the country for vacation. We ensure that our clients have a very nice time visiting the abundance of attractions that Nigeria has got to offer. The brand is all about tourism thus we explore and showcase to the rest of the world, the tourism potential of Nigeria. We are creating a sense of belonging among Nigerians. We let our prospective Nigerian clients understand that all the tourism sites in Nigeria, for example, Obudu cattle ranch, Yankari games reserve, Erin Ijesha water walls and so on belongs to all Nigerians. If Nigerians don’t visit these places on tours, foreign tourists might not either.
Also, our aim is to directly impact the Nigerian economy. We intend to lead the renaissance of the Nigerian tourism sector. Watching the trends of countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Thailand and a host of others, we want to make Nigeria attractive for fun seekers and also make the country a top holiday destination. Kenya is a country with an economy that relies more on tourism, we want Nigeria to be like that also.
To get information about Irinajo buzzing online, I carved a niche for myself on social media. I contributed to conversations about travels and destinations, engaged with people with a relative thinking and social media influencers. Through this, I was able to increase my popularity status. Social Media became my tool for publicity. All I did was publish information about the trips on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, provide a phone number for people to call and also an email address. I had no external funding. All I invested was more of my savings and client fees. Social media still remains an effective mode of marketing for my brand.
The desire to match Nigeria with other tourism-driven African nations is a huge motivation for me. I feel that many African countries have left Nigeria behind in the tourism sector. One interesting fact is that Nigeria hasn’t been on the list of the most visited countries in Africa in recent times. I believe the first step is to enlighten Nigerians about tourism and get them to visit these tourist sites before trying to attract foreigners. Each day, I discover that this hasn’t been fully achieved so I put more pressure on myself to work harder.
It is usually a very hard task to convince Nigerians to travel within Nigeria. This is due to several reasons which include the state of our roads and security. Another challenge often faced by the brand is sourcing for adequate information about the tourist destinations. Funding is also another challenge but i think that is generally faced by a lot of Nigerian startups. On a few occasions I wanted to quit. There were times when we advertised our trips and we had a low turnout. This usually resulted in setbacks and I often thought about quitting.
My dream is to see Irinajo at the forefront of the rebirth of tourism in Nigeria. Also, Irinajo has been positioned to make Nigerian tourism more attractive to the world, positively impact Nigeria’s macro economy, connect people and get them informed about tourism.
My advice to every aspiring entrepreneur is to imbibe the spirit of perseverance. You must be ready to endure tough times because they will come. More importantly, believe in what you believe in without giving up and seek expert opinions in order to get better.
Founder, Irinajo Travels & Tours Limited