Ahmed Muhammed Sani is the chief executive officer, Amco Travel and Tours Limited. In an interview with Ifeoma Okeke, he speaks on the challenges and prospects of the aviation and tourism sectors. Excerpt:
What is Flyamco.com all about?
We can’t talk about flyamco.com, without the mother company, Amco Travel and Tours Limited. We started operations about 10 years ago. We went into the tourism business with the desire to address the challenges we saw in the industry. The key issue is that Nigerians deserve the best travel experience like other people in developed countries. My personal experience during a trip to pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia was a major motivator. I felt the pains of what many Nigerians pass through. Customers deserve the best but reverse is the case in Nigeria. Amco Travel & Tours specializes in organising local and international tour services for individuals and group. We assist in the procurement of VISAS for travellers abroad, ticketing and reservation, worldwide hotel accommodation arrangement, airport protocol services, car hire services, aircraft charters, educational tours. We assist students to study abroad, we also organise conference, vocational/holiday/leisure trips and others. Our mission Statement is to provide customers with oriented and top quality travel and tour services in compliance with the highest international standards. And our vision is to be the leading most reputable and recognised sub-specialized provider of tourism service throughout the nation.
Flyamco.com came from this very need. The platform is an online based solution where customers can conveniently plan their trip, especially by booking hotels and air tickets at their convenience. With that they save time and money and get involve in choosing exactly what they want. The platform also provides customers necessary information that enable them take decisions.
Apart from tourism are there other things you do?
Yes. Our group is into engineering and real estate. These are more like family businesses. My father has been into real estate and I have been committed to growing the sector. I have a background in engineering and that have helped in offering customers the best as construction consultant and real estate manager. So this is not a matter of business but a passion.
As a licensed tour operator, what can you list as your contribution to the nation?
Since we started, we have been able to provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to help reduce unemployment challenge in the country. We have been expanding sustainably and we hope that in few years from now, our organisation would be able to provide employment to thousands of others. Personally, one of the greatest achievements is also the joy and passion of seeing people through to perform Umrah and Hajj. As a Muslim, you are being rewarded as you simplify others’ travelling processes to the holy city. This is a big achievement, not only for me but the entire Muslim Ummah.
Has anything changed with this current government as regards the challenges you have been facing?
Yes, there are visible changes. One of the basic things that have changed with this government is security. The security is 95 percent better compared to the previous government. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has done a lot in terms of security with the help of the military, Airforce and Navy and with the help of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General, Burutai who has the commitment and the country at heart. He has the commitment and it has paved a way for the officers to do the work and by doing that, if the head is good, others will be better.
From the records, AMCO Travel and Tour Limited prides itself in delivering various travel packages to its customers promptly. How have you done this over the years?
From the start of our operation, we know that for the tourism sector to grow in the country, indigenous operators must be ready to boost investment and concentrate on a sustainable plan to harness the potentials in the sector. That is what South Africa and Kenya have been able to do. So, our basic focus is to treat customers with all respect and handle them like they are all we have got. We are not in business to just make money but to improve customer experience, build trust and integrity and show that we can live up to our expectation sustainably.
How costs effective are your services compared to that of competitors?
Our prices are affordable because we have in mind the higher class, the middle class and the lower class. Our prices are more flexible than others. For those who can afford higher services, we have affordable services for them. Those in the lower class still have benefits they enjoy. We can put two or three persons in a classy hotel and room, so that they can also enjoy the benefits those in the higher class enjoy. I also give discounts on air tickets for clients. Sometimes I give customers discount from the commissions the airlines give me.
Comparing the sector with what happened last year, do you think there are improvements?
Last year was difficult for the travel and tourism sector and for the country in general. Things were not so easy because of the recession. However, comparing last year to this year, there are lots of differences. We are no longer in recession and the economy is picking up, the difference is much. Last year, the rate of travel was about 35percent of what we are having now. Now, we have up to 70 to 80percent, so the differences are much. So, this year is much better than last year. Travels are part of humans and we cannot do without travelling. Whether recession or not, people still find reasons to travel, so it is not as if because of recession, people do not travel in Nigeria. For Hajj, we had over 95thousand slots from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria exhausted that allocation. So, you can see that despite the recession people still travel, they have a reason to travel especially when there is need for people to travel for religion activities.
Do you mean people travel more for religion than business?
If you want to have more travels, in Nigeria people travel more for religion purposes than business purposes. There is no where you have up to 100 people at the same time traveling for business but for religion purpose, you can get up to one million people travelling at the same time, leaving the same day, returning the same day, being in the same environment, the same building and the same hotel. But when you talk of business travel, it will be an individual; at most you can get just 20 or 30 people travelling at the same time. You hardly get up to 200 people go for a business trip.
What would you recommend that Nigeria should do in order to encourage domestic tourism?
Personally, I think they should invest more in the aviation sector. Aviation and tourism are key sectors in every economy, but reverse is the case in Nigeria. Despite the huge potential in tourism, the federal and states government have not taken necessary steps to promote it. Unless this is done, Nigeria wouldn’t harness the benefit. Transportation is the backbone of every economy. People should be able to move to keep the economy moving. I will advise the Federal Government to invest more in the aviation sector.
We need a national carrier. I learnt there are plans on-going to come up with one but government has to be serious with it. Revamping the national carrier may be a fast way to boost the aviation industry in Nigeria. Most of the African countries today have their carriers, including Ethiopia airway that started recently. South Africa airway, Kenya airway, Ghana airway are few other African airlines, which are already doing very well. I don’t see anything stopping Nigeria from having a national carrier. By the time we have our own carrier the issue of patronage that you are talking about definitely will be addressed.