Chiamaka Obuekwe a.k.a Social Prefect and Founder of Social Prefect tours, recently sat down with us on the #NigeriaTravelChat. Speaking on the theme, Finding Your Place in the Tourism Industry and Knowing If It’s Where You Belong, Chiamaka took us down memory lane, sharing deep insights that are beneficial to those looking to take the leap into the travel and tourism industry – both locally and globally.
“In 2015, I got laid off from an e-commerce company during a company wide retrenchment; the same year I started my blog. I took that as a blessing and fully kicked off the brand Social Prefect tours.
Before # became a full tourism company, the brand started off as a travel blog. It was just me sharing about my travel experiences and any other thing I found interesting on my blog. I developed a great interest in local travel and I discovered a lot of places that not many Nigerians were talking about. I guess with the fun way and style (using great pictures and videos) I used to share my stories, a lot of people became interested in joining our tours and that was how we started.
What we do at # is simple. We are a tour operating & experience curating company that organises unique group tours, private tours and holidays. One does not recover from the great experiences we put together.
We also recently got featured on the biggest platform ever, CNN, amongst several other media platforms for our work with Nigerian tourism.
Now to the topic for today . How do you find your place in the travel and tourism industry?
The travel and tourism industry is so large and the opportunities are numerous. According to WTTC the industry is responsible for more than 10% of global unemployment so you can imagine how large that is
You can be anything from a pilot to an airhost/hostess, a hotel manager to a chef, a travel agent, travel blogger, travel journalist, a tour guide, tour operator and the list goes on.
So what determines where you fall in?
A lot of it has to do with your personality and also passion. We are all different and have all been endowed with various gifts, abilities, talents and skills.
For example, I am a tour operator/guide and my personality has a lot to do with why I thrive in the industry.
I am a complete people-person. I am able to serve and meet people’s needs even when it’s not convenient. I am adventurous, fun and a risk taker. I am very good with organizing stuff and managing people; and of course, I enjoy travelling. Aside these, here are a few of the qualities needed to thrive and create your path in the industry.
Number 1 is to study yourself or find yourself. A great philosopher said ‘Man know thyself’. This is very important. If you are shy, you have no business being a tour guide, or travel marketer because you cannot talk to people. However, you can be an online travel agent who assists people to travel; and that way you are not really meeting people. Same way, if you do not really like travelling for long hours you may not want to consider being an air hostess.
So when you know yourself and know your abilities, it would guide you to know which path to follow in the tourism industry.
Number 2 would be to simply Go for it! Start where you are and with what you have. I’ll use myself as an example. I started out just blogging and sharing my experiences which blossomed into a travel company.
You will never know how far you can go if you don’t start. Do not be scared of failure. There are so many opportunities out there in tourism but no one is going to hand it to you. You have to work hard.
Still under point number 2, especially for students and recent graduates, please make good use of social media. Social media isn’t just there for posting cool selfies but to work and get paid. My work has gone farther than I ever imagined thanks to social media.
You can start by opening a blog or Instagram page & writing about the great sites and interesting things you find around you or you can start posting videos on YouTube about them. You never know how far these things go. Travel content creation is hot cake right now!
Number 3. You have to study or learn about which ever field you are interested in going into. You have the internet at your disposal and there are lots of free materials that can help you. You don’t have to pay for an expensive course if you can’t afford it.
You can also get a mentor or tutor in your chosen field to guide you. Don’t feel bad if there’s no one willing to teach you directly, especially for free. But still try to ask them questions. I asked a lot of questions before starting my blog.
I also studied a lot of similar interesting blogs before starting and that helped me. So the key is to study, learn and ask for help.
Number 4. You will have to do all the hard work yourself. Yes, never have an entitlement mindset. The truth is, nobody owes you anything. Prepare to start small and grow all the way up and don’t think there’ll be a shortcut to your success in the industry.
Number 5. Consistency is key. If you want to be a tour operator or a travel blogger for instance, you can’t organize one tour today and the next one 2 years later. Or write a blog post today, the next one 6 months later and expect to be relevant in that field.
The truth is competition is real and there are other people out there, so if you want to stay relevant & be remembered, you need to be consistent with your work.
Lastly if you’re not patient & willing to grow, or you are not comfortable with working long hours or earning little at the beginning or taking risks, then the travel and tourism industry isn’t really for you.
Before you make any decisions, think about it very well, but don’t waste too much time. Be willing to take the bold step and just start.”
Here are some questions for Chiamaka: Are there professional bodies/organizations in Travel/Tourism that newbies and youngsters can join? Would you say that this industry is a profitable one? Are you rich? And How long does it really take for one to make it?
“Thank you for the questions. First, it is important to emphasize power of communities. Getting into the tourism industry and finding your community will help you grow and give you opportunities you may not be able to find on your own. So yes I will advice you to join one. There are different organizations and bodies. For example NATOP (Nigeria Association of Tour Operators). So if you are an aspiring tour operator, you can join. You will find people there who will motivate and help you in your business. You can also join NANTA (National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies). Another relevant global community is Travel Massive via travelmassive.com – for daily updates on global and domestic opportunities in the industry”.
Another question: What’s the one big lesson you’ve learnt running your tour business (that you wish you’d known in hindsight)?
“Honestly it was different for me. I had to learn on the job. Already I was very good with managing people & organizing tours back in school. However there were several other things like planning, getting vendors, managing finances, etc, that I had to learn on the job.”
To connect with Chiamaka or book one of our tours, call 0816 397 6208 or visit socialprefect.net