How to Start a Travel Agency Business in Nigeria

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Posted by Sabre West Africa on Thursday, October 10, 2019

Do you want to start a travel agency business in Nigeria? Or, have you started already but your business is nascent and you want to know more about it? Do you have a passion for the travel sector? If yes, then this article is for you.

In the last decade, Nigeria has been experiencing growth in many sectors, one of which is the travel industry. According to the Nigerian Tourism Development Commission, the travel industry in Nigeria has become one of the fastest-growing in the world and is currently worth about $4 billion.

Nigerians in their millions travel a lot, especially by air to other countries and within the country, and they need a travel agent to help them choose a perfect holiday destination, plan their itineraries and of course, book their tickets.

In order to start a travel agency, it is incumbent upon you as a travel agent to have the knowledge of how the industry works and how to help your customers choose, plan, and arrange their holidays according to their budgets. You must also be in pole position to offer advice and suggestions on where to go, popular tourist attractions, both local and international, and interesting events.

Why choose the Travel Agency Business in Nigeria?

As of 2017, Nigerian airports recorded 9.2 million passengers, 140,552 aircraft movements in nine months (source). Now, imagine the turnout of passengers in 2027.

It’s no gainsaying that the travel agency business in Nigeria has become a profitable one, as the industry appears to be one of the fastest developing industries in the world.

So, if you want to be financially grounded and earn money in the business, then read on to learn how to start a travel agency in Nigeria.

What are the skills you need to start a Travel Agency Business in Nigeria?

Well, to start a travel agency business, there are mainly two ways:

  • As a Freelance Travel Agent
  • As a Comprehensive Travel Agent

Freelance Travel Agent

Also known as an affiliate travel agent, a freelancer can sell highly discounted travel products such as flights, hotels, airport pick-ups, tour packages, etc., to customers. It does not matter whether you are registered with the International Air Transport Agency (IATA). All you need to do to become an affiliate is to register with established travel agencies.

An advantage of this is that you can work from the comfort of your home or office with the necessary equipment such as the internet, computers, phones and other necessities. Besides, you can sell travel products and services for as many companies as you want and you are fully independent of the travel agencies you represent.

You earn based on the number of bookings and the commissions generated by those bookings based on the agreement between you and the affiliate companies. As a result, you have no guaranteed income. Inversely, there is no limit on how much you can earn. It all depends on how many tickets you are able to sell.

Comprehensive Travel Agent Business in Nigeria

If you have good capital, then you can operate as a comprehensive travel agency. Albeit, you must have the license to operate; which is not limited to organising chartered flights and tours, booking tickets, hotels, etc.

In this case, you must be registered with IATA to be an accredited travel agent.

As mentioned earlier, this system is capital intensive but there are lots of gains.

  1. You will be given access to the IATA airline database where you can easily get the best ticket prices for your customers.
  2. You can also take advantage of IATA training programmes where you can learn how to use their system to power your business.   
  3. You get a free subscription to a Global Distribution System (GDS) like Sabre where you can use our system to issue tickets, order airline seats, and the likes.

Now, let’s look at some of the challenges you may face as a comprehensive travel agent.

As part of the IATA stipulations to start a Travel Agency Business in Nigeria, you must have at least four or five workers. Out of these workers, at least two must have the requisite experience with working with an airline or accredited travel agency.

You must also have an office space and have at least four computer systems with a full internet connection and constant power supply. Finally, your company must be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Now, let us outline what you need

  • Experience: Gather enough experience and knowledge to understand and know the nitty-gritty of the market. You can work under another travel agency for some months to two years which will give you the necessary connections and confidence to start yours.
  • A Business Plan/Capital: Through your plan, you’ll know the major challenges in the business and how to overcome them. Not having a detailed plan is erroneous and you might be shooting yourself in the foot in you fail to do so. You need to be ready.
  • Get a Business Name and Register it: A good business name determines how to catch a prospective client. It must call attention, not too long and unique. At the same time, it must be professional. When you are satisfied with it, you can now go ahead and register it with the CAC and IATA to become a licensed agency. We have mentioned the benefits of becoming an IATA certified agent (take a look above).
  • A Good Space and Business Location: Make sure your location is accessible and can be easily found. You can target areas where airports, hotels, and embassies are located, like Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, etc. Also, your office space must have the necessary amenities and be furnished, for it to be conducive for clients. First impression matters.
  • Website/Social Media: The world is now a global village with the advent of the internet. According to Statista, in 2018, Nigeria had 92.3 million internet users. This figure is projected to grow to 187.8 million internet users in 2023. The internet penetration amounted to 47.1 percent of the population in 2018 and is set to reach 84.5 percent in 2023. From this report, it is imperative you have a website and social media handles to attend to the needs of your clients. Don’t worry, you can hire a professional web designer/developer to help set it up. You will also need an SEO expert that will make the website visible and well-targeted to the right audience. Don’t forget to make sure it has an SSL certificate to give your website credibility and security. It will also help your site to rank high. You’ll also have to promote your business through social media handles.
  • Form Connections: It is of ultimate necessity that you join bodies and associations that exist solely for travel agencies/agents. This includes, The National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). You can get a lot of referrals from other travel agencies and by being a member, you get a piece of first-hand information about the latest happenings in the travel industry.

How prepared are you?

From what we have discussed above, it must be important to note that for you to start a travel agency business in Nigeria, you must have the knowledge of how the travel industry works. You must be familiar with some aviation jargon (check out some of them here).

The travel agency business in Nigeria is not for the faint-hearted. You must be ready to break limits, be outgoing and have a great interest in travelling and learning about destinations.

You must also understand your customers’ desires and give them a travel experience they will find hard to forget.

Are you a registered travel agency, you can subscribe to the free Sabre GDS here.

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