Everybody dreams of travelling and seeing the world but very few get to do so. One major reason is that travelling can be expensive and stressful for many Nigerians. What sets out to be fun can quickly become tiresome. Thankfully, Elizabeth Agboola is making travelling easy for everyone through her company: Nigerians Travel Too.
Elizabeth was born in Nigeria but relocated to the UK with her family. Living with a mum who was also a spontaneous traveller ushered Elizabeth into the world of travelling. She has since travelled to 6 continents and 65 countries.
She shares her experiences as a world traveller, travelling solo as a woman, the idea behind Nigerians Travel Too and all the cool stuff in this interview. Dig in!
Elizabeth in Asia
Hi Elizabeth, how are you feeling today?
I feel great! Thank you.
Give us a glimpse into your childhood and any part of it that influenced you are today
I grew up in Sagamu, Ogun State. When I was 15 years old, I relocated to the United Kingdom with my mother. I am the last of 4 children. My mum was the multi-prenuer of her time and I watched her turn every opportunity into business. So it became very natural for me to see gaps and find a way to fill them with a business idea. My personality as the ‘happy-go-lucky’ also allowed me to fit in well with the travel industry.
You’ve travelled to over 60 countries across 6 continents and have so many beautiful travel stories on BellaNaija. What inspired you to become such an avid traveller and share your stories with us (BellaNaija)?
My mother gave me my first travel bite. I was only 16 when she sent me a message from work and said. “Look up this city. I’ve booked us flights to go there for the weekend.” She booked only because she saw cheap flights. It was my responsibility to search for what to do, where to stay or even what to eat.
We once appeared in Turin, Italy and she said, “Ha, everyone here is speaking Italian.” I told her, “Yes. Mum. It’s Italy.” I proudly brought out my notebook and started speaking the little phrases I wrote down until we found ourselves on the right train. She practically turned me to her tour guide and I turned her to my funds mama. By the time I could afford my own travels, I stopped staying at home. My curiosity deepened over the years and that’s what got me to the 65 countries I’ve now been to. As you know Bellanaija is the leader in the dissemination of online information and stories. There was no better place to share the stories than with BellaNaija to reach a wider audience and inspire more to travel.
Elizabeth in Morocco
Awwwn. Travelling can be a hassle sometimes in this part of the world, especially for Nigerians, how were you able to navigate this in the early stages?
Passport privileges allowed me to move around without the Nigerian passport holder’s limitation. However, as I have been in the travel business for 7 years catering to the Nigerian market, I can speak for what has worked for our clients.
If you intend to travel, there should be proper planning, having the updated information, having all documents printed out, having travel insurance, and arriving at the airport early (doing a James Bond is never worth it). What I have, however, seen is that our Nigerian travellers are spontaneous travellers without a passport index that matches their dreams. We love to book late, plan late, get excited by the reels of Japan that popped on our feed and hope you could go next week. Our realities are more than us and planning, planning and more planning is the way.
Do you enjoy travelling solo?
Absolutely. I enjoy solo travelling, it’s therapy for self-discovery. You don’t have anyone telling you “Oh no, don’t do it.” Just yourself.
How do you ensure your safety as a woman travelling solo?
As a woman travelling alone, I ensure my location is known to at least one person in the office. I never post on my social media in real time except it’s an event. I avoid staying in budget spaces outside Europe, so resorts for me, where there are several eyes. Whilst slaying is important, always having a coverall is more important so you’re not attracting the prying eye. I’ll usually take off my coverall for my pics and wear it back. Also, always backpack and never handbags, and don’t flash your good fortunes.
Elizabeth in Asia
Elizabeth in Brazil
Tell us about Nigerians Travel Too (NTT) and its impact across the country and through the years
Nigerians Travel Too started 7 years ago. It started as a fun page to showcase my travel and those of my friends. You know what they say as never a time like the right time, there was a time Nigeria was having a burst and splash of packaged holidays and hunger for destinations outside the country. Enquiries kept coming through and I had to start researching how to serve the people in the Nigerian market. I was a full-time Human Resources Business Partner and using social media or selling travel was thrown at me. And it’s safe to say the rest is history.
Nigerians Travel Too has since then focused on exotic destinations, especially destinations Nigerians can’t access easily. So I’ll use my passport advantage to visit the country and find people to speak to so we could get access for Nigerians. It’s more like breaking travel barriers one day at a time. Shortly after, I started reaching out to various diplomatic missions to partner with and advocate for Nigerian travellers as genuine tourists, not japa, and that also made certain destinations easy to sell.
In 2020, Nigerians Travel Too took 1000 levels further by breaking barriers in terms of air connectivity by chartering a commercial aircraft (owned by Air Peace) to connect Nigeria and Jamaica by air. At the peak of COVID, we had 132 passengers, including the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama. We touched down in Jamaica directly from Lagos. The 11-hour flight remains the first and only direct flight connection we ever had. This is something very regrettable as both destinations are so close yet so far. So compare travelling nearly 25hrs with layovers and with a need for UK or US Visa vs 11hrs directly with just the need for a Jamaican visa.
Leisure charters are not like regular flights and it’s not a concept known in Nigeria except for Hajj/Umrah. So chartering an aircraft to make travel enjoyable is an expensive operation and it requires a lot of coordination. Nigerians being last-minute bookers and a lack of trust makes it all hard.
In 2022, Nigerian Travel Too became a subsidiary of NTT Global Destinations which now cuts across a wider operation around tourism, aviation, trade and events.
That’s impressive, Elizabeth. What strategies have you found effective in monetising NTT?
I started off by turning all my travel experience into sales. So I’ll put together the cost of what I did, where I stayed and place a service charge on it. I only sold destinations I had visited which made it easier for me to sell the stories. I created relationships in every country, from drivers to tour guides to hoteliers. My strategy was in my personal investment in travel. Honesty is very important, many people start showcasing their travel and give a vibe of they’re doing it for fun. Weeks later, they start speaking about charges and people start to resent them and intentionally never patronise them. If you intend to monetise your travel stories, be straight and clear. Share what is free and ask them to pay for more. Don’t start by feeding people and expect them to pay.
Have you faced any cultural or language barriers during your travels? How do you navigate those situations and connect with local communities?
I have no memories of cultural barriers as I always learn a few phrases to see me through before travelling, or I get a local tour guide. Most importantly, I dress to fit the location to avoid offending anyone. My friends once got screamed at in the market in Morocco as ‘shatan’ (Satan) because the stubborn one amongst us decided to wear bum shorts. I connect with the local communities by eating in local restaurants, street food, and attending street gatherings and events. They are cheap and happy activities.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a traveller and running a travel-related business?
The people! I have met so many people and still counting. I have also been able to learn about the ways of lives of others and improve my reasoning around the whys and why not. Being a traveller and running a travel business means I could choose any destination to visit but for me to get reimbursed by the business, I must ensure it’s a destination that can turn back money for them. In simpler terms, I get to travel for free (if I choose right.)
Elizabeth in Jamaica
What’s that one thing about travelling the world that you know now but wished you had known earlier?
Take a piece of every country back home, you might never get a chance to return. I was probably in my 20th country when I became a collector of memorabilia. Now I feel like I have to return to some places because I didn’t take a piece of them with me.
Three countries you’ve visited that fall under: Must Visit, Should Visit and Never Visit?
Must visit: Jamaica. Should visit: Jordan. Never visit… nowhere, haha. Every destination deserves a chance, the experience you build for yourself in the destination is what makes the destination. Don’t visit with empty hopes and expect the destination to have fireworks.
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