Q&A: A Need for Structure


What is your core business?

We provide customised customer and competitive intelligence to the private sector and public sector institutions. The solutions we offer our clients assist them in getting data and information that is not publicly or easily available. Those solutions allow firms to take more rational and profitable business decisions. We also assist public sector institutions when planning policies and other decisions that affect individuals, families and businesses.

What is your take on the current state of the Nigerian business travel market?

I often measure the business travel market based on expected profitability of commercial businesses. Analysis shows that between 2007 and 2010 new corporate investments in Nigeria declined by approximately 2%. Most often, a reduction in new investments is based on a pessimistic view of future profits. Many times, this makes them cut costs in other operational and service areas, which often depresses service quality offered to customers. A review of domestic air travel shows that between 2004 and 2007 the arrival of passengers at domestic airports declined by approximately 10%.

What are some of the challenges facing the travel market?

The needs of travellers are different. A 2010 aviation report by Customer Feedback Services (CFS) showed that the most important factor in travel (by the respondents to the questionnaire) is safety – 37% compared to the 29% that picked service quality as priority. This shows that the level of confidence in air travel is still weak. The industry needs to mature and gain the confidence of customers, up to the point where it would be hard to differentiate the level of safety among various air carriers. Until the industry grows to a position where safety is ‘a given’ and there is no significant difference in the perceived safety levels of different airlines, real growth may not occur.

How can these challenges be overcome?

Some of these challenges could be reduced by creating a more competitive rail and road transportation market system. Improving the quality and design of our roads, investing in high quality bus parks for long distance travel, and improving security and safety for road and rail travellers is essential. These solutions have the potential to increase the level of private sector participation and investments in road and rail travel. The increased level of competition would give the customers of air travel an alternative means of getting to their desired destinations and give them higher bargaining power in the long term. Reviewing and improving the supervisory processes in customer service standards and flight scheduling could also help overcome some challenges. For example, more severe penalties for firms that do not meet the expected minimum service standards.

How do you rate the competition in the Nigerian travel industry using known statistics?

Improper co-ordination and regulation of data on the Nigerian travel sector by the many government institutions has made it impossible to make accurate comments on the Nigerian travel industry. A fair comparison of all transportation modes (air, road, sea, rail) is just not possible. That includes, for example, data on the number of actively operating commercial buses per state, amounts earned by these commercial bus drivers, ratings on frequently travelled routes by commercial bus drivers, ratings on road traffic conditions etc. It is based on this huge data gap that Fact Boxdeveloped its business to focus on assisting private and public sector institutions that need the answers to such information. Most often, poorly regulated and weakly supervised commercial sectors give the suppliers of service (transportation providers) more bargaining power relative to customers. From that perspective, I would rate our transportation sector and services as uncompetitive and in favor of the transportation provider.

What is the way forward for the Nigerian travel market?

Creating structures and systems that give the traveller a viable alternative to the currently preferred transportation means.

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