The truth is, I suffered so much before finally getting this interview with Adedamola Idowu, and If permitted to act based on my present state of mind, I’d rather hoard this post than publish it.
Why? It’s so precious to me!
You too will find out by the time you finish reading this enlightening conversation with one of the top shots in the Travel and Tourism industry in Nigeria.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Adedamola Idowu. I am a graduate of English Language from the University Of Lagos. I am also a Certified Customer Service and Telesales Professional. I have Customer Service and Digital Marketing experience.
What inspired the birth of Irinajo travels and tours?
Irinajo was birthed as a result of my passion for traveling and discovering new places. In 2009, I went to Cape Coast, Ghana, with several undergraduates like me, to represent University of Lagos, at the West African University Games. On one of the less busy days during our stay there, we were taken to Elmina Castle and some other attractive sites. After leaving Ghana, I felt like visiting those places again. I also wanted to visit other places across Africa that I had often heard about.
I went to Ghana again in 2010 for the 35th anniversary of ECOWAS which held in Accra. This time, I went with more of my friends and we visited a lot of interesting places. After our visitations, I felt like experiencing the journey over and over again. I had a friend who was also very enthusiastic about travel, we talked about it and decided that we decided we were going to turn our passion into a business. When we returned to Nigeria, we did our research on travel logistics and talked to a lot of people about how to coordinate safe and smooth journeys. We began traveling through Seme, Hilakondji, Aflao borders and it soon became a regular thing, but that didn’t last for too long. After succeeding with such duo travels around Nigeria, I decided I wanted more people to travel with me. So, on 3rd June 2016, Irinajo was birthed as a digitally driven tour company to tell the Nigerian stories and provide the world opportunities to experience Nigeria in its truest and most natural form i.e. via real life experience
What distinguishes Irinajo from other tourist brands in Nigeria?
Irinajo stands out because of the number of problems we solve both directly and indirectly in the tourism sector. We provide information, advisory and logistic services (the major hindrances to interest from tourist) on the tourism industry of our target destinations. With greater information, there’s more interest and thus more visits. With more visit, there are more jobs and more funds to preserve and develop these destinations via investments. Lack of information and interest simply stems from the inaccessibility of adequate information by potential tourists. To improve local economies around destinations, we encourage locals to take up jobs like serving as tour guides and maybe sell cultural souvenirs and explore other commercial opportunities.
You have carved a niche for Irinajo in the tourism sphere, what were the challenges you faced in developing the brand and how did you deal with them?
It was a bit of a challenge convincing people to visit local destinations. But the moment we began sharing stories of the great experiences of traveling local, more people began paying attention to us. It’s still a bit of a challenge but the more locations we visited and we put the stories out there, the more convinced people became of traveling local.
Where is the best place you have visited in Nigeria?
That’s a really tough one for me I visit different places for different reasons and on every occasion, I ensure my aim of visiting the place is achieved. I enjoy solo travels a lot. I pick my bag, disappear and explore. But I want to visit more places in Nigeria, maybe when I am done visiting the whole 36 states, I can now point to my best experience. But I’ve had great experiences.
What was your worst traveling experience?
It was several years ago, my first visit to the north, I was going to Zaria. I boarded a luxury bus from Ibadan and after we passed Ondo State, the bus broke down. No alternatives, no refund by the popular bus company. We were just left to hang on the highway. I later found my way to Abuja then Zaria.
What was your best experience since you started Irinajo travels and tours?
Every tour is a very interesting experience for me. Even I go to places I had visited before, I ensure I discover and introduce something new so that it doesn’t serve as a great experience for just the clients but also my crew. But the visit to the palace of the paramount ruler of Ijesha Land was a great and notable experience for Irinajo.
What are your future prospects for Irinajo travels and tours?
The future has started. Already, Irinajo is growing into a brand that is championing the renaissance of the tourism industry of Nigeria by showcasing the wealth of history, culture and leisure activities that Nigeria has to offer. Over the years, we also intend to conquer more parts of Nigeria and move from showcasing Nigeria to just Nigerians but also to the rest of the world so that we can enjoy their patronage as a nation.
What are your thoughts on the Nigerian tourism industry?
My thoughts on the Nigerian tourism industry are the same with every other person out there. It is an industry that has been neglected for a long time. An industry with vast potential. It’s an industry that can feed the nation. The Nigerian tourism industry is not where it ought to be. It belongs to the top where it should be competing with Kenya, South Africa, Morocco and a host of others.
Any words of advice to travel and lifestyle bloggers, prospective tour guides etc?
My advice to every aspiring entrepreneur is to imbibe the spirit of perseverance. You must be ready to endure tough times because they will come. More importantly, believe in what you believe in without giving up and seek expert opinions in order to get better.