Interview: The thrilling tour guide

When people say they wish they could travel for a living, one begins to imagine the sheer number of opportunities out there. A tour guide, for example, could easily be one such dream job. To take this thought into reality, Bank & Entrepreneur Africa magazine caught up with sought-after hospitality entrepreneur, Mark More, to learn first-hand what goes into leading groups of people through some of Nigeria’s most famous sights. Excerpts:

Who’s Mark More?

I’m a graduate of Geography from the University of Ilorin (Nigeria), and I own and operate MotleyTravels .

I started my travel career in 2004 with the defunct Aviation Development Company (ADC Airlines) as a Passenger Service Officer, after which I joined with the American University of Nigeria in 2006 as an Executive Assistant to the Vice President – Finance and Administration. In 2007, I returned to pursue my passion for aviation with Afrijet airlines, until 2009 when the company wound down. It was at that point I began plans to start my own business. I played with the idea of a travel and tour company, nurtured the thought for a while, named it ‘Motley’, and opened shop in 2011.

"The passion and goal of Motley Travels is to project Nigeria tourism locally, and to the world"

The essence of his business, and its target market

The essence of Motley is to develop, manage and promote tour destinations across Nigeria, building the holiday culture amongst Nigerians within Nigeria, with fun groups and private tour packages that explore and rediscover the beauty and potentials of the country.

Our target market cuts across all spheres of society - from family, to the high-class adventure traveler, to the less travelled individual who wants to explore but doesn’t know how to go about it.

How he got the business idea, and what made him think it would work

The business idea came while I was working with ADC Airlines in Yola city, back in 2004. There was so much traffic out of the city, especially at weekends. So I sat and pondered what the push factor could be. Through my findings, I realised that people just wanted to unwind from the regular routine of the city. So I gathered that if the reason for the push could be made available within the city, people would stay back.

That was the simple motivation Motley Travels as a solid business case.

I knew the idea would work, but how rough the road would be was what I wasn’t sure about. I did a detailed analysis of the travel market, and broke it down based on priority and complementarity.

I started off with virtual travel ticket sales, but seeing that there were numerous other travel agents offering the same service, I quickly realised that I needed to do something different in order to have competitive advantage. And so I went into service arrangements with hotels in Abuja city, who didn’t have a travel desk. The idea was for Motley to sell tickets to their guests without direct contact with the company. That way, the hotels earned a commission on every ticket sold. This idea was very successful, and this spurred me on to the next segment, which is tourism – the reason people travel.

I saw the vacuum in the domestic tourism sector, and it was a good time to start the promotion of domestic tourism. I have been in the business since then!

"Our services are local, but provided with unmatched international standards"

Why would anyone choose the Motley service over another in the same industry?

What stands Motley out is the fact that we offer specialised tour services that cover ONLY destinations in Nigeria. We are passionate about our country and there is so much to discover for years to come. Our services are local, but provided with unmatched international standards. We have identified the major challenges to road travel, and have put in place structures, teams and protocols that reassure tourists that they are both safe and comfortable. For example, all our tours are accompanied with armed security escorts, assigned from the Force Headquarters. We also have in place an insurance package for all our clients. We ensure that every tourist is comfortable and that every experience is memorable. Over time, Motley has built a community of tourists that not only interact with each other, but also provide us with invaluable feedback that help improve service delivery, on a continuous basis. The passion and goal of Motley Travels is to project Nigeria tourism locally, and to the world.

Major challenges, creatively overcoming them, and entrepreneurial lessons to be learned

It has not been an easy journey, but if one is consistent in quality service delivery, there are massive potentials in the tourism industry to be tapped.

For example, most of the destinations are not being managed and maintained the way they should be, and as such the whole responsibility of marketing – which isn’t the key role for tourist companies - has been placed on us. Therefore, in 2018, one of our major objectives will be to shift beyond our current portfolio – marketing and promoting destinations by way of group holiday packages – to break new grounds by actually managing one or two destinations in Nigeria. The vision is to create an ideal template that other destinations will seek to emulate. This can only be great for the development of Nigeria’s tourism industry.

The entrepreneurial lesson? We are the solution we have been waiting for! Simply put: We cannot always wait for someone else to fix our problems. The solution lies in each individual. And when you succeed, others will follow.

Instagram: @MotleyTravels

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