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How I Found My Niche In Nigeria’s Tourism Industry

Every week, we talk to Nigerians around the world about money and how they make it.

This week features Nancy, a tour guide, tour curator and restaurateur. We talk about how she started her career in tourism and the challenges and opportunities of the tourism industry in Nigeria. She also gives us a glimpse into what her money habits look like.

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Could you please tell me about yourself and what you do?

My name is Nancy Nsofor, and I work in tourism and hospitality. I own two brands: Waka Nation and Pasta zone, with which I help curate travel experiences and help people satisfy all their food cravings. So, I am a professional tour guide, tour curator and restaurateur. 

Interesting! Why tourism, and what made you decide that it was what you wanted to do as a career?

It was quite coincidental. I wanted to be a nurse, but my efforts toward that were not yielding results. So. I applied to the National Open University to study Hospitality Management without a prior understanding of what it entailed – I thought it had to do with hospitality administration in hospitals, LOL

However, in the second semester of my 100L, we began to diversify into specialities, and I opted for Hospitality and Tourism studies. At that point. I fell in love with the course; it became interesting as I already had a flair for travelling, meeting and coordinating people.

Although it was coincidental; now, I do not see myself doing anything else; I find fulfilment in doing this.

What are the challenges you experience in Nigeria’s tourism industry?

I find convincing Nigerians to patronize domestic travels within the country quite challenging.

International tourism comprises inbound and outbound tourism. You will find that more often than not, Nigerians prefer outbound tours because of issues with security and ignorance of the treasures in their ‘backyard’.

So, we are dealing with two crucial subjects; Insecurity and Ignorance.

What do you wish was better as regards the industry?

I have had the opportunity to speak to both federal and state officials, and I found that they were not too knowledgeable about the possible impacts of tourism on the country’s economy.

So, I believe it would help to have government officials who are knowledgeable and passionate about Nigeria’s tourism industry and how the industry could help grow Nigeria’s GDP. 

I dare claim that tourism could be a significant source of revenue for Nigeria; we have nothing short of ten tourist spots in each of Nigeria’s 36 states. 

Can you even imagine what this could mean for us? Most especially with how we already have expatriates trooping in whenever we have festivals such as the Olojo festival, Osun-Oshogbo festival, e.t.c?

An understanding of branding concerning Nigeria’s tourism industry is fundamental; infrastructures such as good road networks, proper security and what have you are necessities.

I feel the same way and hold similar opinions about the food industry in Nigeria; the Agricultural sector needs proper structuring.

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You wear many hats; you do different things to make money, it must not be easy. How do you handle it all? 

Well, for me, it helped that I read many books on financial literacy. At the risk of sounding cliche, I started with Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Richest Man in Babylon, LOL. 

Those books changed my ideologies about money and contributed to how I figured out my first stream of income.

Many people assume I am doing too much; I disagree because I work in just one industry: Tourism and Hospitality management.

Under hospitality, I work as a Restaurateur; I run a restaurant and consult. I run a niched market with my food and beverage brand; people think of my brand, and Pasta comes to mind before anything else. 

The beverage we produce is healthy; we make what we locally refer to as Zobo. I started that during the lockdown phase of the pandemic when the tourism industry experienced a meltdown.

So, it might appear that many things are happening at once, but it’s still the same goal, mission, vision and purpose driving me. As a full-fledged food and beverage company, we are now expanding into having our own cocktail bar and handling event catering.

Taking it one step at a time helps me with stability. So, every year, I focus on one thing I want to achieve in my food or tourism business. I am very intentional; my head is not all over the place.

I love that.
Let’s talk finances. What do your money habits look like?

Over the years, I’ve developed good money habits. As a small business owner, I had to learn rudimentary money-related terms such as gross and net profit, pricing, fixed and operational costs, e.t.c.

I make sure I save. One out of my three streams of income caters to my personal needs. Another, I allocate to taking care of my family’s needs. The major one goes straight to fixed deposit savings. I don’t touch it. 

The knowledge I have accrued over the years has helped me control my spending. I don’t buy what I don’t need – I ask myself three times if I actually need that thing, LOL. If there’s anything that takes most of my money, it would be food. I don’t do any impulse buying.

Hm, what was your relationship with money while growing up?

As a child, my mum made sure we understood what money was – although I didn’t particularly enjoy saving in piggy banks, kolo, because it was a case of “if you need money, just ask.”

However, with the advent of fintech companies, my ideologies about saving have changed, as I now save with a purpose. 

So, what specific thing made you change how you see money?

One of the things that caused me to see money differently was a previous relationship. My ex was very instrumental in my journey into financial literacy. He helped me see money in a very simple, practical way, especially regarding financial independence. I saw the way he was frugal with money, and that is what sparked my interest.

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What do you wish more people knew about money?

I constantly emphasise to my mentees and people in my accountability groups that money comes and goes. It’s not something you “hold tightly to your chest”, LOL. To make money is easy; to lose money is easy.

Some people erroneously think, “If I have one million naira today, all my money problems would be solved.” No! That one million naira might solve just the immediate problems, but you’d be surprised at the kind of problems the next 24 hours can bring.

That’s why I encourage people to have more than one income stream. I am ready to do anything to make money, so long it is not illegal or immoral. I run my businesses, conduct training, and coordinate events. All these keep me balanced, and the pressure of my basic needs is not one income stream.

For example, you cannot possibly base your survival on income from something as volatile as cryptocurrency. Something like that should be a long-term investment, not to satisfy short-term goals.

That is profound. What do you consider a financial red flag?

Wow. That has to be covetousness and lavish spending. That money comes and goes is not a reason to be careless with it.

This has been so interesting! I almost do not want it to end. LOL.
Tell us. Is there anything exciting you are working on?

Yes! As I mentioned, I am building and expanding my food and beverage company: Pasta Zone. I am exploring various ways the brand can bring in more revenue: cocktail mixology, bartending, event catering, e.t.c.

On the tourism side, we are maintaining that culture of excellence. Everything I’m doing is exciting. We are growing, and it’s so beautiful to watch.

Love that for you! Finally, what advice do you have for young people like yourself who are looking to work in tourism?

You have to be knowledgeable. It’s not enough to be able to gather a crowd; that is not what makes you a tourism expert. There are different phases in the industry you can explore. 

You could be a travel blogger or a tour guide/curator. You need to pick and understand your niche; that singles you out. I am very particular about that. People should be able to point out the thing(s) you are excellent at.

For example, I described myself as a professional tour guide and curator. That singles me out from regular tour operators as my services include catering specifically to the needs of the tourists- the relationship is distinct and personal. I am also a destination marketer for Ogun state. I am registered as a tour operator with the Ogun State Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

Also, In a place like Nigeria, you will need a lot of self-encouragement if you want to work in the tourism industry.

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