Ibukunoluwa Salau of Afriktrip tells us about a travel tech startup that is solving the problem of booking travel activities in African countries.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: I’m doing good, and the family is also doing great. The pandemic has been crazy, but I spent most of the peak period locked down in a new country. Focusing on building Afriktrip, self-development, and being around family has been my hack to successfully distract myself from this crazy time. We are pushing and very optimistic for the better days ahead.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Afriktrip.
Ibukunoluwa Salau: I’m the 20yrs old Co-Founder of Afriktrip, a travel tech startup that is solving the problem of booking travel activities to do in African countries. I was born and brought up in Nigeria and a final year student of Computer Science at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, also in Nigeria.
I would say my professional career started since I was 17, which has not been a long time, and I have spent most of it being entrepreneurial and building technical solutions to solve problems I see around me. Apart from this, I also spent a couple of months working as an IT Banking Application Support Assistant at First City Monument Bank PLC, one of Nigeria’s leading comprehensive financial services providers.
After closing down a product/startup, I was working on called Cralocs – Airbnb for Film Locations Rental in the US, I was introduced by my then co-founder to his friend who was a local tour operator in Lagos, Nigeria. Over the next couple of months, we had an extensive chat about the work he was doing at his tour company and the Nigerian tourism industry in general. In the midst of these conversations, I was able to pick out some of the problems faced by the stakeholders in the Nigerian tourism industry, which also extends across Africa, so I decided to build a solution to solve some of these problems.
The solution I built then was called Ontripp.com, which didn’t pick us as I hoped, so I closed it down and took some time off to work on other stuff while also learning more about the African travel industry in depth. Having equipped myself, I decided to build on my knowledge and launch a new solution which is now what is called Afriktrip.
How does Afriktrip innovate?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: Every year, millions of tourists across the world visit Africa for various reasons – tourism, they visit family, and many more, and there are thousands of tour companies in African countries that organize tours and activities for them to do when they arrive. However, the process of booking these travel activities can be very stressful, time-consuming, and not trustworthy because it is all largely done offline and manually.
Afritkrip changes this by creating an online marketplace that aggregates tours and activities to do in African countries for a holiday into one platform and connects tourists with the local pre-vetted tour guides and operators that organize these activities. This way, we are automating the whole process and making it easy for the local tour guides and operators to manage their business online, and for tourists, we make it easy and safe for tourists to discover and book things to do in African countries.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: We started working on Afriktrip in February 2020, few months to the full-blown start of the pandemic, and so when we had to switch focus primarily to building the product, refining our business model, and partnering with as many local tour guides in order to get them on our platform in anticipation for when travel returns.
The pandemic was a blessing in disguise as we grew the total number of tour guides on our platform 12x from 30 in April 2020 to 350 this month and the number of tours and activities on our website 11x from 100 in 3 African countries to 1100 in 28 countries.
Later on, during the festive period, we decided to focus on domestic travel as things were still scanty in the outbound travel world. We are hopeful that by summer 2021, there should be an improvement in the state of things. News from the UK has raised our hopes, and we are ready.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: Not really; I was the only one working on Afriktrip and being an all-rounder, I was able to keep the team lean enough to survive, and we were very lucky to have undergone a couple of startup programs like YC Startup School, where we were able to secure startup deals and credits which helped us keep our burn close down to $0. We’ve had our near-death experience of Afriktrip, so the biggest lesson for me was never panic when there is a problem, as there is probably a solution to the problem that you haven’t tried.
What do you see Afriktrip in the next 10 years?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: In the next 5 to 10 years, Afriktrip aims to become the Google of African Travel and Tourism, i.e., we want to have a presence in anything and everything that regards traveling to Africa for a holiday. We also want to stay true to our mission of taking Africa to the world and bringing the world to Africa through the use of technology and tourism.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: We’ve got two sets of competitors: the global online travel companies and the African-focused online travel companies. Solving the problems of tours and activities bookings in Africa and the world at large is still at its early stage, and the pandemic has created almost a level battleground, so our plan to stay in the game is basically to be as lean, innovative as possible.
Your final thoughts?
Ibukunoluwa Salau: The pandemic has also shown how resilient we are as humans, even though we don’t give ourselves enough credit for that. Also, the future is certainly for those around the internet or online, and it’s going to be the new normal, there is no doubt about that.