African govts should stop looking at travel as luxury item

Abi Ijasanmi, director for Africa at DiamondAir International, spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on the bespoke luxury products and services of her international brand, which is devoted to offering travellers seamless travel experience


What was the attraction for DiamondAir International?

I was actually scouted. I initially came onboard as a consultant, advising on an array of transnational and corporate matters. One thing led to another and I was offered a directorship two years later. I loved the fact that it was a niche business in the luxury travel space.
It was a totally new direction that presented me with the chance to get involved in so many areas such as compliance, corporate governance and growth strategy which is what I thrive on.


What informed the creation of DiamondAir International?

DiamondAir has been trading for almost 20 years. It was born out of its sister company, Sky Diamond that originally delivered tickets on airport at London Heathrow. When the whole e-ticketing came into being, the company was forced to change its business model virtually overnight. So, we are the pioneers of the modern-day meet and assist/protocol service.

We have a long history in the music and entertainment industry, and we have worked with everyone ranging from the Spice Girls, Lionel Ritchie, to Henry Kessinger and late Kofi Annan.


What are some of your signature services?

We offer three core services in over 500 locations around the world. Airport Concierge, Platform Concierge and Airport By Invitation. But because we never say no to client we’ve also ventured into chartering and various other requests to ensure our clients receive the bespoke and seamless experience they expect from us.

Our VIP Airport Concierge/Protocol takes you from airside to kerbside (and vice versa) and includes services such as baggage porters, electric buggies, lounge access, personal shopping and executive car transfer which is available in Lagos and Abuja and throughout international airports across Africa.

We also offer a similar service at some of the United Kingdom’s and Europe’s busiest train stations such as Eurostar in London, Brussels and Paris. We also expanded this service last year to over 30 Japanese train stations.

Finally, our most prestigious and bespoke service is called Airport By Invitation. It is accessible in over 40 airport locations and tailored to the needs of the individual, our travellers experience the most exclusive, discreet and secure service.


Why should the travelling public patronise the company?


Our clients come back to us time and time again because we are the experts at what we do. Some of our clients are cash rich and time poor, so speed and certainty are important. Some are high profile, high net worth or travelling on business, so security is why they use. All clients are looking for a seamless airport experience and they know and trust DiamondAir.


Which are some of the countries that your services could be accessed?


We’re headquartered in London, which is where our global reservation centre is located. We operate in all of the major commercial and leisure destinations such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, France, Italy, China, USA, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, Japan, and Russia.


I oversee our Africa expansion and I’m located in Accra, Ghana, but travel to Nigeria frequently to meet with our clients.



How successful would you say the company has been in its operations?

We’ve been very successful in developing what we do. I’m always amazed when I visit countries where I feel we don’t have a presence, but someone has always heard of us.



What are some of the challenges being faced in your operations, particularly in Africa?


One of the biggest challenges is the quality of the airports in some countries. An international airport is the window to your country and the first thing a traveller will see. There is nothing worse than getting off a flight and being led into a dirty, disorganised and aged airport. First impressions are everything. The other challenge we face is that airports are run by governments and are generally not commercially minded.


Governments need to move out of the way. The expertise sits with the private sector. Regulate by all means, but then get out of the way.


How do you cope with some of these challenges?

Remaining innovative and ahead of the curve. We’re constantly looking at our offerings and all the elements it take to deliver a service. When you work at the higher-end of the travel industry, customer experience always leads. We work with a lot of travel management companies (TMCs) and don’t always get to speak directly to the end user, so building and nurturing our client relationships are central.



How would you describe the state of global travel?


Competitive! You have to constantly innovate and deliver. Technology has been changing the aviation industry for many years, but now so more than ever.



How then would you describe the state of travel in Africa?


Frustratingly slow! African aviation offers some really exciting opportunities. It’s on the verge of what could be a real industry changing moment. As the last frontier to open up, everyone is poised, hopeful that progress will be made. We need more connectivity, lower taxes and for the powers that be to be visionaries and to stop looking at travel as a luxury item. It’s a necessity for the continent’s accelerated growth.


But I’m really optimistic about the future.


What is the future of DiamondAir?


DiamondAir’s future lies in technology and innovation. Making our services more accessible to the everyday traveller through collaborating with airports and airlines. We have 20-year experience of working with airlines and airports including London Heathrow.




What are you fears for DiamondAir, if any?


We don’t really have any fears, it’s more about managing our growth and our brand and choosing the right partners.



How are fulfilled are you?


Wow! In life or in my career? Let’s just say I still have a lot to do.



How do you unwind?

I love to travel. I’m really enjoying discovering the continent and in particular Ghana right now. I find running and yoga always give me a clear head and creating memories with family and friends.



Which destination is your favourite and why?


I don’t have a favourite destination as I think that always depend on the company and what you get up to. But some of my most memorable destinations would be the island on Inhaca off the coast of Mozambique for the white sand, camping in Livingston, Victoria Falls, in Zambia for being in the middle of nature and wild life and Miami because I love a party.


Which is the next destination on your list and why?

I’ve never been to Argentina. One of my good friends is from Argentina and I’d love to experience the culture and learn to tango.

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