By Christine Onwuachumba
They call the tourism firm Discover Gidi, and it’s just about making Nigeria international tourism destination to the outer world. These two young American Nigerians believe after travelling several countries that Nigeria also has what it takes to attract the world.
The duo are Chidi Nwachukwu and Ugochukwu Obilo, and their passion for their Nigerian identity and marketing it to the world drives them nuts and they are full of zest to live the dream of making sure that the world embraces Nigeria, overwrite the negative sentiments, see the beauty in Nigeria’s eco and cultural tourism.
For a start, during the 2017 Christmas celebrations, they brought about 10 Americans, all first time visitors to Nigeria who basked in the euphoria of seeing a world they never knew. As they left in January, they vowed to bring more tourists periodically, all foreigners or Americans with Nigerian parentage who feel cold visiting fatherland.
Nwachukwu: Discover Gidi basically gives people who never had that opportunity to come and visit Lagos, Nigeria with us what exactly the feel is like. We came with five Americans and a couple more joined us later. We also had Nigerian Americans who came too. And we took them to a lovely resort. A lot of hotels here are good and reasonably priced at just $100 a night. It was a great experience. This is our first year. We are just establishing, but we are trying to expand.
How it started
Obilo: We both love travelling. We love to see new places. Last year, we were vacationing in Costa Rica and we said, why don’t we do what we are doing here in Nigeria because Nigeria has so much to offer and Lagos has so much for people to see? We wanted people to enjoy what we do, to see the beauty of it, to be able to experience the different foods that we enjoy, the nightlife and the culture. That was how the idea came. We want other people to travel with us to enjoy what we enjoy.
Americans’ impression about Nigeria
Obilo: Everything is in the eye of the beholder. What looked wrong to us might look like a new experience to other people. People are able to see beauty in however ugly things may be. We look at it and say “This can be so much better,” someone who has never experienced it could look at it and say “Wao, that is different” and they could appreciate it for what it is. I think that Nigeria is an interesting space where you can see different levels of evolution of time: you still have modern technology but also things of old as well. Some people can appreciate seeing the way that people hustle and the grind. They see; something as simple as seeing someone selling food on the street or driving Keke but at the same time, they can call Uber.
Selling Nigeria to the outside world
Nwachukwu: First, we have to let them know that Nigerians are not scammers. Second, they can come here and live lavishly, they can really come here and enjoy better than in a lot of these places that people are attracted to. We have to let them know that they can still come to Nigeria and enjoy the things they can enjoy in Turks and Caicos. We have beautiful places here. We have beautiful hotels. That is the main point that we are emphasizing to the outside world.
Obilo: There is a common misconception that people in Africa might be living in huts, or might be living in complete squalor, but, you come here and you see beautiful places. The resort we reserved for everyone is better than places in the US.
Countries visited in 2017
Nwachukwu: I went to nine countries. I was in Costa Rica first. Thereafter, I came to Nigeria in February. In April, I went to Cuba. In May I was in Toronto, Canada and Mexico. In July, I went to Germany and Croatia, and then to Turks and Caicos Island, then Egypt and Nigeria again.
Obilo: I travelled a little less than him, I think five.
Nwachukwu: Home obviously is going to be my favourite. Outside of Nigeria, it is between Havana, Cuba and Turks & Caicos Island. The Cubans embraced us. The country is Spanish-speaking and I can’t speak Spanish at all, but I felt like I can move to Cuba and live and survive. I felt I could communicate with those people. They are so homely and they remind me of Nigeria a little bit. The black among them embraced me like I was one of their own.
Big lesson from travel
Obilo: People think travel is difficult and very expensive, no; if you do it with people you enjoy travelling with and if you do it intelligently, you can have a great experience without spending a fortune.
Most memorable experience
Obilo: We went to Cuba with a bunch of toys. Something about Cuba is, because of the way the country has been governed, a lot of things that we take for granted, the kids don’t necessarily have easy access to them. We went out in the street to an area where more Afro-Cubans lived and we gave out things to them. And we saw appreciation on the children’s faces. Though we are outsiders and they didn’t know us yet they accepted us. We enjoyed ourselves. It was a memorable experience.
Discover Gidi programme
Obilo: We combined cultural experience with having fun. We had a lot of young professionals with us. We took them to Ilashe beach to enjoy there. We also went to events at Hard Rock Café.
Nwachuckwu: We had our family dinner and we had a great time at the Gilgal Resort. On the last day, we visited the Motherless babies home in Yaba gave out a 68 pounds of bags of goodies to children.
Sources of concern about Nigeria
Obilo: One, the fuel shortage is something that doesn’t make any sense. Two, there are areas that are unkempt. And three, there is hardly enough of appropriate traffic light. Small things like these make a big difference. As much time people spend on the road they could spend it doing other things that can help the economy.
Nwachukwu: There is also NEPA – simple power, which is not a luxury in every other parts of the world, is a luxury here. It is frustrating. It doesn’t make sense how generator is still what drives this country.
Obilo: Our plan is to be the known name in travel and tourism in relation to Nigeria. We want to be coterminous with Nigerian travels. We want people to hear the name and say, if I want to go to Nigeria, this is the first place to look at. The plan is to have people to come here very freely and very easily. If it occurs to them for instance, that Lagos, Nigeria, is where I want to spend my time in December, they‘ll know what to do and who to contact.
Nwachukwu: Plan ahead and always try to find the best route to get you to where you want to go. If you plan ahead, it won’t be as hectic or as expensive. When we went to Cuba, our flight was 57 dollars and our airbnb was 40 dollars. You have to do research and planning and everything will fall into place.
Obilo: money can’t buy happiness – unless you are travelling. You can’t buy experiences. Going places and experiencing different cultures will expand the way you think about the world and that is invaluable.
Photo 1: Obilo and Nwachukwu with the foreigners that visited
Photo 2: The two dream peddlers