The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Deepti Sharma
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Azqa Noor, the CEO of Touraco Adventures, a tourism company in Pakistan. She talked about how the lockdown meant that work was completely at a standstill. Azqa was able to wisely use this time to improve the social media presence of her business and to also finally take things to the next level and formally register her business. She wanted to make sure that her passion for tourism and her business remained visible. It was due to the increased social media presence that she was able to connect and interact with her clients and ensure that they would return to her tourism company to book tours once the Lockdown was over. Marketing, sponsorship and corporate relationships are some of the things she’d appreciate help with.
Please tell us about your business Azqa.
Azqa: Salam o alaikum! I’m the CEO of Touraco Adventures. We are a local tourism company which plans 1 to 7 days long trips. Besides we also arrange customised trips for students, families and corporate sector; including educational trips. Basically, we announce a monthly package on our social media handles which can include different group tours. But if somebody wants to have customised trips for instance a honeymoon or a family trip or corporate trips, then we also facilitate those.
How did the lockdown impact your business?
Azqa: Whole country and the world economy were severely affected by the lockdown. It was quite unexpected; its impact was felt across the country and especially in our sector. Nobody was expecting everything to come to a halt so abruptly. For the first few months, we were shocked at the state of the things. But then gradually we came to understand the problem prevailing at that time. Lockdown meant no gatherings which in turn ruled out group tours. All of a sudden we could do nothing about it.
Initially, everything came to a halt, but then I started to think about what I could do to change the state of affairs. First thing was that I was already doing this since two years ago but hadn’t been very formal in the approach. So I decided to get the business registered by the securities & exchange commission of Pakistan. We registered it in June 2020 and it’s a lengthy procedure so it took up a lot of my time during the lockdown. What’s good about this is that it kept the business alive, in my head at least.
Then my focus was to continue it on social media through posts and updates. Although there was a lockdown, we still had to retain our clients; the tourism industry and the passion for tourism. Yeah so that was our strategy during the first lockdown- firstly the registration and then social media promotion.
That’s very impressive and positive. Did you have any idea about the situation of your competition and customers at the time?
Azqa: Like I said that everything had come to a stop. Well, I’m just starting out in the industry, but even the larger tourism industries in Pakistan weren’t able to pursue tourism at the time. Obviously, the clients were confined within their homes, but it’s not an easy task to contain the people who are passionate about travelling.
Since our social media was quite active, people were connecting with us, and we continued to have interaction. People were just waiting for this to get over as soon as possible.
How is your business faring currently?
Azqa: Right now we are having another round of lockdown in Pakistan, particularly educational institutions have been closed down once again. Students remain our primary focus in terms of clients, especially mine being a student myself. It’s always our endeavour to plan affordable trips for students and to create an environment they can enjoy. But as they’re not being able to join because of lockdown, so there is a slowdown. And another major reason is that many areas in northern Pakistan — the hub of Pakistani tourism — get blocked in the winters due to snowfall. That’s why currently the business isn’t running as well as it should, but definitely, we’re working on it.
What do you plan for the coming months or the summers if the situation gets better?
Azqa: First of all I really hope and am very positive that things will change for good and lockdown will come to an end. In 2021 as the situation gets better the most important thing we plan to focus on is marketing. The more you spread the word; the more the people hear about our business, the more they’re likely to join us.
So the priority is to improve the services along with focusing on marketing. And since the business is registered now, we also have to take care of the accompanying procedures. Yeah, we plan all of this.
How big is your team right now?
Azqa: We’re a three-member team and don’t have any employees right now, instead we hire on contract basis for photography and marketing.
Are there any 3 things you feel you need help within your business?
Azqa: As I said earlier, marketing is very important in this sector. Since we’re providing a service, so better the marketing and the more targeted it is, the better it’ll be for our business. It’ll be really helpful. Besides we need to have good sponsors, who can eventually lead us to develop relationships amongst the corporate sector. This is precisely where we lack, we need more corporate sector involvement rather than just being limited to students and educational institutions.
Have you had any projects with the corporate sector yet?
Azqa: Yes we have had a few, but not formally. Being a student my circle mainly consists of students only and I know that this is where we lack. We definitely need more corporate projects now.
About the Guest
Touraco Adventures (private) limited is a registered tourism company which primarily aims to promote local tourism and by arranging student’s, families’ and corporate trips to different areas of Pakistan. We offer one day, two days and seven days packages for tours depending on the site we are visiting. We also plan customized tours for groups, honeymoon and for corporate. We operate from two big cities of Pakistan; Islamabad and Lahore. We aim to grow this to other cities of Pakistan as well with our young and enthusiastic team.