On­lime travel on the rise in Africa

ON THE RISE IN AFRICA

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside - Words: MARTIN CHEMHERE

The ad­vent of the in­ter­net has brought much more con­ve­nience to the trav­eller. Now, as Africa’s economies bur­geon, with an es­ti­mated 300 mil­lion mid­dle class, the con­ti­nent is the next mas­sive mar­ket for the travel book­ing in­dus­try. The boom in on­line travel book­ing busi­ness is paving the way for smooth move­ment of peo­ple be­tween mul­ti­tudes of travel des­ti­na­tions from Cape Town to Cairo.

most of the big on­line travel play­ers are from South Africa, ow­ing to the wealthy na­ture of the coun­try, though other coun­tries through­out the con­ti­nent have sim­i­lar busi­nesses that spe­cialise in on­line travel.

For ease of space, we shall fo­cus on three ma­jor on­line travel book­ing com­pa­nies, namely FlightSite, Flight Cen­tre and Trav­el­start (not in any or­der).

FlightSite says on its web­site that it be­gan seven years ago with the merger of two op­er­a­tors, i.e. Venues4Africa, led by Rian Born­man and Club Travel’s Wally Gaynor. Since then, the com­pany has grown in leaps and bounds, pro­vid­ing a much needed ser­vice to count­less cus­tomers. Ac­cord­ing to the site, the com­pany “pro­vides an in­no­va­tive travel por­tal for South Africans to make lo­cal and world­wide travel ar­range­ments. We con­stantly strive to im­prove our cus­tomers' ex­pe­ri­ences by us­ing cut­ting edge travel tech­nolo­gies. We of­fer our cus­tomers the best value for money and the widest choice of flights, car and ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able lo­cally and abroad.”

It goes on to state that Flight Site’s “vi­sion is to be­come South Africa's first truly On­line Travel Agency. Wally and Rian share a pas­sion for travel and wanted to bring South Africans an eas­ier way of mak­ing travel ar­range­ments. With broad band be­com­ing a re­al­ity in many South African house­holds, the con­ve­nience of book­ing flights, car hire and ac­com­mo­da­tion in one por­tal was the next step in travel. Fully IATA li­censed, FlightSite.co.za has ex­pe­ri­enced call cen­tre agents, who know travel and are able to as­sist.

“Be­cause of our close ties with Club Travel, we have ac­cess to bulk buy­ing power. This en­ables us to ne­go­ti­ate com­pet­i­tive air­fares and pref­er­en­tial rates with air­lines and other sup­pli­ers, such as ho­tels, car hire and cruise com­pa­nies, tour op­er­a­tors, travel in­sur­ance and for­eign ex­change providers – world­wide.

“Club Travel, a Level One Con­trib­u­tor, is owned by Thebe Tourism Group, the first black em­pow­er­ment group formed in South Africa.

“Since 2009, FlightSite has ac­quired many ‘white la­bels’, in­clud­ing, but not lim­ited to Pick n Pay Travel, MyS­chool Travel, Sho’t Left Tourism and most re­cently, Mweb Travel. These la­bels con­tinue to grow as com­pa­nies re­alise that their travel needs will be pro­fes­sion­ally man­aged by us”. An­other player that is estab­lished in the on­line travel book­ing in­dus­try is Flight Cen­tre. This com­pany is re­garded as South Africa's “lead­ing travel re­tailer”, of­fer­ing cheap flights (do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional), hol­i­day pack­ages, cruises, ski hol­i­days, last minute ho­tel deals, travel in­sur­ance and much more.

Then there is Trav­el­start, which of­fers flights, ho­tel book­ings, car rental, va­ca­tion pack­ages and other travel ser­vices through their on­line book­ing en­gine. “We search and com­pare flight prices across all air­lines so you don't have do it your­self! Book cheap flights with Trav­el­start South Africa!” says its on­line in­for­ma­tion.

Since Fe­bru­ary 2016, Trav­el­start has had a pan-African foot­print in coun­tries such as Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nige­ria, South Africa, Tan­za­nia, to name a few.

While one can imag­ine its hum­ble roots in Swe­den, where it was founded by cur­rent CEO Stephan Ek­bergh, Trav­el­start has now be­come the go-to com­pany in travel book­ing across the African con­ti­nent. One can only praise its vast ex­pan­sion into a large con­ti­nent with bound­less po­ten­tial. Stephan had made a bold move back in 2010, when he sold his Swedish en­tity, and de­cided to head down to Africa, to set up the com­pany’s head of­fice in the “Mother City” of Cape Town.

It seems he knew the busi­ness scope that was to be lever­aged in the vast and ex­panse of the African con­ti­nent. To­day he must be look­ing back with a wide smile, as his idea has given the con­ti­nent a truly pan-African op­er­a­tion that con­tin­ues to grow in leaps and bounds.

Africa’s ris­ing mid­dle class are the source of its en­cour­ag­ing on­line book­ings, and Stephan made the right choice to be based in the con­ti­nent of the fu­ture. Al­though the African con­ti­nent is re­port­edly a new busi­ness ter­ri­tory for Trav­el­start, the sense to set up shop here can only be lauded. It is re­ported that the com­pany has from the early days of its op­er­a­tions in 2006, gone on to be­come a flour­ish­ing and ro­bust busi­ness of­fer­ing ser­vices in part­ner­ship with like-minded world renowned play­ers.

The growth of Africa’s pop­u­la­tion, run­ning into a bil­lion ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates, should keep the likes of Trav­el­start, FlightSite and Flight Cen­tre hap­pily on their toes, this as the cake that is the con­ti­nent con­tin­ues to ex­pand for the op­er­a­tors.

As these com­pa­nies in­crease in size con­ti­nen­tally, re­gion­ally and na­tion­ally – not in any or­der – there are many pos­i­tive spin offs to their pres­ence – that of job cre­ation for a con­ti­nent badly in need of sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic free­dom.

Also, the pres­ence of these com­pa­nies points to the fact on­line travel will never be the same again. The sec­tor can only grow ex­po­nen­tially, with things such as those new ap­pli­ca­tions that are pop­ping up daily for the con­ve­nience of ei­ther mak­ing a cher­ished book­ing or choos­ing a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion in the com­fort of one’s home or even pocket.

In­deed, the on­line travel book­ing in­dus­try is on the rise in Africa, and with the brav­ery, drive and tenac­ity shown by the above com­pa­nies and more, there is no limit to what they can do to en­sure a smooth hol­i­day for those seek­ing the thrill or frill of Africa – whether one is a stu­dent trav­eller, busi­ness trav­eller or a sa­fari con­nois­seur.

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