Who needs travel agencies when everything is digital? Is booking on-line not more efficient and less costly than employing the services of travel agency? Is my trip not too small to involve an agency? In an exclusive interview with Ehis Ayere of African Leadership Magazine, the Founder of Holiday Bazaar, a destination management company in East Africa, addressed some of the misconceptions about travel agencies.
It is pertinent to note that Holiday Bazaar offers varied travel related solutions for leisure and corporate travel. The travel agency over years has been working with local, regional, continental and international industry players to offer better quality, enriching and more holistic experiences to travellers across the board, creating jobs and stimulating Small-and-Medium-Sized-Enterprises growth. The African Leadership Magazine recently named Holiday Bazaar one of the Top 50 Most-Impactful Indian Companies Doing Business in Africa.
Mrs. Shah also explained that Holiday Bazaar is set to change the mind-set of Africans about traveling, opening up Africa for Africa, and enlightening Africa about what lies within. Excerpt:
You are the founder and Marketing Director of Holiday Bazaar, a company that focuses on Destination Management in East Africa, providing varied solutions for leisure and corporate travel. Please tell us more about Holiday Bazaar and the services it provides in Africa.
Holiday Bazaar is a Destination Management leader in Africa and focus on combination packages offering varied travel related solutions for leisure and corporate travel. Our dream is to expose you… to an Africa we know and love!
For those living in East Africa and want to explore the world, we take pride in our expertise and extensive network of contacts to create those dream vacations, cruises, staff incentives, honeymoons and so much more.
Africa is an amazing continent with breath-taking beauty and amazing experiences and you find that as a matter of fact we as Africans do not know our continent and the jewel that lies within. A Question that arises is: Have you travelled to Rwanda Namibia, Mauritius, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Morocco, Gambia or Egypt. We therefore say that there is more reason to travel regionally because we are not restrained by visas.
At Holiday Bazaar we have the expertise and on the ground knowledge of worldwide destinations and experiences as we aim to have been there before selling a product. We are also always in the loop about what’s new and what’s happening. As Destination leaders we are very passionate about sub Saharan Africa and yet still offering Destination Management the world over. For example, we have many clients coming from UAE, India, & the United States to experience East Africa. We are a travel agency that guarantees reliability, hands on experience, safety and peace of mind.
My vision for the business in the next five years or so is to be 100% digital with a twist of the human touch.
For information on Inbound and Outbound Tours and Travel offers we have kindly visit our website www.holidaybazaar.travel which we update on a daily basis with travel deals, blogs of new destination and lots more information.
There seems to be some misconceptions about your Industry. Please shed more light on this.
We have our critics and there are Misconceptions all over the place, such as, “who needs travel agencies when everything is digital!” Booking On-line is more efficient and less costly,” “My trip is too small to involve an agency”.
Here are some of the most common:
They are a Waste of time: Travellers have now taken the know it all function, whereby they can look for the best hotel or airline deals for their trip, but have no idea where they are booking into. Travel agents have that hands on and insider experience with regard to the destination, budget and travel requirements according to the client’s profile. They also have the latest pricing, availability information, what best suites groups or individuals and much more. This gives them a Mirror guide to planning the best trip possible.
Ican book my awesome trip or experience on my own: Yes, you will have access to the very booking sites that they do, but in terms of special packages and discountable rates by virtue of them being registered travel agents and partnering with hotels, airlines, tour companies for business, as an individual you cannot get special pricing, upgrades or even get booked into hotels. As a matter of fact, some hotels exclusively use travel agents for all their bookings.
Booking Online Comes at a Cheaper Price: Yes, you will book online at a Cheaper Price, but they say “Cheap is Expensive”, and you may have booked online with no idea that the facilities, accessibility and what the deal is inclusive or exclusive of.
So next time you make a booking online trust a booking agent to give you full value of your money by giving you an exact insight of every detail about your trip and expert suggestions depending on the nature of the traveller. Talk Champagne Bush Breakfasts, Spa Treatments, All Access to the Gym, Free Drinks, Cultural Visits, Restaurant offers, travel agents know everything about what will delight your palate.
Travel Agents only book Hotels and Flights. There is a New way to do it without spending a Dime: This is just a small bit of what travel agents do, but travellers don’t seem to consider matters regarding transportation, insurance, and passports, insurance. Travel agents are doctors of sorts on travel matters. Be it travel tips, nearby banks or ATMs, Hospitals, Shopping facilities, formidable sites, activities you got the right person to go to. So If you wanted to go water rafting in Sagana or pull off a ‘Najib Balala’ by Skydiving in Watamu, put that reliable Travel Agent on Speed Dial.
Travel Agents Charge High Fees: Travel Agents expert services obviously come with a price and at the same time give you value. Mark you the same online booking sites also charge booking and service fees. These service fees are normally based on a ‘per booking’ or a ‘per ticket basis’ and come with many other services that you cannot get on your own, not to mention the time spent. Now that’s value right there.
Holiday Bazaar has been very impactful in the region in that it helps in promoting the best of Africa to a global audience, earning foreign exchange for the country. What is your take on tourism in Africa vis-à-vis how it can be better positioned to immensely contribute to the development of the region?
The African tourism sector is looking up despite the challenges in the continent in previous years. Africa continues to climb to greater heights and remain unwavering and on course to retaining our position as one of the most favoured destination in the planet.
Africa lays claim as a varied tourism product destination offering unrivalled and unmatched beauty that we are globally renowned for, but also representing a new niche of additional products such as; Luxury Cruises, Cultural, Heritage and Adventure Tours, Birding and Golfing, Culinary Tourism, just to name but a few. With this uniqueness in our tourism lie our greatest strengths, and thus the reason why visitors from far-and wide consider Africa one of the Top destinations to visit in the world.
Africa’s share of the worldwide tourism market is relatively modest and is experiencing increased growth in recent years. Bearing the fact that tourism is growing faster in the developing countries as a key source of foreign exchange, it’s a driving factor African economies.
Demand for Africa tourism products keeps growing – The Niche in Africa Tourism has a steady growth over the years. E-Tourism in Africa is also at an all-time high and Tourism industry players are leveraging on Digital Platforms to improve the way they reach their audiences and promote their business online
Tourism has created jobs and stimulated SME’s (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) growth. Africa can better position its tourism by investing in it. Tourism has time and again been a key factor in economic growth and thus by African governments investing in it as well as aligning it to the business sector, stable positioning of the sector is inevitable.
Enlightening Africa about what lies within. Africa Residents need a change in terms of state of mind about travelling. The ultimate experience is right here. You can have equally great experiences in this continent, but don’t know about it. Holiday Bazaar is changing this mindset and opening up Africa for Africa. Africa can better position its tourism by putting structures in place to cater for all tourism sectors. Tourism boards are Ambassadors of sorts in the World Tourism Sectors.
With strong Online and Offline Branding African Countries can showcase to the world what they have to offer. We are already in this line and have exhibited so expertly. A perfect Example is the MAMA Awards in South Africa, whereby International acts that came to the event were treated to tours courtesy of South Africa Tourism. Another Example is when Mark Zukerberg came to Kenya; he was treated to a superb experience courtesy of Magical Kenya.
Please tell us in details Holiday Bazaar’s impact in Africa in the light of showcasing the best of Africa, contributing to Africa’s economic growth and the development of the tourism sector.
With the willingness of tourism establishments and Airlines to further enhance their products to become more globally competitive, Holiday Bazaar has been working hand in hand with local, regional, continental and international industry players to offer better quality and more holistic experiences to travellers across the board.
Also with the exploiting of previously untapped potential of niche tourism experiences such as; ultra-luxury travel experiences, adventure and sports tourism, cruises and MICE tourism, Holiday Bazaar is the engine in making Africa well-heeled to cater for the demands of today’s international traveller
As a key tourism partner Holiday Bazaar’s Digital Marketing Platforms continually shine a light on Africa’s Outstanding hospitality and tourism facilities as well as experiences to local regional and international markets. Holiday Bazaars International traveller based online platforms (online booking and mobile portals, Engaging Websites & Blogs) as well as professional travel desks, regular e-newsletters keeping travellers well-informed of exclusive travel insights and special offers throughout the continent as well as the world at large.
Please share with us your background, vis-à-vis your entrepreneurship journey in Africa and how you have been able to surmount some of the challenges of doing business in Kenya, and Africa at large.
My passion for travel and love for what I do is the key reason I’m successful. In my time when I was finishing my higher education, it was a norm you’re your career to be decided by your parents whether you like it or not. I was one of the few lucky ones to be given a choice and I chose to do Travel & Marketing because I always had a passion for it. Entrepreneurship has many challenges, and to be an Entrepreneur you have to first of all START, and be ready to face the challenge. You should be ready for the falling.
For some finances could be the main challenge when you are guaranteed to make losses at the beginning. The biggest support was my husband and family who were confident in my abilities. Having avenues that will bring in revenue through the unique selling of my product, I eventually come out victorious. For me believing in my product has been key. I have confidence in my product and because of my passion and other attributes i know how to sell myself. In addition, my persistence has brought me to where i am today.
I am involved in philanthropic activities. I resonate with the Adage by Nelson Mandela that says ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Education is the first and foremost and my Philanthropic work involves working various projects in rural schools. Be it a borehole facility, feeding a child with the recent drought in the country or providing funds to build mobile libraries in remote parts of Kenya where Children don’t have access to books.
How would you describe doing business in Africa?
On the negative size, doing Business in Africa is tough especially with regard to the financial side of it. If you are a new travel agent/ travel business, you need to have enough resource to brand and market yourself and ensure you stand out from the competition. You must have some unique products the way you sell them (Your Unique Selling Proposition has to be effective). There is not much investment in the industry by the government in some countries and thus business is not too easy. This as well as Security issues has led businesses to close.
On the positive side, Africa has however seamlessly been a part of the digital revolution when it comes to business and with E-tourism being a key factor when in comes to business, it has been something that has made transactions, bookings, flights, reservations, displays of experiences etc. very convenient. Mobile Money transactions via MPESA and other providers have also cut down on wastage of valuable business time and procedures.
With regards to movement across the borders Regional Visas and new regulations on regional trade have made business an easy and efficient affair. The East African Tourism Platform is a perfect case scenario.
What is your opinion on some of the challenges in the sector and what is your advice to decision makers?
In Many African countries, the hotels and tourism sector have not been prioritised as an investment area. Hotels are largely concentrates in developed areas neglecting the potential of rural areas. We’ve just seen Western Kenya open up and this has created huge interest in the industry. Furthermore, a lack information system is hampering growth in tourism. African hotels rarely have efficient CRS platforms and unstable internet speeds make it difficult to process online payments. The lack of a dedicated financial structure to develop the tourism sector is also a problem. A number of factors deter commercial and custodian banks from financing the sector.
My advice to decision makers is that they develop the tourism offer across the continent by improving visitor sites and basic infrastructures like airports, roads, hotels and catering; Make tourist destinations more visible and competitive by promoting tourism both internationally and across the region, and financing investment in tourism; Incorporate E-Tourism structures and keep abreast with the latest technology developments that are happening in the 1st World countries; and Introduce incentives to attract investment in the sector, especially by improving current mechanisms. For example, Mali has implemented a tourism growth strategy that strengthens its “Investment Code”. This includes making national funds available, attracting foreign capital, creating jobs, training a qualified workforce, and developing a framework for a successful supplementary economy.
Being a woman who has achieved a level of success in the industry, what is your take about Women in Tourism?
Women are very creative and tourism is all about creativity. In my business you need to sell products of the same nature again and again with some changes here and there. You therefore need to be creative to sell the various products in a different way to different audiences. Women are also compassionate and listen to understand the other person’s needs, which is why this industry is perfect for women.