Founded on the principle of offering customers the best possible deal, Club Travel still enforces this ethos 27 years later. When corporate travel presented a unique set of requirements, Club Travel rose to the challenge of meeting these needs. Its bulk buying power enables the TMC to negotiate competitive rates with suppliers for hotels, air travel, car hire and travel insurance, among others. And with its rapid growth, suppliers are keen to negotiate with Club Travel. Collin Austen, Club Travel – Business Development, gave Business Traveller Africa a few minutes of his time to answer some questions.
Q: Please explain the overall Club Travel structure and how Club Travel Corporate fits into it.
A: The Club Travel Group is comprised of a leisure division, a franchise division, an online division and a full corporate TMC. The corporate division is a registered company in its own rights and enjoys a Level 1 BBBEE rating.
Q: Why was Club Travel Corporate started?
A: To stay relevant in the travel industry, we could no longer rely solely on the leisure travel market, and as such extended our ethos of meeting clients travel requirements at the best available prices to the corporate market. Our Corporate division offers a management information service to assist corporates in managing their travel budgets, policy management, duty of care, and all the services associated with a full service travel agency.
Q: Since Club Travel launched in 1987, what do you feel have been the biggest changes in the South African TMC industry?
A: The advent of the internet has had a huge impact, because it allowed for the development of self-booking travel tools. Where once travel agents were the only way of booking a trip, be it for a family holiday or a business trip, now travellers can take their travel arrangement into their own hands, at their own risk, of course.
Q: How would you describe the current business travel market in Southern Africa?
A: In a word – ruthless. Corporate TMCs are all vying for the same business, often undercutting each other, and forcing us to render a service with very small margins.
Q: Are there any trends in the South African TMC space that you’ve picked up on in the last year or so?
A: The largest trend is that many companies are moving towards self-booking tools to facilitate their travellers arrangements of their own bookings in-house. Club Travel has seen an increased interest in self-booking, however these tools require a certain spend from the client before the benefits and efficiencies come into play. Clients also come to realise, after using these tools, that they have to do the work themselves, which takes time. Often their interest fades when they see how much time and effort it can take to manage their own travel.
Q: What are your thoughts on the new visa requirements for South Africans travelling to Kenya?
A: The collection of the biometric data was rescinded, so there should be no problems issuing visas for travel by South Africans.
Q: What are your thoughts on the impact of South Africa’s new immigration procedures, regarding child travel and in-person biometric data collection?
A: As with anything new, the requirement for an unabridged birth certificate for travelling minors will take some getting used to. Often times, the paperwork required for a visa application includes an unabridged birth certificate, which means that travellers may have this document on hand to fulfil this new requirement in any case. The deadline for implementation was pushed back from August to October to allow time for travellers to apply for any required birth certificates.
Q: Do you think the recent spate of international airline tragedies will have a knock-on effect, in terms of travel around the world?
A: No, definitely not. While there have been a number of airline crashes in the last year, the loss of life doesn’t come close the number of people killed in road accidents during the same period. Air travel is a still safe form of transport.
Q: What, for you, are the African corporate travel hotspots, in terms of the demand you’re seeing?
A: Demand is still coming from Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. These markets remain strong.
Q: How does Club Travel Corporate plan to meet the changing demands of the modern day business traveller over the next five to 10 years?
A: Consolidation is the keyword here. I believe there will be much more input from international head offices regarding their company’s travel habits – who travellers fly with and who they stay with. I also believe that online booking will become more and more prevalent in the future.