Q&A: No Substitute for Personal Touch

731

Is it a challenge for you to distinguish your brand from the Flight Centre brand, whilst retaining your close ties and benefitting from the association?

No. Corporate Traveller specialises in business travel and we are thus able to offer clients specific services that are particular to this business model. There are only positives.

In your opinion, what are the key issues in business travel in 2012? The key issue for 2012 has been how the industry, which previously embraced technology whole-heartedly, has shifted focus back to dealing with a travel manager, who can provide service and is available.

How does African business travel, and servicing that market, differ from, say, European, American or Asian business travel?

With travel into the African market comes a range of challenges that are not going be experienced in Europe, America or Asia. For example, flight frequency is an issue into destinations in Africa, with the monopoly held by a small group of airlines. Health and safety are also issues that need to be looked at carefully. Unfortunately, not all African cities can offer world class health providers and the threat of unrest is an almost constant in certain African countries. A third issue is the clients we have on board have certain needs specific to their industry (e.g. mining with shift work) that are a crucial factor in the proper planning of business travel. And of course the industry demands that travel managers must have exceptional ‘on-the-ground’ and in-depth knowledge of the African travel landscape.

What are the absolute ‘non-negotiables’ that the business traveller must be provided with, constantly, if he or she is to keep giving you business?

A prompt turnaround time; competitive pricing options (cheapest versus most efficient versus most direct); reporting; after hours service; skilled staff; support services like Customer Relationship Managers, who can advise on travel policies and streamlining of operations.

How have these needs changed over the years, and what has contributed to this change?

Reporting and comprehensive after-hours service are more non-negotiable now than ever before. The nature of our business means that change is inevitable and we have to be responsive to this on an immediate basis. When time is money and travel costs equal a huge running expense, proper reporting is critical to savings. Being able to engage in supplier consolidation and offering the best routings is another way to service these needs.

Following a tough couple of years, are you seeing a turnaround in the amount of business travel that is being booked?

Yes! We have experienced 35 % year-on-year growth. We focus on the small to medium market, and as our clients grow, so do we. Africa as a business travel destination will continue to grow, and we will be right in the thick of things as experts in this market.

What challenges does the African business travel industry face in 2012?

The usual suspects are Mother Nature and her natural disasters, civil unrest and airline stability. We believe the “Arab Spring” revolution will continue to spread through unstable countries and this will make the possibility of civil unrest an absolute reality. Airline stability is key, and with the number of reliable and financially viable carriers travelling to the major destinations across Africa dwindling, we see this as a potential threat to pricing, flexibility and frequency.

From what you’ve seen, what are the current hot spots – ie. countries – in terms of African business travel?

The Corporate Traveller top eight countries in terms of sales are: Zimbabwe,  Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Namibia, the Congo, Botswana and Nigeria.

Does Corporate Traveller have its eye on new markets in Africa? If so, where?

Our sister company, FCm Travel Solutions, has a presence in three other African countries besides South Africa, and any growth will be through this brand. Corporate Traveller, as the business model currently exists, will not be moving into other African countries at this time.

How does Corporate Traveller remain relevant and current, with technology playing such a big role in travel?

Corporate Traveller currently offers the following technology solutions: on demand online reporting, SMS functionality and itineraries to Smart Phone, and while we understand that technology can and does play a role in our industry, we feel the value of the services of a travel expert cannot be under-estimated.