Q: How has 2010 been for Wings so far?
A: It has definitely been a challenging year, but it gave us an opportunity to strengthen the business. We made changes internationally which included strong new leadership with significant experience, and investing in marketing and sales. It’s been very tough, but we are positioned to fly when things turn.
Q: How much longer do you expect this tough situation to continue?
A: I expect things to continue the way they are for the next 12 to 18 months. Travel spend for corporate is down. I do think it has bottomed out though – things are not going to get worse. Travel is an easy expense to shut down quickly and is sometimes not managed properly.
Q: What do you expect for the rest of the year?
A: I think it will be relatively static. There will some increases and some decreases, but I don’t expect massive decreases. I often wonder if these are the new levels, though, and that what we have experienced is a correction rather than a recession. I’m not sure that we will necessarily see a bounce back to old levels.
Q: What are some of the trends you expect for corporate travel next year?
A: I think globally the big three or four will continue to dominate the market share, but that the niche players are going to excel going forward. I also think the South African market will start moving toward nett fares.
Q: What is Wings’ focus going forward?
A: For the next 12 to 18 months our primary focus is targeting emerging markets like Africa, Russia and South America, but it depends on resources and timing. Our primary focus will continue to be oil and gas.
Q: What about technology, are there any new developments on the way?
A: There is a lot happening with our technology. We are working with a US consultancy on a project that will position us at least on the same level as the best in the world in most aspects, and in some aspects the best. We’re already a market leader in certain areas. But there is mindblowing stuff on the way. We pride ourselves on our technology. Because we operate in the US, we have to be at a certain level, which is automatically advanced for South Africa.
Q: What do you think the next big thing is for corporate travel?
A: Mobile technology is becoming key. Mobile platforms and applications provide ease of use. We are developing our own applications. I also think in-house agencies are going to become a thing of the past. In the US and UK clients specifically request no in-houses as it is just an additional cost.
Q: What do you think the biggest challenge currently is for South African TMCs?
A: Adapting to the economic environment. It is a massive challenge, and companies need to challenge smartly. They can either dilute their ability to grow or strategically position themselves to still be competitive and still grow when things pick up.
Q: What is your strategy for Africa?
A: We want to be the first UK and South Africanbased
TM C to drive our brand through the African continent. We have strategic business relationships throughout Africa and want to enhance the relationships by operating in the key markets. Africa is a huge focus and is a very challenging environment from a cost and regulatory perspective.