Communication around travel arrangements a constant issue

WHEN it comes to sending travellers into other African countries, the biggest challenge for Africa X-Ray Industrial and Medical (Axim) travel co-ordinator, Olive Magondo, is the amount of time it takes to answer phone calls and emails.

“I have to book well in advance to make sure things go according to plan.”

Club Travel Corporate CEO, Kananelo Makhetha, agrees, saying that communication with hotels is an ongoing issue.

“Telephone calls are sometimes not very clear and this is further compounded by differing accents.”

A reason that land arrangements into deeper parts of Africa remain a challenge is that most hotels do not accept lodge card payments, he says.

Sabre has signed a global agreement with Visa, however unless there is a VCN issuer locally in each market, the agency will then need to use a prepaid account out of the UK, advises Sharon Wright, sales manager, TN Sales Management at Sabre South Africa.

Another headache, continues Makhetha, is the submission of visas for clients wanting to travel to multiple African countries on one trip.

“Travellers are required to apply for separate visas for each country. African economic regions should consider one visa for the region, similar to that of the Schengen visa.”

Makhetha says they have not seen growth in travel from existing clients, but growth has come from acquiring new business.

“We’ve seen increasing travel to Nigeria and Namibia as some of our clients in the retail sector look for growth in those markets.”

Similarly, for Axim, the most growth at the moment is into Namibia, says Magondo. “As a medical supplies company, we have realised there is an untapped market. We supply most of the hospitals and doctors in this part of Africa with medical equipment.”

Of the top-ten fastest-growing destinations for business and leisure travellers in SA booked through GDSs last year, three African countries made the ranking, according to analysis conducted by Travelport.

The African countries that saw the greatest growth in flight bookings from travellers in SA in the 12 months up to September 2018 were Mauritius (1st), Zimbabwe (3rd) and Namibia (8th). 

From September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2018, bookings made in SA through all GDSs to Mauritius increased by 17 764 (up 17% on the previous 12 months); by 9 506 (up 20%) for Zimbabwe; and by 4 663 (up 9%) for Namibia. 

Wright says in relation to African growth, based on GDS segments only, Africa saw a decline of about 1% from August 2018 to July 2019 as opposed to August 2017 to July 2018.