• Smooth landing

    Tourvest Travel Services is implementing ‘Africa-specific’ solutions to ensure stress-free corporate tourism across the continent, says Louis van Zyl, COO Africa, Marine and Offshore.

    Smooth landing

    Business travel in and to Africa is nothing new. What is new is a significant downward trend in numbers. This is how Louis van Zyl, COO Africa, Marine and Offshore, of Tourvest Travel Services (TTS) interprets the effect of lower commodity prices – led, he says, by the continued decline of the oil price.

    ‘Oil is the main driver of significant economic activity in the continent’s major economies. As a result, while business travel numbers are notably down, the cost of travel continues to rise.’

    This is rather unexpected given all the rhetoric on ‘Africa rising’ and, with it, international interest in the continent as the next frontier for business opportunities and expansion. Yet, it is a fact that most African nations depend on their mineral wealth to drive GDP, and despite new finds of oil and gas, the declines in the foreign reserves of some of the continent’s largest players are now affecting the travel industry.

    ‘On the positive side, continued tech­nology advancements and improvements in payment processes continue to progress the efficiencies within the industry, resulting in cost and process advances,’ says Van Zyl.

    Technology is where the dominant investment for TTS is directed, ‘more in improved capabilities and efficiencies driven by adoption and implementation of new technologies rather than new, greenfield investment. We treat this climate as a pause, and choose to improve the opportunities rather than motivating an aggressive expansion drive’, he says.

    Part of this has meant applying an ‘Africa-specific’ solution to the technology that TTS has invested in. ‘We have chosen to develop our own online solution that will position us optimally to be on the front line of service delivery towards our growing customer base,’ says Van Zyl. Such efforts include an online booking tool that works optimally when combined with the company’s Business Travel Centre services, be that for inter­national, regional or domestic travel.

    Alongside the technology innovations is the greater American Express Global Business Travel (AEGBT) network, which TTS employs for governance and tracking. It has also partnered with a 24/7/365 service that positions TTS to react to any security occurrence as soon and as comprehensively as possible, as well as other global security and evacua­tion organisations. ‘This includes early warning of events, where we can seek and locate all affected client travellers and contact them to determine whether they need assistance.’

    Such unknowns would include events such as the outbreak of Ebola, terrorism attacks or in the unfortunate event of being caught up in civil unrest. In such circumstances clients can contact the emergency call centre, based in Johannes­burg, with consultants available around the clock, including weekends and public holidays. Other headline events such as Brexit or the election of Trump do not go unmonitored. As Van Zyl argues, while they may affect the corporate tourism environment, it is to a lesser extent than events that put its clients at risk.

    Although it operates mainly in South Africa, through its Business Travel Centres in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, TTS does have a sub-Saha­ran profile with its managing share of the AEGBT operation in Nigeria, and as the management agent for the operation’s Travel Partner Network in Africa. Its services include all aspects of corporate travel tran­­sactions, from booking and general management services to how to manage travel spend and optimise travel strategies.

    Of the latter, TTS is finding West Africa one of the most popular regional destinations currently. ‘Mining, marine and offshore drivers are driving corporate travel to Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana,’ according to Van Zyl. ‘On the eastern side, travel to Kenya and Tanzania is prominent. These two, along with Ethiopia, are highlighted for their general size and strength of their economies, particularly Ethiopia where there is a high percentage of NGO activity.’

    Another area that features strongly in corporate tourism is the MICE – meetings, incentives, conferences and events – sector. ‘We offer a turnkey project management solution in such cases,’ he says.

    ‘From conceptualisation to RSVP management, or sourcing entertainers and technical support staff, we have it all under control.

    ‘The continental success of TTS can largely be attributed to how it processes client needs, for not only does it undertake extensive traveller profiles for its clients but it also looks at the holistic side of its clients’ operations. By benchmarking travel management areas – savings, service, control and technology, safety and sustainability, it presents a client-specific balanced scorecard.

    ‘When combined with its partner strategy, which allows TTS to negotiate preferred pricing and rates, service and access bulk buying, as well as its status as the only travel management company in South Africa to use an operational application called Amadeus Agency Manager [the global leading technology provider to the travel industry], the company is able to maintain its reputation for providing a true and valued one-stop travel experience,’ says Van Zyl.

    By Kerry Dimmer