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Business Traveller Africa - April 2018

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THE GDS SPACE
On a new path
NAIROBI
All you need to know
CAR RENTAL
Evolving quickly
AVIS
Making car rental seamless
ISSUE 126: APRIL 2018
www.businesstravellerafrica.co.za
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ADVERTORIAL
Heritage meets the future
Lufthansa presents a new brand design
In February 2018, Lufthansa revealed a new, modernised brand image
to all customers. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the
crane, every detail of the design was reworked – to meet requirements
of the digital age. The new Lufthansa appearance gives the individual
elements a new, modern quality to sharpen their impact.
T
he most visible change is
the new aircraft livery. The
crane, designed exactly 100
years ago by graphic artist Otto
Firle, a distinctive icon in the sky,
remains the airline's iconic symbol.
In the future, it will be slimmer
and fit for the digital world. A
thinner ring makes the crane look
more elegant, bringing it into the
foreground and granting it more
space. All in all, the trademark
will gain lightness and elegance.
The familiar blue-yellow colour
combination of Lufthansa will also
be retained – but the use of these
primary colours will be redefined.
The blue specially developed for
Lufthansa is somewhat darker,
more elegant and is becoming the
leading brand colour. It stands for
reliability, clarity and value.
Touchdown in South Africa
The new livery made its first
appearance in South Africa on
the 12th of February when it
landed at OR Tambo International
Airport. "We are excited that the
only Boeing 747-8 bearing the
new livery has already touched
down in South Africa. It is a very
proud moment for the Lufthansa
Southern Africa staff as the
2 | APRIL2017
new livery is becoming more
visible across the world since its
official launch in February 2018,
in Frankfurt and Munich. We
are also pleased that the South
African market was one of the
first markets to receive the new
livery, another demonstration
of our continued commitment
to the country”, says Dr. André
Schulz, General Manager for the
Lufthansa Group, Southern Africa.
Against the backdrop of
digitalisation and changing
customer requirements, Lufthansa
recognised the need to modernise
the aircraft appearance in order
to remain up to date. Lufthansa
was awarded the Platinum Award
by the International Air Transport
Association IATA for its new
digital services and is the first
and only airline in Europe to be
awarded the 5th star by Skytrax.
In the cabin, guests will
encounter the modernised design
within the crew's uniform in the
form of new – and often yellow
– accessories. On-board articles
such as tableware, amenity kits,
blankets or pillowcases will
carry the new design in future.
Around 160 million items will be
exchanged over the next two years.
New brand campaign
Openness and curiosity – the
launch of the new Lufthansa
brand marks the start of a new
global #SayYesToTheWorld brand
campaign. It questions familiar
ways of thinking and habits.
Lufthansa opens up the world
to all explorers. In one sentence,
“Say Yes To The World" manifests
into openness and joy. "Yes" is
positive and embraces life. "Yes"
is cosmopolitan and has no
prejudices. “It is also an appeal
to question patterns of thought
and habits. We make people do
this by asking them questions
that aim to make people aware
that it is worth going through this
world openly”, comments Jeffrey
Harrison, Marketing Manager for
the Lufthansa Group, Southern
Africa.
Explore the New
You can explore “the New”
now with a video tour of
Lufthansa’s entire new design
from conceptualising, to the final
product. Visit www.explorethenew.
com today to experience the new
world of Lufthansa. C
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
Contents
32
43
42
14
22
12 Avis
Times are changing and the car rental industry is
no different, so the Avis Budget Group is making
significant strides in the technology space to
ensure it remains relevant and in tune with its
customers’ needs. This is one company looking
to write the future.
FEATURES
14 Car Rental
With the emergence of Uber, some
commentators have been quick to
predict the demise of the car rental
industry. But the big players are fighting
back and innovating, in order to stay
relevant.
22 Global Distribution
Systems
GDS companies have had to move with
the times and evolve their offerings,
as the changing landscape of travel
distribution has shaken up the way travel
products are sold and distributed.
32 Nairobi
An overview of the Nairobi business
travel landscape, including some
important information.
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
REGULARS
04 Message from the Team 42 Tried and Tested
What’s the editor ranting about now?
06 News
Airline, hotel and other travel news
from Africa and beyond
10 W Hospitality Column
Managing Director Trevor Ward gives
us his take on the West African hotel
industry
11 ASATA Column
The latest from Chief Executive Officer
Otto de Vries
Hotel Check
• Makalali Lodge
Flight Check
• Air Mauritius
36 Q & A Interviews
• Lindsey Ueberroth &
Saurabh Rai – Preferred Hotels
• Dr Andre Schulz – Lufthansa
Morne du Preez – Tourvest
Philip Katz – Travelit
46 People on the Move
The movers and shakers –
what they’re up to now
48 Bite with the Editor
Liezl Gericke – Virgin Atlantic
APRIL2018 | 3
ED’S LETTER
A
mong the many industry reports I receive,
I always look forward to the hotel-focused
studies conducted by W Hospitality Group
and HTI Consulting.
Both focus on hotel development and activity,
and they provide fascinating insight into who is
doing what and where. They are also incredibly
well researched and give you a sense of where the
hotspots on the African continent are.
HTI released their 2017 report in early March and
it provided some interesting take-outs.
Specifically, the HTI report “provides a brief
summary of the top five and bottom five performers
across 14 African cities, as indicated by STR.
Occupancy, ADR, rooms sold, rooms available and
future supply were all taken into account.”
Among the interesting conclusions the report
draws, it states that Lagos and Accra were the
big winners in 2017, in terms of growing their
occupancies, with Lagos, admittedly, off a low base.
Conversely, the Nigerian city was also the biggest
loser, in terms of ADR (average dollar rate) decline,
falling 19% on the previous year. That was because
the naira depreciated against the dollar by around
16.5% in July/August 2017, driving ADR in US dollars
downwards. In local currency terms, ADR actually
increased by 5.4%.
ADR in Accra, in turn, reduced by 3.2% in terms of
US dollars, but grew by 7.6% in local currency.
On the occupancy side of things, Lagos and Accra
were followed by Pretoria, Windhoek and Durban,
although the growth was moderate. Windhoek
and Durban were, arguably, the more impressive
performers, coming off strong occupancy bases of
just below 65%.
The big losers?
Well, according to HTI, in terms of occupancy,
Nairobi (down 11.1%) and Dar es Salaam (down 9%)
both had a poor year, followed by Gaborone, Addis
Ababa and Umhlanga, north of Durban.
In terms of ADR growth, the best performers
were in Namibia and South Africa. Windhoek was
the market leader, followed by Cape Town, Pretoria,
Sandton (in Johannesburg) and Umhlanga. That’s
because the strong growth was driven by the
strengthening of the rand against the US dollar. The
Namibian dollar is pegged against the rand.
When it came to ADR decline, as already
mentioned, Lagos led the way, followed by Nairobi,
Dar es Salaam, Lusaka and Accra. So, not a good
year for two of East Africa’s biggest players.
What about future supply?
Well, Addis Ababa continues to lead the way with
2864 rooms, followed by Lagos, Nairobi, Accra and
Umhlanga, with HTI Consulting identifying Accra
as the city with the “greatest opportunity”, whilst
at the same time urging interested parties to “keep
watching” Cape Town and Harare.
As always, fascinating reading.
Dylan Rogers
Editor
dylan@thefuture.co.za
4 | APRIL2018
PUBLISHER
Richard Lendrum
EDITOR
Dylan Rogers
dylan@thefuture.co.za
CONTRIBUTORS
Caroline Hurry, Kate Kennedy
JOURNALIST
Kate Kennedy
DESIGN AND LAYOUT
Nadette Voogd
SUBSCRIPTIONS AND PRODUCTION
Mabel Ramafoko
mabel@thefuture.co.za
SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICE
Postal Address:
PO Box 1746, Saxonwold, 2132
Physical Address:
247 Jan Smuts Avenue, Randburg
Telephone: +27 11 327 6107
NIGERIAN OFFICE
3rd Floor, EuniBrown House195,
Ikorodu Road, Palmgrove,Lagos, Nigeria
Tel: +234 1 740 3236
Mobile: +234 803 963 0155
PUBLISHER – NORTH & WEST AFRICA
Tope Ogbeni-Awe
tope.ogbeni-awe@topcommng.com
EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
Mohammed Abdullahi
Business Traveller Africa is published under licence from Perry
Publications Limited.
Warwick House, 25 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0PP.
Tel: +44 20 7821 2740
www.businesstraveller.com
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NEWS
BA Trials Technology and
Enhances SA Experience
British Airways is enhancing the Club World
experience on its South African routes. The new
bedding and amenity kits in the business class cabin
have been available on the airline’s Johannesburg
service from the end of February and have been
on its Cape Town flights since 7 March. The White
Company has designed large soft pillows with white
cotton pillowcases and a woven blanket with satin
trim. The new amenity kits contain White Company
products and a soft jersey eye-mask. In addition the
airline is trialling biometric technolog y to speed
up boarding and arrivals processes in Orlando, Los
Angeles, Miami and New York. BA is the first and
only airline to use this particular technolog y to board
international flights. The gates at Los Angeles Airport, used by BA, have resulted in the airline boarding more than 400
customers in only 22 minutes – less than half the time it takes when not using this technolog y. The biometric boarding
gates remove the need for travellers to present their boarding pass and passport at the departure gate, simplifying and
speeding up boarding.
Regency Apartment Hotel
Launches
The Regency Apartment Hotel has been launched in Menlyn,
Pretoria, with the luxury lifestyle development due for
completion in June. The R350-million ($30m) development
is positioned for ideal access to the Menlyn business
district, malls, and the nearby highway. The 220-suite
apartment-style hotel will be positioned for business and
leisure accommodation. Each apartment is fitted with Miele
appliances and centralised air-conditioning, and guests will
have access to restaurants, a bar, g ym, high-end security
with 24-hour surveillance, and underground parking.
Conferencing facilities are available on request.
Ethiopian’s New Routes
Ethiopian Airlines has announced the launch of weekly flights to Buenos Aires, Argentina, via Sao Paulo, Brazil. The
flights will depart on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Buenos Aires becomes Ethiopian’s sixth
destination in the Americas. In addition the airline started a three-times-a-week service to Nosy Be, Madagascar, on 27
March. The route will be operated with a Boeing 737-800.
New Hotel for BON
BON Hotels has added BON Hotel Sunshine
Enugu to its Nigerian portfolio, bringing
the number of properties it manages in the
region up to 25 hotels across 14 cities. The
hotel opened on 18 March and is located
12 minutes from the airport and in close
proximity to the city centre. The décor
is stylish and understated, and the hotel
features 92 rooms, a g ym, business centre,
two restaurants, a sky lounge and bar, as well
as a poolside bar. Wi-fi is complimentary
throughout the hotel. The conference centre
comprises three meeting rooms seating up to
300 delegates.
6 | APRIL2018
For more news, visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
Turkish Bolsters Fleet
and New Route
Turkish Airlines has confirmed plans to buy at least
50 wide-body aircraft from Airbus and Boeing as the
airline ramps up its ambitions ahead of a move to a
new Istanbul airport. The company has agreed to buy
25 Boeing Dreamliner B787-9 aircraft and 25 Airbus
A350-900 aircraft. In addition, it has the option
to buy five more of each, meaning the eventual
purchase could total 60 planes. Six of the aircraft
will be delivered in 2019, 14 in 2020, 10 in 2021, 12
in 2022, 11 in 2023 and seven in 2024. The airline
has also launched f lights to Freetown, the capital of
Sierra Leone.
Virgin’s New Economy
Products
Virgin Atlantic has announced the launch of three new
ways to fly economy, as part of a multi-million pound
investment in the cabin. The airline is introducing
‘economy delight’, ‘economy classic’ and ‘economy light’
tickets. The three new classes allow customers to choose
the product that suits their budget and travel style – but
never compromise on inclusive food and drink, service,
and inflight entertainment. Economy delight will offer
34 inches of legroom, priority check-in and boarding,
and advanced seat assignment. Economy classic will now
offer free seat assignment. The new economy light ticket
will always offer Virgin Atlantic’s lowest fare. These new
classes will complement Delta’s Comfort+, Main Cabin
and Basic Economy products.
Lufthansa Announces New
Tech and Aircraft
The Lufthansa Group and Tourvest Travel Services have
unveiled the first New Distribution Capability (NDC)-capable
Direct Connect solution in the South African market. As the
first TMC in South Africa to fully implement Direct Connect,
effective March, Tourvest will receive Lufthansa Group
content using a new NDC-capable distribution channel. In
addition, the airline will be introducing the A350-900 to its
Munich-Cape Town route, starting in December. The aircraft
can seat 293 passengers: 48 in business class, 21 in premium
economy, and 224 in economy.
Airlink Suspends Pretoria–Cape Town Service
Airlink has suspended services on its Pretoria-Cape Town route. CEO Rodger Foster said that the decision was not taken
lightly, but that the route had not developed as expected in almost three years. The service will be suspended from 8 May
but Airlink will continually re-assess the market and the economy so that it can resume the service when conditions are
conducive. Until recently, Airlink operated up to four daily return flights on the route, using a combination of 83-seat Avro
RJ85 and 37-seat Embraer ERJ135LR regional jets.
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NEWS
Emirates Unveils New
Business Class Seats
Emirates has unveiled a brand new business class cabin and
config uration on its Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, with new wider
seats laid out in a 2-2-2 config uration for the first time. The
newly refurbished aircraft is set out in a two-class config uration
and offers 38 business class seats and 264 in economy. While the
business class seats are in the same design and shape of Emirates’
latest lie-f lat seats, they are now two inches wider, with a pitch of
72 inches and converts into a fully f lat bed. It also has touchscreen
controls for the seat and inf light entertainment system, several
personal lighting options, privacy panels between seats, a shoe
stowage area, footrest and a personal mini-bar. In addition, the
new business class cabin features a social area.
Carlson Rezidor
Rebrands
The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has rebranded
to Radisson Hotel Group. The new identity
leverages the international brand equity of
the Radisson name to drive awareness in the
marketplace, increase marketing efficiency
across the global portfolio, and offer exceptional
experiences to make ‘Every Moment Matter’ –
the new signature service philosophy. The new
name, Radisson Hotel Group, capitalizes on
the partnership between Radisson Hospitality
Inc. (formerly Carlson Hotels, Inc.) and Rezidor
Hotel Group AB, which has master franchise
agreements to develop and operate several brands
across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Amadeus Creates NDC-X
Programme
Amadeus has announced the creation of a dedicated programme
to drive the industrialisation of NDC and ensure its success for
all travel players. New Distribution Capability (NDC), created by
IATA, is an XML-based data transmission standard that will enable
travel companies to evolve travel distribution and merchandising.
The NDC-X programme will bring together experts from across
Amadeus’ business, and will focus on practical-use cases of
the standard, adopting a test-and-learn approach to deliver
improved capabilities for the industry. The NDC-X programme is a
continuation of Amadeus’ previous work towards the digitalisation
of the industry and the creation of commercial possibilities to build
on NDC.
Travelport Announces New
Products and Partnership
Travelport has partnered with ACI Worldwide to deliver
a fraud control and settlement solution for its airline
customers called Travelport Authorize Plus. It enhances
Travelport’s existing Card Payment Gateway by integrating
with ACI’s Red Shield platform. Part of the UP Payments
Risk Management solution, Red Shield delivers real-time,
cloud-based multi-tiered fraud prevention for e-commerce
merchants of the UP Payments Risk Management solution.
Customers can seamlessly track the ticketing purchase
processes right through to the completion of a journey.
Travelport has also unveiled its product roadmap to extend
its content offering to airline customers using IATA’s New
Distribution Capability (NDC) standard.
8 | APRIL2018
For more news, visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
Singapore
Increases
Johannesburg
Service
Cathay Pacific to Fly Non-Stop to
Cape Town
Cathay Pacific will launch a seasonal non-stop service to Cape Town later this
year, directly linking the city with Hong Kong for the very first time. The threetimes-weekly service launches on 13 November and will run until 18 February 2019,
alongside Cathay Pacific’s existing daily non-stop flights to Johannesburg. The new
service will be operated by Airbus A350-900 aircraft.
Singapore Airlines is introducing
supplementar y f lights to
Johannesburg from 1 July to 31
Aug ust. The new f lights will
operate on Wednesdays, Fridays
and Sundays. Departure time
from Singapore will be 14h35,
for arrival in Johannesburg at
18h35. The return f light will
depart Johannesburg at 19h55 and
arrive in Singapore at 12h20. This
follows the news that Singapore
Airlines has increased f light
frequency to Cape Town, in order
to meet growing travel demand.
Cape Town is being ser ved with a
daily f light via Johannesburg.
Exclusive Lounge in
Mozambique
First National Bank Mozambique and National
Aviation Services recently inaugurated
an exclusive, contemporary lounge at the
international terminal of Maputo International
Airport. The FNB Lounge by Pearl Assist
is located on the first floor of the airport
departures terminal and caters to Platinum and
Black Card Limited customers of FNB and First
Rand. The 250 square metre lounge seats 55
guests at full capacity and offers a range of hot
and cold food and drink options, free wi-fi, a
business centre, a selection of reading material,
shower facilities, and a separate entertainment
area for kids. NAS currently operates 31 lounges
across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, at major
airports in countries like Kuwait, UAE, Eg ypt,
Morocco and Rwanda.
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COMMENT
An Eye on
West Africa
Trevor Ward
MD: W Hospitality
Group
10 | APRIL2018
T
he hospitality industry
is very visible. We don’t
hide our light under any
bushels, we push ourselves to the
forefront. We want to be seen by
our customers. We put signs on
the road, on top of our buildings,
and glossy adverts in newspapers
and magazines. We pop up on
the first page of web searches,
and send emails to potential
customers. Then there’s Facebook,
and Twitter, and whatever else
there is on social media to tell the
world we exist, and what we have
to offer.
Now, if you get it right, that
works a treat in getting customers
through the door – what happens
to them after that has been, and
probably will be in the future,
the subject of other articles. The
objective, of course, is to get the
customer to (willingly) part with
as much money as possible while
spending as little as reasonably
possible in operating expenses to
make that customer happy, so that
they will come again, and your
business makes a good profit. On
which you pay tax.
So far so good.
But it is that all-important
visibility that is often the reason
why it can be so difficult to make
a profit. Take Lagos, for example.
At the recently-held inaugural
meeting of the Hotel Owners and
Managers Association of Lagos
(HOMAL) the delegates were told
that a hotel is liable for well over
20 different licences, taxes and
levies in order to stay open. And
that doesn’t include all those that
were necessary in order to build it
in the first place.
We all have to pay our taxes
so that government can function
for the good of its citizens.
Franklin D Roosevelt, a former
US President, said that “Taxes
are dues that we pay for the
privileges of membership in an
organised society”. Whether or not
government actually does fulfil
that remit is another matter.
When the burden of complying
becomes too much for a business
to bear, hotel owners rebel, which
is where we’re heading in Lagos.
It’s just too much unfair, and
sometimes just plain ridiculous,
tax.
Here are some examples.
You build your hotel, you comply
with local planning regulations
regarding the provision of
adequate parking spaces, which
you build, at your expense, on
land which you have purchased, in
a transaction on which you have
paid stamp duty, and thereafter
pay land use taxes. Then the
government enacts a regulation
which says you have to pay a lev y
of around $100 per year for each
parking space on your own land.
Land use charges have recently
been increased, for some people
by a reported 500%!
Meeting space and event halls
are big business, hosting many
meetings, trainings, conferences,
weddings and dinners. On ‘safety
grounds’ the government says
that you have to have a licence for
each and every event held. And
this licence needs to be applied for
in advance, which can take some
days to issue. Meanwhile, the
hotel turns away business because
of lack of a licence.
By the way, put up a banner
on the wall of the hotel or event
centre to publicise an event and
pay a tax for advertising, per
square metre of your banner.
There’s no public water
provision in many areas of
Lagos, so we dig boreholes (you
need a licence) and install water
purification plants (you need a
licence) and extract water from the
ground – and pay a lev y per litre
to government for water it has
not been able to provide. It’s not
metered, they make a wild guess
about the amount.
For each passenger lift (elevator)
you have in your hotel, you
must provide government with
a certificate of maintenance
and safety. Fair enough. But
the manufacturer’s certificate
is deemed not to be adequate,
only engineers specified by
the government are considered
capable of providing a certificate.
Two certificates equals two
payments.
The local government has the
right to lev y a merriment tax on
private parties. Apparently the
fact that Lagosians like to party
is sufficient reason to tax them
for, well, being happy, despite the
VAT paid on the alcohol and food
consumed, the music licence, the
income tax from the workers, the
list goes one. It’s taxes like this
that engender resistance to tax,
and demands for change.
And there’s more coming –
legislation being discussed at a
Federal level threatens to bring
in a tourism development lev y,
another 1% of revenue for the
government.
The hospitality industry creates
jobs for some of the four to five
million youths entering the job
market each year. We do our
bit to employ them, but the
burden of taxation can become
too much to bear. One challenge
to doing anything about it is
that the industry is both highly
visible and highly diverse and is
primarily made up of SMEs, who
individually have too tiny a voice
to be heard at government level.
That’s why HOMAL (which is
for any business in the hospitality
and catering industry) is so
important, providing an organised
forum to talk to and lobby
government, and to educate them
regarding the realities of operating
in Lagos State. We all pay tax, and
we all moan about it, but tax is
another part of our social contract
with an elected government.
Government’s side of the social
contract is to provide social and
economic benefits in return for
that tax revenue. C
www.w-hospitalitygroup.com
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
COMMENT
What makes a great travel agent?
I
f you’re a frequent business
traveller, chances are you
already know the value of
working with a good travel
consultant – someone who has
your back when you’re on the road
and can make changes to your
travel arrangements on the fly.
It stands to reason that you
already know that your travel
consultant is not only a great
planner, but also someone who
has the ability to multi-task at
the drop of the hat. Your travel
consultant is a resourceful
professional who thinks on his
or her feet, can find and secure
the right options that suit your
specific needs, and takes initiative
to help you out of a bind before
you know you’re even in one.
But what’s the X-factor that
makes a good travel agent, a great
one?
integral part of the association’s
efforts to professionalise the travel
industry.
As part of this effort, ASATA
recently became the first
association in the travel and
tourism industry in South
Africa to be recognised as a
professional body by SAQA. Travel
consultants across the country
can now register with the ASATA
Professional Programme (APP) to
endorse their skills and enhance
their credibility.
So when you want to partner
with a consultant who has the
X-factor, consider working with
an ASATA-accredited travel
practitioner so that you travel with
peace of mind. C
These are the X-factor qualities
that ASATA chose to recognise
the best-of-the-best in the travel
industry through its recent annual
ASATA Awards, which forms an
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APRIL2018 | 11
ADVERTORIAL
Voice-Powered
Digital Reservations
Avis Rent a Car continues to innovate globally in the car rental space,
with a recent integration into the voice-activated Amazon Alexa
platform, allowing customers to book and manage reservations using
Amazon Echo devices.
A
vis is the first car rental
company in the world to
offer this innovation and
paves the way for easy, intuitive
travel arrangements in the era of
the virtual personal assistant.
The offering was demonstrated
at the recent Global Business
Travel Association's (GBTA)
Convention in Boston, USA, and
is already available to the public
in North America.
As it rolls out worldwide,
Avis customers with Amazon
Echo and Echo Dot devices
will be able to make car rental
reservations, review current or
12 | APRIL2018
past reservations and request
e-receipts for rentals through
their virtual assistants.
“This is part of how Avis
ensures we are always ahead
of the innovation curve,” said
Lance Smith, Executive: Sales at
Avis southern Africa. “Amazon
Echo devices and apps are not
yet officially available in South
Africa, but the minute they are,
customers will be able to make
their reservations using the Alexa
platform.”
When it becomes available, the
new interface will give travellers
instant, voice-controlled access
to the car rental booking process
with such commands as, "I need a
car at Cape Town Airport at 09h00
this Friday."
The voice platform then
manages the booking process
through secure integration with
Avis using travellers’ preferences
stored in their Avis profile.
These include car preference and
additional options such as GPS
devices.
Technolog y research company
Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2018,
30% of consumer interactions
with technolog y will be through
voice assistance platforms. The
Avis integration with Amazon
Alexa underscores the brand's
commitment to driving and
building a superior reservation
and rental experience for its
customers.
CONTACT
Avis.co.za
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APRIL2018 | 13
FEATURE – CAR RENTAL
Where to,
from here?
14 | APRIL2018
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What’s the future of the car rental
industry? With the sharing economy
muscling its way into this space and
many people taking a different view on
car ownership and how to simply get
from A to B, the car rental industry
has a whole new set of challenges on its
hands, as Kate Kennedy discovered.
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T
he world is in a state of flux.
Industries that have
remained stable and
prosperous for the past century
are now struggling to keep up
with the rate of change, and in
this information age, driven by
technolog y, it’s not just the rise
of app-based companies that are
putting paid to the glory days
of car rental companies. The
changing way of doing business
and marginal economic growth
are challenging these companies
to remain relevant.
That being said, some of the
world’s big global brands are
taking the hint and following the
trends, as they seek new models,
new revenue streams, and new
ways of doing business.
In February, Hertz reported
a bigger-than-expected fourthquarter loss in the United States,
amid efforts to “turn itself
around by spending more on
fleet, technolog y upgrades and
marketing initiatives,” said a
Reuters report.
“We will have elevated
investments throughout the year
as we implement several major
technolog y conversions,” said
Hertz CEO Kathryn Marinello.
“By 2019, we should begin to
evolve toward a more competitive
earnings profile.”
To this end, Hertz has partnered
with Apple to provide the
tech giant with cars to test its
automated driving technolog y
through its Donlen fleet leasing
and management division.
“If you look into the future of
autonomous driving, which I do
think is eight to 10 years out…no
matter what, you have to be really
great at managing a fleet and you
have to have the assets that make
you really great at managing a
fleet,” said Marinello. “And the
good news for us is, the better
we are around doing that and the
more time and money we spend
to invest in that, not only do we
create enormous goodness within
our current business, but it really
does position you for winning
down in the future.”
Avis has done something similar
with Alphabet’s Waymo selfdriving car division.
“We’ll be doing interior
APRIL2018 | 15
FEATURE – CAR RENTAL
cleaning, exterior cleaning, oil
changes, managing defective parts
for them, replacing parts and so
forth, storage of the vehicles,
protecting the vehicles, and a host
of other things,” said Larry De
Shon, Avis Budget Group’s CEO
and Chief Operating Officer. “And
as that partnership hopefully
grows, we’re certainly open to
discuss anything else from a fleet
management perspective that
they would like for us to do. And
we’re also taking a look at other
opportunities to provide fleet
management as a service going
forward.”
Working with automated
vehicle companies won’t exactly
save car rental companies, but
it shows a renewed focus on
preparing for the future. Car
rental companies have decades
of experience servicing and
managing their fleets of cars, so
these partnerships make sense at
this early stage, when Apple and
Google are experimenting with
their technolog y.
THE UBER EFFECT
According to Forbes Magazine’s
online portal, the rapid growth of
ridesharing companies like Uber
and Lyft has left rental car fleets
bloated, which has put pressure
on industry pricing. In the United
States, Hertz’s average per-day
revenue has declined consistently
over the past few years, dropping
16 | APRIL2018
by a total of 12% between Q2 2015
and Q1 2017.
For many people, ridesharing
services have negated the dream
of owning a car. Paying someone
else to drive you around is more
cost-effective than monthly
repayments, insurance, service
plans, licensing and fuel. And it’s
definitely easier to hail a ride from
your smartphone than it is to get
finance for a purchase.
In some cases, it’s also easier
and cheaper than hiring a car,
especially if you’re just ‘running
around’ for a day. If you think
about being in a strange city –
particularly if it’s a business trip
– navigating to your destination
can be stressful and sometimes
time-consuming, all of which
make the likes of Uber a tempting
alternative. You get a driver who
knows where she/he is going, will
battle the traffic congestion, and
drop you off at the front door.
Compared to traditional taxi
services or car rental, Uber meets
the instant gratification need
– there doesn’t need to be any
planning ahead or a confirmed
itinerary.
But car rental companies in
South Africa don’t appear to be
concerned.
“Uber has its place in the
‘mix’, particularly in respect
of customer demand for shortterm, one-day rentals. We have
seen some decline in areas like
Gauteng, for example, where Uber
is filling this demand,” says Wils
Raubenheimer, CEO of Hertz Rent
a Car and Firefly Car Rental in
South Africa. “But it’s had a very
limited impact on longer-term
rentals from two days-plus.”
Yanna Dickens, General
Manager, Operations – Coastal
Division for Hertz and Firefly says
that the group’s chauffeur drive
and transfer service is growing
and remains a popular alternative.
With similar conveniences to
Uber, this service offers a peace
of mind and security that is,
arguably, lacking with ridesharing.
Hertz has the infrastructure to
vet its drivers and ensure that its
vehicles are roadworthy. Given
Uber’s business model, these
things just aren’t possible. But you
do have to book the Hertz service
in advance.
“Uber gives the car rental
customer, and the public in
general, a reliable alternative to
traditional transport solutions,”
says Martin Lydall, Chief
Commercial Officer of Europcar in
South Africa. “In car rental, Uber
has the potential to compete, but
currently the highly competitive
car rental rates mean that Uber
is only an economically viable
alternative if the traveller is
travelling for less than one
day and is making only one or
two relatively short transfers.
Because of this, we see Uber as a
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FEATURE – CAR RENTAL
synergistic addition to the market,
offering an alternative to low
margin one-day rentals.”
“Traditional car rental is
an average length of rental of
approximately four to five days,
depending on the segment of
customer,” says Rebone Motsatsi,
Executive Commercial at Avis Rent
a Car Southern Africa.
Taking that a step further, De
Shon believes that in the United
States rental customers who travel
fewer than 50 miles (80km) per
day, the ones who are more likely
to give their business to Uber, are
one in a million.
That may be the case, but Avis
still adopted a “if you can’t beat
them, join them” approach back
in 2012, when it acquired leading
car-sharing company Zipcar and
broadened its offering.
Not only are these services
proving popular due to their
convenience, but the synerg y
with a continent such as
Africa is obvious – as massive
unemployment hurts even some of
Africa’s biggest economies, so the
likes of Uber and accommodation
provider Airbnb are providing
employment and entrepreneurial
opportunities.
Further to that, the sharing
economy has even greater appeal
for today’s and tomorrow’s
travellers – both leisure and
business: the millennial traveller
who seeks a bit more meaning
from his or her travel and
favours conservation and costconsciousness over bells and
whistles. Ride sharing plays a
role in achieving these goals, by
reducing traffic congestion and
emissions, and eliminating or
reducing the costs associated with
owning a car.
“The sharing economy is no
longer a concept, but a reality with
rapidly accelerating adoption,”
says Lydall. “Young people do
not view ownership in the same
way as previous generations did,
and for very good reason. This is
unlikely to change.”
“ Car rental in South Africa
has always been – and continues
to be – extremely competitive
and price-driven. ”
PRICING
So, if Uber isn’t presenting a
major challenge to the car rental
industry, what is?
Well, there’s the ongoing issue
ZIPCAR
Seeing the potential in the growth of the sharing economy, Avis invested
$500 million in 2012 in the car-sharing company Zipcar. The service “offers
offers convenient, affordable access to cars without the cost and hassle of
ownership.”
There are one million members in over 500 cities and towns around the US,
UK, Canada, France, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and Spain, as well as
over 50 airport locations. The fleet includes more than 60 makes and models,
with everything from compacts, sedans, SUVs, mini-vans and convertibles to
pick-up trucks, moving vans and luxury vehicles.
You can sign up using the Zipcar app and get access to over 12,000 vehicles.
It shows you nearby cars and allows you to book the one that best suits your
needs. The app serves as the key to the entire fleet. You can take your trip and
bring the car back to its designated parking spot when you’re done.
You can reserve by the hour, day, on-demand or up to a year in advance.
18 | APRIL2018
of pricing for starters.
“Car rental in South Africa has
always been – and continues to be
– extremely competitive and pricedriven,” says Raubenheimer.
Rising fleet and related costs
have necessitated moderate
rate increases. In line with
the economy, many corporate
customers have reduced their
travel budgets and spend, while,
generally, customers are looking
for more inclusions in the rates.
“Similar to airlines, we’re
moving towards a dynamic pricing
model to sustain fleet availability
at the right price, in specific
regions where demand is higher,”
says Hans Manke, General
Manager, National Corporate Sales
at Hertz and Firefly.
Targeting of rental vehicles
by crime syndicates, credit card
fraud and rental vehicle damages
are just some of the other issues
facing car rental operators.
And for Manke, new booking
platforms, reduced fleet sizes
and utilisation levels, shorter
lead times and the role of IT in
this segment present even more
challenges.
Overcoming these issues has
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taken a bit of effort.
“Customer credit worthiness is
a key focus,” says Raubenheimer.
“We are becoming increasingly
orientated and vigilant with regard
to the rental customer acceptance
process, by conducting thorough
ITC and customer profile checks
to ensure that no bad debts are in
place, and we avoid non-payment.”
TECHNOLOGY
As with everything these days,
technolog y plays a big role in car
rental operations, if one looks
at the likes of online booking
platforms, smart phone apps, and
even keyless car entry.
Avis in South Africa is in the
process of rolling out a new
digital rental agreement system,
which speaks to a more efficient
and paperless system with email
functionality for customers’
convenience. Tablets have been
installed at all major airport
branches, with the remainder to
be rolled out before the end of
the year. The digital offering also
allows for the completed rental
agreement to be emailed to the
customer.
“Our commitment to the
environment is key to our business
practice. The new digital rental
agreement is another initiative
that will ensure that we live up
FEATURE – CAR RENTAL
to our commitment of protecting
our environment and managing
our resources more sustainably,”
says Rainer Gottschick, Chief
Executive, Avis Rent a Car
southern Africa.
Further to that, over the past
year in the United States, Avis
has launched a voice-powered
car reservation capability with
Amazon Alexa and announced
Google Home integration with
artificial intelligence capabilities.
With new features on its Avis
mobile app – a larger variety of
vehicles, fuel and parking options,
courtesy bus tracking, rental
recipients, and a “find my car”
feature – customers can manage
their entire rental from their
“ Hertz enjoys a fleet rate from
OEM-approved panel and repair
outlets, which is the charge
passed on to the customer. ”
CAR-SHARING STATS
1. Car-sharing revenue is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in 2015 to $6.5
billion in 2024 (Navigant)
2. 23.4 million car-sharing members are forecast for 2024, up from 2.3 million in
2013 (Navigant)
3. 200,000 car-sharing vehicles are forecast for 2020, up from 55,000 in 2013
(Navigant)
4. 66% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 (UN)
5. Cars are only in use about 5% of the time, with the rest of the time spent
parked (fortune.com)
20 | APRIL2018
smartphone, choose the exact car
they want, change or upgrade
their vehicle while at or near the
lot with a simple swipe, view their
rental agreement, get real-time
updates, and more.
Hertz plans to go paperless
entirely in the very near future,
with all documentation moving
online. Both Hertz and Firefly
have a Mobile Assist app (as a
nominally priced, add-on option
to the rental agreement) that went
live last month. Primary services
include roadside, medical and
legal assistance. And the Vehicle
Events app is streamlining the
process involved in damage to
rental vehicles.
“Hertz Vehicle Events has been
installed on CUBOT (Android)
handheld devices,” says Seymour
Burt Taylor, Chief Operating
Officer at Hertz Southern Africa.
In excess of 120 units are
already in use at Hertz locations
throughout South Africa and
Namibia.
Vehicle Events is a multi-faceted
app able to facilitate, record and
monitor a host of other car rentalrelated procedures, but it’s proving
particularly effective in the vehicle
damage assessment process.
The app is web-based and
enables Hertz staff access to the
EOCLOUD programme. When
loading the damage details
onto the handheld device, the
programme collates all the
information gathered into quote
format. This is presented to the
client for approval. The repair
cost is then captured on Hertz’s
car rental management system
and upon terminating the rental
on this system, an invoice
for damages is generated and
presented to the client.
Hertz enjoys a fleet rate from
OEM-approved panel and repair
outlets, which is the charge passed
on to the customer.
“This is not a profit-making
initiative but rather a means to
keep our assets in good shape,”
says Taylor.
LOW-COST PROVIDERS
The Global Car Rental Market
2018-2022 report, released in
January, found that one new area
of focus for car rental companies is
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the provision of a low-cost service.
“Several popular car rental
services have launched their own
‘value’ brands with moderate and
affordable pricing to expand their
customer base,” said an unnamed
analyst from the research team.
In 2013, Hertz launched Firefly
Car Rental, which was developed
to replace Advantage Rent a
Car. It’s already available at all
Hertz locations within South
Africa. Location branding is being
updated to reflect the latest Hertz
corporate identity, and locations
will be dual-branded with Firefly.
“Firefly is internationally
recognised as a ‘no-frills’,
great value car rental brand
and is affording us increased
opportunities within the leisure
segment, particularly in South
Africa,” says Karen Schwartz,
International Sales Manager for
Hertz and Firefly.
Avis didn’t launch its own
budget brand, but rather brought
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its own one in-house in 2015,
announcing that it would now
operate the Budget brand as
well. This brand was previously
operated in South Africa by
Bidvest and resulted in the launch
of Bidvest Car Rental.
CONCLUSION
Interesting times and much to
ponder for the world’s big car
rental operators, as they seek to
remain relevant and create an
offering that meets the needs of
the modern-day traveller. C
APRIL2018 | 21
FEATURE – GDS
A
changing
world
GDS companies have had to move with the times and evolve their offerings and
models, as the changing landscape of travel distribution has shaken up the way
travel products are sold and distributed.
22 | APRIL2018
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APRIL2018 | 23
FEATURE – GDS
T
he global distribution
system (GDS) companies
in the travel industry
originated from a traditional
legacy business model that existed
to inter-operate between airline
vendors and travel agents. During
the early days of computerized
reservations systems, flight ticket
reservations were not possible
without a GDS.
However, as time has gone
on, many airline vendors have
now adopted a strateg y of 'direct
selling' to their wholesale and
retail customers (passengers),
whilst the advancement of
technolog y across the board has
also forced the GDS companies to
re-look their models and offering.
The world’s big GDS companies
have over the last few years
positioned themselves as travel
technolog y experts and thought
leaders, as opposed to merely
the providers of a GDS platform.
These companies are big players in
the global travel space and often
at the cutting edge of industryleading travel technolog y.
“It was once the case that
Amadeus’ distribution business
was irrefutably a ‘Global
24 | APRIL2018
Distribution System’,” says Andy
Hedley, General Manager of
Amadeus Southern Africa. “Our
technolog y enabled travel agents
to book a flight for their travellers,
on behalf of an airline. But the
nature of travel commerce has
since expanded significantly,
and so have we as a technolog y
company serving the industry.”
“One of the fundamental value
shifts we have witnessed has been
the move from processing demand
– executing transactions on behalf
of providers, to creating demand –
generating business for providers.
The GDS has traditionally focused
on executing transactions. The
world of demand creation has
exploded with the need for digital
traffic acquisition and leadgeneration, shifting the focus from
booking to converting.”
In the Southern African
market – and in fact in Europe
and North America – Amadeus,
Travelport and Sabre are the major
players and all have been forced
to re-think what role the GDS
companies now play in the travel
industry.
“Our travel industry has seen
major disruption in recent years,”
“ Today, passengers have
power over travel – choosing
whether to travel by plane,
rail or car, and whether to
search online, use an agency
or phone a supplier. ”
says Richard Addey, South Africa
Country Director, Sabre Travel
Network. “Today, passengers
have power over travel – choosing
whether to travel by plane, rail
or car, and whether to search
online, use an agency or phone a
supplier. Travellers have an entire
ecosystem of options, services,
apps, channels, and data streams
– and travel companies like Sabre
provide the platform that serves
up these options.”
So, it’s the evolution to
becoming a ‘platform’ – and,
arguably, one of many – as
opposed to the original role of a
‘go-between’ between the airlines
and travel agents. To their credit,
the big GDS players have evolved
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significantly and are now seen very differently – that is,
as industry leaders in the tech space, recognising where
the change is taking place and how to remain relevant.
Staying relevant has meant taking their businesses in
different directions – where there is opportunity.
“We believe that over 70% of travel commerce
interaction will be made by a mobile device by 2020,”
says Claudette Thorne, Country Manager for Travelport
South Africa. “We also believe that mobile and the
trends shaping its development and use will become
critical growth enablers for all travel companies.”
“The digital landscape is shifting faster than it ever
has before and so too are the needs of today’s hyperconnected travellers. As new technology enters the
market, the rate of change will accelerate even faster.
The companies that benefit the most will be those that
maintain a razor-sharp focus on adding value to the
experience of their customers across their entire journey,
continually learn and adapt using the analytics capabilities
of mobile, and use the latest technology to ensure they
remain relevant not only in 2018, but way beyond.”
DISINTERMEDIATION
This is, arguably, the biggest issue in the GDS space,
and how the big players are responding to it is largely
going to determine their role in the travel industry
going forward.
European airlines have led the way in recent years,
exploring distribution models outside the global
distribution systems. There was a huge outcry in 2015
when Lufthansa placed a surcharge (about $16) on GDS
transactions made by travel agencies, in an attempt to
shift bookings to their direct channels. British Airways
then added a similar fee (about $11 per leg of a trip) in
2017 on bookings made through Sabre, Amadeus, or
Travelport. All of this was in an attempt to reduce their
distribution costs.
“We acknowledge that some airlines will choose to
have more control of their offers, and that agents will
continue to require access to all relevant content at the
lowest possible cost,” says Hedley.
Travelport’s Thorne takes it a step further.
“If I ran an airline, I too would want to have the
best possible direct channel engagement to customers
and prospective customers,” she says. “I would want
to be able to move fast and to be in control of my
own destiny, and I would struggle being part of a
‘community’ model and have to wait in line until an
outsourced supplier can deliver what I need. However,
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APRIL2018 | 25
FEATURE – GDS
GDS TALKING POINTS
“We believe that technology solutions such as the use of cloud, especially hybrid
cloud deployment models, next generation APIs and artificial intelligence will rise to
prominence in 2018,” says Claudette Thorne, Country Manager for Travelport South
Africa. “Topical issues such as NDC, personalization, multi-source content and the
continued shift to mobile and voice commerce have and will also continue to shape
the industry.”
Andy Hedley, General Manager of Amadeus Southern Africa, believes there are four
main areas:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Personalisation and Merchandising – “Managed Travel 3.0 is all about a
more connected and engaged business travel ecosystem as well as a focus
on the corporate citizen. If we want to remain relevant, we need to create a
better experience for travellers. This experience is set to come through smart,
relevant and targeted personalisation and merchandising.”
Payments – “The growth of air content outside of the BSP – such as low-cost
carriers – and the increasing reliance of travel agencies on non-air content
for their revenues – has driven travel agencies to look for alternatives such as
virtual cards.”
Big Data – “Big Data is what really unites all technology. New sources of data
and information are prompting travel brands to innovate in terms of how travel
is sold, how travellers are serviced, and how disruption is managed.”
Blockchain – “Blockchain is a development that Amadeus has been
watching, and engaging with, for some time now. Our teams have developed
live prototypes and we are cultivating a network of specialist partners to
experiment with this new technology.”
26 | APRIL2018
I wouldn’t see direct and indirect
as binary. Ultimately, I would
want the experience of assessing
and buying my product to be
as good in any channel that my
prospective customer was looking
in. And the truth is that channels
are expanding not shrinking in
number – albeit with a progressive
shift between each of them. It is
just getting more complicated;
hence partners should work to
navigate through this together.”
Basically, the GDS companies
have had to roll with the times
and see how they fit into this
changing landscape where some
travel partners want to take out
the middle man.
An interesting take on
this theme is provided by a
report released in 2017 by the
London School of Economics
and Amadeus, looking at how
disintermediation could affect the
world’s major airlines.
“While direct distribution
can be effective for [full-service
carriers] with strong brands
in home markets, reaching
consumers in international
markets requires global networks
provided either by GDSs and
travel agents or by gatekeepers
and metasearchers,” says the
report. “Big brand airlines could
expand global direct sales in
collaboration with gatekeepers
such as Google and Facebook by
paying higher fees for advertising
and traffic acquisition. However,
the power of the airlines to
negotiate will decrease as the
search control of gatekeepers
increases. At the same time,
smaller [full-service carriers] will
need to rely on the transparent
comparisons provided by GDSs to
compete effectively.”
NEW DISTRIBUTION
CAPABILITY
At the same time as this shift
towards more direct channels,
the airline industry has been,
for some time, trying to move
towards adopting the International
Air Transport Association’s New
Distribution Capability paradigm,
which essentially simplifies
transactions between different
members of the ecosystem by
using XML coding language,
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and allows for selling ancillary
products like seat upgrades.
Yet, because airlines don’t
have to use this technolog y,
individual airlines have adopted
it at a different pace. The rise
of merchandising and ancillary
products, however, has coincided
with the adoption of this relatively
new IATA standard. Traditional
global distribution systems haven’t
previously allowed for much
customization in this area, being
hampered by limitations in their
fare basis code systems.
Now, though, the GDS
companies have had to re-look
things.
“The NDC standard holds
huge potential to revolutionise
the travel industry, but it needs
further development and the
right economics in order to
achieve that,” says Hedley. “Our
NDC-X programme will focus
on developing new use cases for
true standardisation, in a test and
learn approach, in order to deliver
improved capabilities.”
Despite Hedley’s reservations
about how much work still needs
to be done, Amadeus expects to
have web service bookings in
production, connecting to airlines
via NDC later this year. This
means it will be working together
with driver partner airlines and
travel agencies to enable a simple
flow of “shop, order and pay”,
using the NDC standard.
“By next year we will develop
that further to include the servicing
capabilities that agencies need, such
as the ability to change tickets, or
to add ancillaries,” says Hedley.
“This is when NDC will really be
industrialised and will be available
to our airline and travel seller
customers. And we will continue to
develop and evolve the standard,
adding more sophisticated use cases
as we go on.”
Amadeus is currently NDC
certified level 1 as an aggregator –
allowing for travel agencies to add
on ancillary services using NDC
XML in the same booking flow
– and plans to be NDC level 3
certified later this year. Travelport,
in turn, is already a level 3
aggregator.
“NDC is simply another
step in the evolution of airline
“ Big brand airlines could
expand global direct sales
in collaboration with
gatekeepers such as Google
and Facebook by paying
higher fees for advertising
and traffic acquisition. ”
Simplify
travel
choice
Transform client service by offering unrivalled rich content and comparability plus tailored recommendations.
To learn more about how you can maximize return on every trip, contact your Travelport
representative or visit us at travelport.com/simplify
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APRIL2018 | 27
FEATURE – GDS
BIG INVESTMENT
The world’s big GDS companies have spared no expense in trying to stay ahead of
the game.
“We've led the industry by investing over £700-million ($980m) in the last five years
in our technology,” says Claudette Thorne, Country Manager for Travelport South
Africa. “This is ahead of our competitors. Due to these investments, today we lead
the industry in four key areas that will continue to drive our growth: multi-source
content, omni-channel experiences, data analytics, and B2B payments.”
According to Thorne, Travelport is investing in artificial intelligence and machine
learning to improve the speed and personalization of its results. It has been
operating a Hybrid Cloud distribution model for over a year now and the other big
feature, according to Thorne, is the pioneering of the use of artificial intelligence
and machine learning in conjunction with Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.
“By doing so, we can optimize what data at what time we put in the public cloud
as part of our Hybrid offering,” says Thorne. “We believe that what we are doing is
a first in the travel industry. Using an intelligent content distribution network to take
our content and capabilities to our customers has significant upsides in response
times, relevance and bookability, without sacrificing data accuracy.”
“In mobile, we have the largest mobile travel app business with over 30 million
downloads. Regarding Beyond Air, we're already in the number one position. For
example, we are the fourth largest hotel distributor, just behind the giants that we
all know like Expedia, Priceline, and Ctrip in China.”
“The Amadeus company culture focuses on excellence and advancement through
continued investment and innovation,” says Andy Hedley, General Manager of
Amadeus Southern Africa. “Over the past 12 years alone, we have invested nearly
$5 billion in research and development, an impressive 16.2% of 2016 global
revenues. In fact, Amadeus was ranked the leading R&D investor in the travel and
tourism industry in the 2016 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard.”
“Trailblazing is invigorating to us. More than 5,000 Amadeus people across 40+
worldwide locations are working on projects that will take our customers and our
business into the next era for travel: cloud-based architecture, machine learning,
massive data, real-time analytics, mobile and more.”
28 | APRIL2018
distribution technolog y,” says
Thorne. “The success in this
domain depends heavily on
airlines and partners adhering to
IATA standards, and acquiring
the necessary certifications to
distribute with these capabilities.
We are already working closely
with a handful of airlines to
develop NDC-based connections
and Travelport has given NDC
its explicit support. We know the
industry needs to transform the
way flights are sold and IATA’s
NDC is an important part of this.”
In a related development, the
Lufthansa Group and Tourvest
Travel Services recently unveiled
the first NDC-capable Direct
Connect solution in the South
African market. As the first TMC
in South Africa to fully implement
Direct Connect, effective March,
Tourvest will receive Lufthansa
Group content using a new NDCcapable distribution channel.
Tourvest will be in the position to
receive differentiated, customised
Lufthansa Group content. Going
forward, the differentiated offers
made available to Direct Connect
partners are envisaged to be
further expanded and adapted
continuously in order to meet the
changing customer requirements.
In addition to Tourvest, other
agencies are currently engaged in
similar projects jointly with the
Lufthansa Group in South Africa.
“I don’t think it has ever really
been a question of steering
customers away from or bypassing
the GDS,” says Thorne. “NDC
is really about more airlines
seeking to introduce more
modern retailing techniques,
whether that’s, for example,
dynamic pricing or increased
personalization of fare brands,
than GDS bypass. What NDC
doesn’t do is to reduce the
vast complexity of the travel
distribution landscape – either in
terms of the number of suppliers
to connect to and to work with,
or the ability to consistently
aggregate, normalize and search,
shop and book in a single
workflow.”
Thorne touches on an
interesting and relevant point,
but, as it stands, NDC is going
ahead, so no surprise that the
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LATEST GDS PRODUCTS
Amadeus has recently launched Amadeus
Transfers, which will enable travel agents and
TMCs to offer the corporate traveller a seamless
door-to-door travel experience.
“When travelling globally or in Africa, reliable
ground transport is one of the key considerations
for travel companies and their travellers,” says
Andy Hedley, General Manager of Amadeus
Southern Africa. “For travellers, pre-arranged
transfers mean fewer security headaches and
peace of mind, as it eliminates the need to carry
cash for ground transfers. They no longer have to
wait in queues at stations or airports or run the
gauntlet of rogue operators preying on unwary
tourists and business executives.”
According to Hedley, Amadeus will also soon
announce a content agreement with a popular
low-cost carrier in the South African market.
“As corporates are increasingly opting for lowcost carriers, this agreement will be very beneficial
to them,” he says. “Travel sellers will be able
to access all the airline’s content through the
same search and booking flow as that used for
traditional carriers. This allows them to easily
make changes to any booking and use the
same invoicing and billing process as for any
other air content available through Amadeus.
For corporates, itineraries booked on this LCC
will also be available online and on mobile via
CheckMyTrip.”
Travelport Trip Assist is a mobile engagement
platform built specifically for every agency and
corporate and aimed at engaging with the traveller
throughout the entire travel lifecycle.
GDS companies are finding a way to work within this change and
embrace it.
“We have to remember that ultimately, the traveller is at the
heart of this change,” says Hedley. “How can we, as an industry,
use NDC and the power of technolog y to deliver better journeys,
to create more value for every traveller, to make travel buying more
inspiring, more exciting? That’s our challenge, and one that we
will only solve by tackling it together.”
Nicely put.
CONCLUSION
Ultimately, though, the GDS companies want to remain relevant
and an integral part in the travel ecosystem. They simply have
to, if they want their models to be sustainable and remain
commercially viable.
“Our ambition is to facilitate the entire travel journey from
door-to-door, and in the process, we want to improve the travel
experience for hundreds of millions of people every year,” says
Hedley. “We do this by connecting key players in the travel
industry and we give companies the tools to serve travellers better
and manage their own businesses more effectively.” C
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“Incorporating sophisticated itinerary management
capabilities, Trip Assist puts the agency or
corporate at the center of the traveller’s journey,
by providing the ability to automatically retrieve
itinerary details, import new trips to an itinerary,
track live trip changes and the ability to sync
itineraries to the device calendar in both offline
and online mode,” says Claudette Thorne, Country
Manager for Travelport South Africa. “With this
functionality, Trip Assist allows the traveller to
organize their trips in a way that makes sense to
them while also ensuring they have access to the
information they need anywhere, anytime.”
Another key differentiator of Trip Assist is its
messaging capability, as Trip Assist allows travel
managers and TMCs to provide key travel updates
in real-time and directly to the traveller’s mobile
device. Using a combination of the traveller
PNRs (Passenger Name Record), trip filters and
contextual message triggers, travel managers and
TMCs can send flight status alerts, broadcast and
contextual messages as well as new trip alerts
that will improve customer engagement, keep
travellers informed, improve policy compliance
and ensure the travel agency stays relevant to the
traveller throughout the travel lifecycle.
APRIL2018 | 29
ADVERTORIAL
Hyatt Regency
The Hyatt Regency Johannesburg offers a seamless MICE experience
in Rosebank, one of the city’s most sought-after suburbs.
A
sk any Joburger to
describe their hometown,
and chances are, they’ll
mention its energ y. A city that
thrives on dreams, goals, hard
work and success, Johannesburg is
fueled by an electric energ y that
inspires and motivates.
What better place, then, than
this booming metropolis, to host
international conferences and
meetings?
For groups travelling to the city,
the Hyatt Regency Johannesburg
offers the ultimate location for all
MICE requirements.
MEETINGS AND EVENTS
“At the Hyatt Regency, we have a
combined meeting space of more
than 1,400m 2 ,” says the hotel’s
General Manager, Karl Marshall.
One of the few Johannesburg
30 | APRIL2018
properties to offer large-scale
meeting facilities, the Hyatt
Regency Johannesburg’s 11
meeting rooms can host groups as
small as 50 and as large as 350.
“Our meeting rooms are
extremely flexible, so we are able
to create an imaginative, creative
event tailored to your individual
needs,” says Marshall.
ACCOMMODATION
As well as world-class conference
facilities and technical support,
one of the real advantages of
hosting an event with the Hyatt
Regency is the large number of
guests that can be accommodated
within the hotel.
“We have a group ceiling of 200
rooms, and in the case of overflow,
we are able to partner with
neighbouring hotels to ensure that
guests receive top accommodation
within walking distance of the
event,” says Marshall. “Not many
other properties in Johannesburg
are able to house that many
delegates under one roof.”
At 36 to 42m 2 each, the hotel’s
rooms are spacious, modern, wellequipped and tastefully appointed,
showcasing the hotel’s signature
contemporary African aesthetic.
For a more premium offering,
guests can upgrade to the hotel’s
exclusive Regency Club, or of
course enjoy the 15 suites on offer.
DINING
When it comes to dining, the
Hyatt Regency’s oneNINEone
South African-inspired fusion
restaurant is helmed by Chef de
Cuisine Xavier Francis, who has
cut his teeth in some of the best
kitchens in the country.
“Absolutely everything in our
restaurant is locally sourced, and
we use prime ingredients to create
a typically South African menu
that shows off the best our country
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has to offer,” says Francis.
For Marshall, this is one of the
real selling points of hosting an
event at the Hyatt Regency.
“We work closely with the
oneNINEone team so there is no
disparity between banqueting
and what you would enjoy at the
restaurant,” he assures. “Every
guest at a meeting will be treated
to the finest dining experience.”
To ensure a seamless conference
and events experience, lunch and
coffee breaks can be served on the
same floor as all of the meeting
rooms. That said, the oneNINEone
restaurant can be utilised on a
private basis, and guests can also
enjoy a quick and informal meal or
coffee in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge.
LEISURE
For those off-the-clock moments,
the ground floor of the hotel
opens up onto a beautiful central
courtyard, a lush, green open-air
space from which guests can enjoy
Johannesburg’s famously fine
weather. This courtyard is ideal
for tailored cocktail receptions,
networking events, or even a
quintessentially South African
braai. Within the courtyard is The
Terrace, an intimate al fresco cigar
and wine lounge, to complete the
hospitality offering.
The Hyatt Regency
Johannesburg is perfectly
positioned to provide both
a successful event and an
enjoyable travel experience. With
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a rooftop swimming pool, spa,
g ym and sauna, the hotel offers
plenty of activities for delegates
during their time off. What’s
more, it is adjacent to three
of Johannesburg’s top malls,
guaranteeing unrivalled shopping
and dining experiences off-site.
If location is key, then Rosebank
cannot be beaten. Firstly, it is
home to one of the city’s Gautrain
stations, which means the hotel
guests can reach the airport
within minutes. A multicultural,
buzzing suburb, Rosebank
also offers endless leisure
opportunities. Art galleries,
restaurants, bars and shops are
all within walking distance of the
hotel, and the suburb is a safe and
friendly environment from which
guests can get to know the city.
REWARDS
The Hyatt group is recognised
throughout the world for
hosting successful meetings and
events, and as such it recently
implemented the World of Hyatt
Planner Rewards programme.
“Participants of the new rewards
programme will earn one World
of Hyatt Passport Bonus Point for
every eligible US dollar spent on
meetings and events and up to
50,000 bonus points per qualifying
meeting or event,” says Marshall.
“Points can be redeemed for
exciting travel rewards, future
meeting credits, free nights and
more.”
With its rich combination
of conferencing facilities,
accommodation, fine dining,
excellent location and rewards,
the Hyatt Regency is the ideal
destination for your next event.
The iconic Johannesburg property
offers meeting planners and
guests the peace of mind of
an international brand within
an authentically South African
setting.
CONTACT
+27 11 280 1234
Johannesburg.regency@hyatt.com
johannesburg.regency.hyatt.com
@HyattRegencyJohannesburg
@hyattregencyjohannesburg
APRIL2018 | 31
FEATURE – NAIROBI
Righting
itself
32 | APRIL2018
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Nairobi remains one of Africa’s most prominent business travel
destinations, thanks to a good selection of quality hotels, an
improved airport experience, and Kenya’s status as the biggest
economy in East Africa, although the country has had its problems.
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
APRIL2018 | 33
FEATURE – NAIROBI
K
enya is the biggest economy
in East and Central Africa,
and after a difficult few
years is starting to once again
assert itself as a major business
travel player, despite the challenges
it faces.
Those difficult few years were
mainly as a result of persistent
terrorist activity and a hangover
from the 2014 Ebola crisis. Kenya
has faced other challenges more
recently, in the form of corruption,
high unemployment, and domestic
violence centred around the
contested August 2017 elections.
President Uhuru Kenyatta
was declared the winner of the
presidential election, but the
Supreme Court declared the
election null and void because
of irregularities. Kenyatta was
also declared the winner of
the October re-run, which was
boycotted by the opposition.
The violence in and around
the elections and the uncertainty
hanging over Kenya’s political
future had an impact on travel
into the country, with a lot
of corporate entities adopting
a ‘wait and see’ approach.
This clearly had an impact
on the business travel market,
with HTI Consulting reporting
that Kenya was one of the worst
performers of the countries it
studied in 2017, in terms of
hotel market performance.
“Nairobi’s occupancy
performance was the weakest
of the 14 cities assessed, with a
decline in occupancy of 11.1%,”
said the report. “The high levels
of growth in new supply (8.7%
increase in rooms available),
coupled with a decline in demand
due to the violence surrounding
34 | APRIL2018
to save rather than spend”.
All of that being said, the
Kenyan government remains
bullish and has big plans, in
the form of its Vision 2030 (see
sidebar), which is “the national
long-term development policy
that aims to transform Kenya
into a newly industrializing,
middle-income country, providing
a high quality of life to all its
citizens by 2030 in a clean
and secure environment.”
As the capital and economic
hub, Nairobi is front and centre
of that ambitious vision.
FACT FILE
Time zone: GMT+3
Plugs: UK-type square threepin
Dialing code: +254
Currency: Kenyan shilling $1=101KES
Language: English and
Kiswahili
the elections has reduced
accommodation demand.”
“We saw an impact on
volume of business going to
the city during 2017, but we
are already seeing recovery
and hope that will continue,”
says Karl de Lacy, International
Development Director for Best
Western Hotels & Resorts.
The knock-on effect was felt
in other areas, as well, with
Nielsen reporting in March that
Kenya’s Nielsen Consumer
Confidence Index score for
the fourth quarter of 2017 had
dropped six points from the
previous quarter to 94, which was
the lowest level since the country
was first measured in 2013.
“Prolonged uncertainties
around elections, drought, and a
credit cap resulted in a decline in
consumer sentiment,” said Bryan
Sun, Managing Director of Nielsen
East & South Africa. “Rapidly
rising inflation has also driven
food prices to five-year highs,
which has plagued consumers
and retail trading conditions.
Consumers are therefore less
confident about their personal
finances; their spare cash is
limited and their mindset remains
cautionary, with them opting
NAIROBI
Nairobi is the main business
travel destination in Kenya and
the capital city, surrounded by
kilometres of plains, cliffs and
forest that make up the city’s
Nairobi National Park. It also
features modern skyscrapers,
quality restaurants, fully-equipped
hospitals, modern shopping
malls, and a number of schools.
“The business traveller segment
has grown tremendously over the
last five years,” says Ian Rydin,
East Africa District Director
for the Radisson Hotel Group.
“From a destination which was
heavily dependent on tourism,
Nairobi is gaining a reputation
as a key corporate destination
not only for large international
summits, but also as a regional
hub for major international
corporates and NGOs, whilst
new sectors such as mining and
technolog y have given this sector
a significant economic boost.”
The government has a
big role to play in ensuring
Kenya remains an attractive
business travel destination.
“Security measures have been
put in place to ensure the safety
of business travellers right from
the airport,” says Neelma Maru,
Director of Sales & Marketing at
the newly-opened Moevenpick
Hotel & Residences Nairobi.
“The county government of
Nairobi is also working hard
to address issues such as the
congestion of roads and garbage
collection, whilst there is a
great improvement in traffic
regulations. There are also several
campaigns to plant trees which
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APRIL2018 | 35
FEATURE – NAIROBI
VISION 2030
The Kenya Vision 2030 is the national long-term development policy that
“aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country
providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure
environment.” The Vision comprises three key pillars: Economic; Social; and
Political. The Economic Pillar aims to achieve an average economic growth
rate of 10% per annum, with the goal of sustaining that until 2030. The Social
Pillar seeks to engender just, cohesive and equitable social development in a
clean and secure environment, while the Political Pillar aims to realize an issuebased, people-centered, result-oriented and accountable democratic system.
The three pillars are anchored on the foundations of macroeconomic stability;
infrastructural development; science, technology and innovation; land reform;
human resources development; security and public sector reform.
naturally beautify the city.”
In terms of layout, Nairobi has
grown around its central business
district. This takes a rectangular
shape around the Uhuru Highway,
Haille Selassie Avenue, Moi
Avenue, and University Way.
It features many of Nairobi's
important buildings, including
the City Hall and Parliament
building. The city square is also
located within the perimeter.
Most of the skyscrapers in
36 | APRIL2018
this region are the headquarters
of businesses and corporations,
such as the I&M Bank Tower
and the Kenyatta International
Conference Centre. The 1998
United States Embassy bombing
took place in this district,
prompting the building of a new
embassy building in the suburbs.
Nairobi’s downtown area
or CBD is bordered to the
south-west by Uhuru Park and
Central Park. The Mombasa to
Kampala railway runs to the
south-east of the district.
Today, many businesses are
considering relocating and/or
establishing their headquarters
outside the CBD. This is because
land is cheaper and better facilities
can easily be built and maintained
elsewhere. Two areas that are
seeing a growth in companies
and office space are Upper Hill,
which is located approximately
four kilometres from the CBD,
and Westlands, which is about the
same distance away from the city
centre, just in a different direction.
Companies that have moved
from the CBD to Upper Hill
include Citibank and CocaCola, which in 2008 completed
construction of its East and
Central African headquarters,
cementing the district as the one
of the preferred locations for office
space in Nairobi. The largest
office development in this area
is UAP Tower, a 33-storey office
complex completed in 2015. The
World Bank and International
Finance Corporation (part of
the World Bank Group) are
also located in Upper Hill.
2017 saw work begin on
what is expected to be Africa’s
tallest building, with the
laying of the foundation of a
70-floor mixed-use twin tower
development in Upper Hill.
The Pinnacle Towers – which
will include a 45-floor Hilton
hotel – will also have 20 floors
of Class A offices and a Hilton
rooftop bar on the 43rd floor.
At 900 feet, the building will
have the highest viewing deck
in Africa and include five floors
of shopping, entertainment, and
restaurants, plus a health spa,
g ym and infinity pool. There
will also be 200 residential
apartments operated by Hilton.
AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
The revamped Jomo Kenyatta
International Airport is the main
entry point, and offers domestic,
regional and international
flights and connections. The
Mombasa Highway runs adjacent
to the airport, and is the main
route of access to the city.
JKIA has undergone plenty of
change in the past five years, not
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only due to it approaching capacity
and being rather outdated, but
also due to a destructive fire
in 2013. Subsequent rebuilding
and refurbishment resulted in
JKIA opening Terminal 4 – now
Terminal 1A – in July of 2014.
But Terminal 1A is JKIA’s only
modern terminal and is currently
occupied by Kenya Airways
and its Sky Team partners.
“Since the renovation, JKIA has
implemented various measures to
ensure operations are smooth,”
says Maru. “Security is assured
at the airport with reinforced
security elements to ensure
the safety of travellers. The
terminals are also clean with
adequate seating and good visible
signage. There are also various
establishments including different
shops and cafes to serve travellers.
Wi-fi is available, so travellers in
transit can catch up on work.”
In terms of transport from
JKIA, it has numerous taxis and
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car rental services that operate
24 hours a day. A taxi ride to the
city centre will cost you between
$25 and $40. You can use your
Visa, MasterCard and Maestro
cards to draw money from
ATMs available at the airport.
There are also 24-hour banking
services and forex bureaux.
With regards lounges, the end
of 2014 saw two new lounges
– Pride and Simba – opened in
Terminal 1, for Kenya Airways
Premier World and Sky Priority
passengers from SkyTeam partner
airlines. Both lounges offer free
wi-fi, a sound-proof transit
passenger sleeping area, dining
lounge, washrooms and showers.
KQ also has its Msafiri lounge in
Terminal 1D, inside security in
the domestic departures area.
There are also lounges located
airside that can be accessed by
economy class passengers, for
a fee or through a membership
programme: Aspire Lounge
(Terminal 1B, opposite Gate
10); Turkish Airlines Star
Alliance Lounge (Terminal 1E,
after Gate 3, Priority Pass);
Mara Lounge (Terminal 2,
Level 1, Priority Pass); Mount
Kenya Lounge (Terminal 2,
Level 1, Priority Pass).
“I recommend the Kenya
Airways Simba lounge for guests
looking for a quiet, spacious
lounge, with fast, free wi-fi
and a variety of complimentary
food and drinks,” says Rydin.
“The Aspire Lounge has a wide
range of food and drink, and the
lounge area has wi-fi, newspapers,
magazines, T V screens for flight
information, and entertainment,”
says Maru. “It has adequate space
and the rates are also fair.”
In terms of airlines, Kenya
Airways has an extensive route
network and offers connections
from JKIA to most major African
cities. It also offers direct
services to the likes of France,
APRIL2018 | 37
FEATURE – NAIROBI
the Netherlands and the UK in
Europe; China, Vietnam, India,
Sri Lanka and Thailand in
Asia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi
in the UAE, whilst Jambojet,
KQ’s low-cost subsidiary, flies
to Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret,
Malindi and Diani in Kenya,
and Entebbe in Uganda.
Fellow African big-hitters
SA A and Ethiopian Airlines
also fly in to Nairobi, whilst
alternative European connections
are provided by the likes of BA,
Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa,
SWISS, Air France and KLM.
No surprise that Emirates,
Etihad and Qatar Airways
also all have Nairobi routes.
NEW HOTELS
Nairobi has been a hotbed of hotel
development in the last 18 months.
The newest ‘kid on the block’
– in terms of internationally-
City Lodge Hotel at Two Rivers Mall
Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport
Nairobi Serena
38 | APRIL2018
branded hotels – is the five-star
Moevenpick Hotel & Residences
Nairobi in Westlands. It has
276 rooms, 54 of which are
fully-serviced one and twobedroom residences of 97m 2 and
121m 2 , respectively. It also has a
360-degree revolving restaurant,
a ballroom, numerous meeting
rooms, and a large exhibition hall.
“Our long-staying guests have
their own entrance, as well as
access to all the hotel facilities,
including reception, the g ym,
swimming pool, restaurants,
bar and wi-fi,” says Maru.
Also new to the market in
2018 is the 171-room City Lodge
Hotel at Two Rivers Mall, which
opened its first phase of rooms in
January. Situated adjacent to the
Two Rivers Mall in Runda, East
Africa’s largest shopping mall
and mixed-use development, the
four-storey hotel comprises two
20-seater boardrooms, two eightseater meeting rooms, a swimming
pool, a fitness room, a #Cafe
for breakfasts lunches and light
meals, a sundowner bar service,
wireless internet, free parking
and 24-hour reception services.
That announcement was
followed quickly by Hilton
unveiling the DoubleTree by
Hilton brand in Nairobi. Located
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along Ngong Road, DoubleTree by Hilton Nairobi
Hurlingham opened as the first DoubleTree branded
property in Kenya. The hotel is located just a few miles
away from the Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre and
the David Shedrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.
Opening at the end of 2017 was Marriott’s 172room Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport, which
opened within the airport complex in December
and followed up the opening of the Four Points by
Sheraton Nairobi Hurlingham earlier in the year.
Also opening in 2017 was the Radisson Hotel Group’s
Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi Westlands. It is just five
kilometres from the CBD, just off the A104 motorway.
The property has 140 rooms, all-day dining at its inhouse restaurant and terrace bar, a rooftop lounge bar
with amazing views of the city, a g ym and swimming
pool. It also has meeting and conference facilities.
Another international group to make a move in
2017 was AccorHotels, which acquired the Tune Hotel
in Westlands after the signing of a management
agreement to operate it. The 280-room property was
re-launched under the ibis styles brand later in the year.
Also rather new to the market is the Swiss
International Lenana Nairobi, which is situated
on Ralph Bunche road in Kilimani, and opened
in 2017. It has 135 rooms and suites, as well as a
Swiss Café Restaurant & Lounge, two TED & Co
Bar & Lounges, a Noodles & Rice Restaurant, six
rooms for meetings and events, a pool, g ym, a Swiss
Select Lounge, and underground parking garage.
C
M
Y
CM
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EXISTING HOTELS
Prior to all this hotel development, Nairobi
already offered a selection of high-quality hotels
including many international brands, such as
Radisson Blu, InterContinental, Hilton, Best
Western, Fairmont, Kempinski and Crowne Plaza,
as well as a number of very highly regarded local
chains, such as Serena and Sarova Hotels.
Hilton was one of the first international brands with
a presence in Nairobi, with its landmark property
in the heart of the CBD and in close proximity
to Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
The Radisson Hotel Group opened its 271-room
Radisson Blu in Upper Hill in 2015. It offers free highspeed wi-fi, great city or park views, international
or Kenyan cuisine all day in the Larder restaurant,
an open kitchen at the elegant Chop House, an
Alfresco Pool Bar & Grill, and a cigar lounge. If you
fancy something a little healthier, there’s a stateof-the art g ym, pool and spa. The hotel also has
one of the largest meeting facilities in Kenya, with
14 versatile meeting rooms, a spacious pre-function
area, a business centre, the latest in audio-visual
technolog y, and secure parking for all guests.
A short trip down the road you’ll find two
five-star properties that opened in recent years
- the Villa Rosa Kempinski and the dusitD2
nairobi, which opened in close proximity to each
other, between the CBD and Westlands.
The dusit property is a stunning hotel and more in
the ‘boutique’ space, with some rather elegant touches.
It has some intriguing spaces and also offers worldVisit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
CMY
K
Experience friendly, positive
and vibrant stays.
APRIL2018 | 39
FEATURE – NAIROBI
Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi Westlands
DoubleTree by Hilton
Nairobi Hurlingham
DoubleTree by Hilton Nairobi Hurlingham
class cuisine from its array of
bars and restaurants, stylish
and spacious guestrooms,
unique event spaces, and an
inviting Devarana Spa. Also be
sure to check out the hotel’s
striking red swimming pool!
Fairmont’s The Norfolk Hotel
has played a leading role in
Kenya's colourful history, and
continues to be one of Nairobi's
finest and best-known hotels,
40 | APRIL2018
boasting 170 guest rooms and
suites, eight conference rooms, a
heated outdoor swimming pool,
health club with g ym, sauna and
steam room, gift shops, and its
own private tropical gardens.
The InterContinental Nairobi
is ideally located for business,
close to the parliament
buildings and CBD, and adjacent
to Kenyatta International
Convention Centre, as is the
Laico Regency in the same area.
The Nairobi Serena is very
popular and one of the old,
established hotels in the city. It
has a colonial feel, but has also
kept pace with the times, and
still offers a quality five-star
experience, along with a great
location, should you need to be in
close proximity to the city centre.
There are a couple of
contemporary hotel options, one
of which is the Tribe Hotel, which
has received great reviews and
looks to have some stunning
facilities and rooms. Then there’s
the Sankara Nairobi, which
initially set the standard when
it opened in Westlands about six
years ago. The Sankara offering is
nothing short of five-star, with an
eye-catching pool area, modern
rooms, outstanding service and
an inviting steakhouse. In a
similar category is Heming ways
in Karen, offering an exclusive,
boutique five-star experience.
Just a few hundred metres away
from the Sankara is the Southern
Sun Nairobi, a member of the
South African Tsogo Sun Hotels
group. Also in close proximity
is the Concord Hotel & Suites,
located on Wangapala Road and
within walking distance of the
Diamond Plaza Shopping Centre.
Competing with the Radisson
Blu in Upper Hill are the Crowne
Plaza and the Fairview, which
is a homely four-star hotel now
owned by South African group
City Lodge. The Fairview also
has what was previously known
as the Country Lodge attached
to it, and this hotel has been
rebranded as a Town Lodge, which
is City Lodge’s two-star brand.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts
has two properties, in the form of
the Best Western Plus Meridian
Hotel and the Executive Residency
by Best Western Nairobi, which
caters more to the long-stay
market. The property consists
of 48 non-smoking one and
two-bedroom apartments. Each
apartment is fully equipped
with a kitchen, dining room,
living room, high-speed internet
access, flat screen T V, work desk
area, and daily housekeeping
services. Guests can also make
use of a fitness centre and an
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indoor heated swimming pool,
whilst the Slate meeting room
can accommodate up to 60 people
for business meetings, corporate
training and product launches.
The Grove Restaurant located on
the rooftop offers views of the city.
Best Western is expecting
to open two additional hotels
in Nairobi over the course of
2018. One of these is the first
BW Premier Collection by Best
Western in Africa. The Alba
Nairobi is expected to open
later this year, with the group
also planning to add the Best
Western Plus Grandwest in
Westlands. Also in the pipeline,
a ‘dual brand’ Executive
Residency by Best Western and
Best Western Plus, which has
apparently already been signed.
Another hotel worth noting is
the Sarova Stanley, whilst the
Ole Sereni is arguably the best
hotel on the airport road, and just
10 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta
International. It overlooks the
national park, and if you’re lucky,
you’ll see game roaming on the
other side of the fence. It also has
a bar and pool area overlooking
the park, very comfortable
rooms and stunning food.
Also on the airport road are the
Panari Hotel and the pair of the
Eka Hotel and The Boma Hotel.
If you like your golf and don’t
mind being some way from
the CBD, there’s the Windsor
Golf Hotel & Country Club.
VISAS
Visa exemptions are applied to
nationals of the following African
countries: Botswana, Burundi,
Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana,
Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius,
Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles,
Sierra Leone, Swaziland,
Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and
Zimbabwe. South Africans are
limited to 30-day visa-free stays,
and longer visits require a visa.
In 2015 Kenya stopped issuing
visas on arrival. Visitors are
now required to purchase a visa
online in advance of travel and
will be asked to produce a printed
copy of the e-Visa upon checkin, without which they will not
be permitted entry into Kenya.
Alternatively, travellers can also
contact their nearest Kenyan
embassy, high commission or
consulate to arrange a visa.
Travel agents or tour operators
will be able to register and
make visa applications on their
clients' behalf. An e-Visa will
be valid for 90 days from the
date of approval and not from
the date of arrival in Kenya.
Visit www.eVisa.go.ke.
CONTACTS
www.magicalkenya.com
www.tourism.go.ke C
D’lightful Dealing
fashioned for business executives, dusitD2 nairobi is where deal-making and breaking
happens at the heart of East Africa’s business capital. Intricately designed club
rooms with privileges to suit your business lifestyle.
For reservations contact | t: +254 (0) 204 233 000 |
e: reservations.nairobi@dusit.com
| w: www.d2nairobi.com
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
APRIL2018 | 41
TRIED & TESTED/Hotel
LIMPOPO, SOUTH AFRICA
aha Makalali Private Game Lodge
BACKGROUND: Formerly an
old cattle farm west of the Kruger
National Park, Makalali Private Game
Lodge is now a premiere wildlifeviewing destination. Previously
owned by Three Cities, aha Hotels
and Lodges, the tourism propert y
management company of Tour vest ’s
Accommodation and Activities
division, took it over around four
years ago. I stayed at the Makalali
Main Lodge, which was entirely
rebuilt, re-opened in November 2017
and can now accommodate 60 people
sharing. Situated in the heart of the
bushveld offering a sense of personal
connection with the natural surrounds,
the four-star Main Lodge is more hip
boutique hotel than traditional safari
camp. There’s nothing Colonial here;
no pith helmets or hunting trophies.
Just a sense of light and space with a
contemporar y African signature. Dr y
stone columns that call to mind the
Zimbabwe Ruins, huge fireplaces and
wild sisal rugs add an elemental feel
with luscious touches of lime in the
cushions, back walls, and hints of the
Tswana vernacular in witt y African
sculptures and artefacts. Built from
natural locally-sourced materials, the
Main Lodge is understated but super
chic with raised wooden viewing decks
all around.
WHERE IS IT? Set within a
26,000-hectare private reser ve just
west of the Kruger Park, it ’s about an
hour’s drive from Hoedspruit.
42 | APRIL2018
ROOMS AND FACILITIES:
Our superior room, one of 30, felt
welcoming in a neutral palette to let
the fantastic bushveld view from our
f loor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors
take centre stage. From your balcony
you can enjoy a pre-prandial drink as
Nyala graze below and monkeys swing
from the trees. Expect an indoor and
outdoor shower, tea and coffee making
facilities, toiletries, free wi-fi, ample
plug points, and a comf y king-sized
bed with tables and reading lamps.
DINING: The African ethos prevails
in the seasonal menu that offers
traditional fare such as kudu filet or
grilled crocodile ser ved in an open-air
boma with a pit fire, on the wooden
deck, the large indoor-outdoor dining
area or even in suite by arrangement.
CONFERENCE FACILITIES: Says
aha Makalali’s operations manager
Thomas Ndobe: “Ever ything here
is f lexible in terms of making space
for up to 60 delegates. We also offer
equipment such as projectors, white
boards and fast free wi-fi.”
WELLNESS AND LEISURE:
Makalali Main Lodge has a large
cr ystal blue rim f low pool that is
spectacular when lit up at night. You
can enjoy in-room spa treatments and
there’s also a librar y where you can
kick back with a book. However, this is
Big Five territor y and on game drives
with a ranger and a tracker, we saw
elephant, lion, jackal, hippo, rhino,
a python in a tree, and a journey
of 23 giraffe that eyed us curiously
as we drank our morning coffee in
the bush. Expect mar vellous bird
sightings – African hoopoes, woodland
kingfishers, yellow-billed hornbills –
we even saw a hammerkop, a brown
stork-like bird that keeps its eggs in
a big untidy nest decorated with old
bones and shiny found objects. Local
legend dictates that a family member
will die if a hammerkop f lies over their
hut but this one was simply sur veying
(as were we) wildebeest and zebra
chilling on the plains together.
VERDICT: This is safari lodge as
trendy design hotel: urbane, fashion
forward, relentlessly contemporar y
and ideal for corporates needing a
'workation' somewhere in the bush, far
from the madding crowds.
Caroline Hurry C
CONTACT
T: +27 10 442 5888
E: cro@aha.co.za
W: aha.co.za/makalali
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TRIED & TESTED/Flight
JOHANNESBURG-MAURITIUS
Air Mauritius A350
BACKGROUND: Air Mauritius used its
50th birthday to introduce the A350-900
aircraft to its fleet, making it the first
operator in the Indian Ocean and the
second in Africa to take on this aircraft.
The interior of the A350 is spacious,
with decent headroom, has been fitted
with new seats in both cabins, and
is equipped with wi-fi. The bright
orange and green upholstery has been
replaced with neutral greys and blues.
Air Mauritius offers daily flights from
Johannesburg and four direct weekly
flights from Durban. As of 28 March it
added two direct weekly flights from
Cape Town.
CHECK-IN: I opted to check in via
the Air Mauritius app, which proved
rather simple. Once I got to O.R. Tambo
International Airport, I did a quick bag
drop and collected my boarding pass.
The flight was almost full, but I arrived
early and the bag drop queue moved
fairly fast. Queues at security and
immigration also moved at a fair pace,
meaning I was airside in less than 15
minutes.
LOUNGE & BOARDING: As a partner
with SA A, business class passengers get
access to the Baobab Lounge. At midday
on a Tuesday, the lounge was busy, but
I was able to find a seat near the back
of the lounge. I sampled a small bowl
of beef stew and followed it up with a
cup of tea and a pastry while I waited
for the flight to board. Five minutes
before boarding time, I made my way
to the boarding gate, where I had to
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wait before joining the priority queue,
which moved quickly. Business class
passengers boarded through the front
door, so getting to my seat was easy.
Once settled, I was offered a drink and a
magazine while waiting for take-off.
THE SEAT: The business class cabin
has 28 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration,
giving all passengers direct aisle access.
I was near the back of the cabin, 6D,
and was very comfortable. The pods in
this row are arranged in such a way to
give maximum space between the seats,
so the passenger next to you has a hard
time invading your privacy. The seat
converts to a full-flat bed that connects
to a foot rest, with little pockets of
storage space beneath the arm rest for
stowing phones and water bottles. These
seats also sport the latest three-point
safety belt and touch screen in-flight
entertainment. I didn’t find the safety
belt to be terribly comfortable, but it’s
only compulsory during take-off and
landing, so the discomfort is minimal.
The touch screen, however, is easy to
use and the selection of movies, T V
shows, music and games is more than
satisfactory for the four-hour flight.
There are multiple charging points for
your devices.
THE FLIGHT: We pushed back on time
and were soon cruising at 40,000 feet.
The drinks service began 45 minutes
after take-off and the lunch menu was
distributed shortly thereafter. The meal
was a tasty experience with a smoked
chicken starter, a cheese selection and a
dessert trio of Malva pudding, pineapple
Tatin and chocolate mousse. The main
course offered a choice of four dishes
– duck confit served with Sarladaise
potatoes, chucky-cut spring veg and a
red capsicum sauce, gingered chicken
and apricot tagine with rice and veg;
pan-roasted salmon trout, fennel sauce,
potato gnocchi and veg; and broccoli and
artichoke moussaka, coriander-flavoured
basmati rice and grilled veg. I opted for
the chicken and wasn’t disappointed.
After lunch I plugged in the headphones
and whiled away the remainder of the
flight watching a movie.
ARRIVAL: Touchdown was a few
minutes early and I was soon on my
way to immigration. Despite being in a
priority queue with fewer people, it took
a while to reach the desk, and then a
few more minutes before I was allowed
to proceed. My luggage unfortunately
wasn’t on the priority list, so any time
I had gained from early disembarkation
and priority immigration was lost while
I waited for my suitcase.
VERDICT: The business class cabin is
a great way to travel, with spacious and
comfortable seats, attentive cabin crew,
a hearty meal and a good selection of
entertainment.
Kate Kennedy C
CONTACT
W: airmauritius.com
APRIL2018 | 43
Q&A
Different Model
As opposed to a ‘standard’ hotel group, Preferred Hotels & Resorts is what the hospitality industry likes to call
a ‘soft brand collection’ and a global portfolio of independent hotels. Member hotels get access to Preferred’s
expertise and support services, while still maintaining their individuality, as explained by CEO Lindsey
Ueberroth and Executive Vice-President Saurabh Rai over lunch in Franschhoek with editor Dylan Rogers.
Q: What differentiates you from a
traditional hotel group?
A: We don’t own or manage
Lindsey
Ueberroth &
Saurabh Rai:
CEO & Executive
VP - Preferred
Hotels & Resorts
hotels in our portfolio, but rather
provide them with the seal of
approval, the branding and the
global infrastructure normally
provided by a chain, without
being driven by really strict
brand standards. We offer global
sales technolog y, reser vation,
distribution and marketing.
We market the properties and
offer other marketing-related
experiences, qualit y assurance,
loyalt y, and procurement.
We even have a purchasing
programme. With 650 hotels we
can get better partners that can
buy better through us. In a lot
of ways we provide ever ything
that a chain does, but give them
f lexibilit y, independence and
infrastructure.
Q: Do you still feel like you are
taking on the big hotel groups?
A: Ver y much so. And the
space has become even more
competitive. Customers have
moved away from putting faith in
a single brand – the ‘I know what
I’m getting’ approach. Now they
want a unique experience. The
advent of the internet has helped
to instil trust in unknown brands.
However, we can’t have a chain
of independent hotels; we are not
tr ying to chain down any hotels.
We are a brand that helps them
leverage their independence.
Q: Do you feel the apartment
hotel is growing in popularity?
A: Absolutely. The majorit y of
newly-built hotels are building
some residential t y pe of product
in the hotels. Literally taking out
room product and making larger
suites that have kitchen facilities
and cater to customers who want
44 | APRIL2018
something authentic. They want
that experience but they want the
ser vices of a hotel.
Preferred. They are there for
corporate, but they are dreaming
about their vacation with their
spouse or family.
Q: How important is Africa to the
group?
A: Africa is critical. I think it ’s
Q: What are some of the African
hotspots that you don’t have a
safe to say it ’s one of the foremost presence in but would like to
globally identified opportunities.
have a presence in?
Africa never had an exaggerated
A: South Africa is right up there
growth which has kind of fallen
off the top. It has been growing at
its own pace at a nice trajector y.
We have 27 hotels at the moment
and we’re happy with this
number, although Africa is the
largest growth opportunit y by the
number of hotels. We have a good
presence in some areas like South
Africa.
Q: The group is in an interesting
space, because you have both
luxury and corporate-focused
properties in your portfolio. How
do you manage the balancing of
those two service offerings?
A: The infrastructure of our sales
capabilit y is geared to address the
difference in config uration out
there. It ’s all a play of business
segments. A corporate hotel in a
cit y centre charging $100 to $200
could indicate that about 70% of
our market could be corporate.
We have close to 650 managed
corporate accounts worldwide,
so our abilit y to inf luence
acceptance, implement hotels into
corporate accounts and thereafter
pump business is absolutely on
the table. In luxur y the same
corporate contribution comes
down to less than 20%, because
they only want to focus on
upwards of $400. It ’s all a datadriven game. Corporate travellers
still undertake aspirational travel.
So our goal is to make sure that
regardless of how wide they’re
travelling, they want to stay at
for us: Cape Town CBD, Durban,
Sandton and Pretoria. In Kenya
we have a presence in and around
Nairobi, but then the business
districts are changing and we’d
like to park more product in
currently relevant corporate
pockets. And our presence in
places like Luanda, Lagos and
Accra is all by design – we’ve
been following the trajector y of
where the corporate demand is
going and that is where we have
been actively working to park
our hotels. It ’s purely driven
by the construction pipeline of
independent inventor y.
Q: How do you describe your
commercial model?
A: We are different from the
traditional chain model on a lot
of levels. One is definitely the
contractual length; our average
is five-year contracts with
renewal processes. Our model
is more performance-based, so
we get paid only for business we
generate on bed nights.
Q: Where would you like to see
Preferred in 10 years’ time?
A: To be in ever y major market.
We have strategic plans in terms
of where we want to be, but when
I think of it, long-term I want it
to be a ver y strong consumerfacing brand. One that is seen as
a hospitalit y company, not just a
hotel company. C
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Q&A
Going Direct
The Lufthansa Group and Tourvest Travel Services have unveiled the first New Distribution
Capability (NDC)-capable Direct Connect solution in the South African market. As the first
TMC in South Africa to fully implement Direct Connect, Tourvest will receive Lufthansa
Group content using a new NDC-capable distribution channel. Editor Dylan Rogers sat
down with Dr Andre Schulz, Lufthansa’s General Manager in Southern Africa, Tourvest
Travel Services CEO Mor ne du Preez, and Travelit CEO Philip Katz, to get more on
this announcement.
Dr Andre Schulz:
General Manager
Southern Africa Lufthansa
Morne du Preez:
CEO - Tourvest Travel
Services
Philip Katz:
CEO - Travelit
Q: What’s the background
to this move?
AS: It’s about content
differentiation. It’s the way
we can display specific sales
promotions, individually, via
different distribution channels,
which we control, or we can also
display our ancillary products in
a way we want it to be displayed,
in a way the GDS companies are
not capable of displaying to the
customers. At the end of the day,
it’s about the benefits for the joint
customer, between the airline and
the TMC.
Q: Why Tourvest as your partner
for this project?
AS: I believe the combination of
Tourvest and its Travelit solution
provides the most advanced online
solution in the South African
market.
PK: Technolog y is a wonderful
enabler in the travel industry. It
allows us to shorten the supply
chain and it allows us to enrich
the customer experience. The
customer is at the centre of
everything we do, and by fetching
inventory directly out of key
supplier systems, you get the
best prices, the best availability,
the best content, and the best
information, which allows the
customer to make an informed
decision.
Q: Are you expecting other
airlines to go this route?
AS: We’ve already seen it, with
other airlines following this path
after we started the process two
years ago. British Airways and
Air France are the more recent
examples. I cannot speculate on
what our competitors are doing,
but I wouldn’t be surprised if
there were more to come.
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airline, we have created this new
distribution channel that allows
us to communicate exactly what
we want to the customer. We
do not neglect the GDS – don’t
get me wrong. But we do get the
flexibility we weren’t getting from
channels – the GDS and our
the GDS. How the distribution
own websites. In the future, yes,
landscape will look in five years’
we’re adding another distribution
time, we can only speculate. But,
channel with Direct Connect,
we have seen a lot of change
but we totally understand
in the last two, three years, so
the importance of the GDS
disruption is taking place.
distribution channel. So, looking
PK: I believe the GDS is a
into that diversity of distribution
vital component on the overall
channels, I think it’s still fair
enough to have the Direct Connect distribution platform, and it’s
a very complex platform, with
channel, in addition to the GDS
thousands of airlines, hotels, car
channel, which is still the most
companies etc. So, it’s really about
important one for us. When
finding the shortest path – but
we talk about individualisation
the most complete one, as well.
and customisation, how do I
I believe the GDS will survive
approach the corporate customer,
and prosper, but it will have to
and how do I understand your
redefine itself and evolve over
specific travel demands and your
time.
travel needs. So, I need to have
technolog y in place to understand
Q: Do you believe the GDS
data to understand what this
previously had a ‘monopoly-type’
specific customer needs.
Q: What’s your response to the
criticism that this just opens up
yet another channel, as opposed
to one consolidated channel or
content source?
AS: In the past we had just two
Q: Would you argue, then, that
your own direct channel allows
the flexibility that the GDS does
not offer?
AS: That was the trigger. We
have ancillary products that we
cannot display via the GDS. So,
it’s about content freedom and
content differentiation via our
own channel, and having that
flexibility that we were missing
on the GDS. Yes, it’s a decrease
in distribution costs, but at the
end of the day it’s about content
differentiation for the customer.
Q: What’s the future of the GDS?
AS: That role needs to be defined
by the GDS, so you probably need
Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport to
answer that question. From our
perspective, as the supplier, as the
control over travel content?
MDP: As opposed to knocking
one or the other, I would rather
focus on the benefits of Direct
Connect, such as: speed to change;
being able to tailor-make a
product to our customers’ needs;
quicker and easier; being able to
offer a lot more products to the
client; productivity improvement;
not having to jump between
systems. That’s where we think
the big gains will be. All we want
to do is make sure we’ve got the
best possible technolog y and offer
our corporate customers the best
possible value for money options.
That’s what we will continue to
strive for. What we are seeing out
of this partnership, or integration,
is definitely going in that
direction. C
APRIL2018 | 45
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
Convention Centre
Manager
Sun International has
appointed Megan
Arendse as the
Convention Centre
Manager of the
group’s flagship resort,
Sun City. She has over 20 years in the
events, venue management, hospitality
and corporate communications
industries. Arendse was a key role
player in opening up the Cape Town
International Convention Centre in
2003 and gained 12 years’ experience in
strategic management, heading up the
operations and commercial departments
respectively. She holds a post-graduate
qualification in Management from the
Graduate School of Business, University
of Cape Town.
General Manager
Tsogo Sun has
appointed Jacques
Moolman as the new
General Manager at
the Southern Sun
Waterfront Cape Town
hotel. Moolman moved
over from the Southern Sun Cape Sun,
where he held the same position, and
has been with Tsogo Sun since 2003.
In that time Moolman has held various
General Manager positions across the
group’s portfolio, including at Southern
Sun Emnotweni, Drakensberg Sun,
Beacon Island Resort and 54 on Bath.
General Manager
Faircity Roodevallei
has appointed
Adriaan Liebetrau
as its new General
Manager. Having
previously worked
for Tsogo Sun, the
Southern African Association for the
Conference Industry, Travel with Flair,
Peermont Hotels and Protea Hotels,
Liebetrau is an expert in his field. He
has also travelled to over 20 countries
in the last four years, representing
South Africa’s business events industry
globally and assisting the Botswana,
Ethiopia and Zambian governments
with their business tourism strategies.
General Manager
BON Hotel Swakopmund has appointed
Conni Lyners as its new General
46 | APRIL2018
Manager. Lyners has
a Diploma in Hotel &
Tourism Management
along with a Diploma
in Strategic Marketing
Management. She
began her career
in hospitality as
a waitress at the Novotel London
Heathrow, and from there she moved
on to work at a variety of hotels across
the globe.
General Manager
Turkish Airlines
has appointed
Adem Ekmekci as
General Manager
for its Johannesburg
operation. Ekmekci
began working at
Turkish Airlines in 2010 as a marketing
specialist for America. In 2011, he
was appointed as Regional Marketing
Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Region
in the United States working out of
the airline’s Washington DC office.
In September 2012, Ekmekci was
promoted to head up Turkish Airlines’
US gateway in Houston, Texas in
addition to the southern region. His
current role includes overseeing sales,
operation, marketing and corporate in
Johannesburg and Durban. General Manager
Taj Hotels Palaces
Resorts Safaris has
appointed Mark
Wernich as General
Manager of the Taj
Cape Town. Prior
to joining Taj Cape
Town, Wernich was most recently with
Preferred Hotels & Resorts and has
been employed at Faircity Hotels, The
Protea Hotel Group, and The Rezidor
Hotel Group during his 25-year career.
Wernich holds a diploma in Hotel,
Catering and Institutional Management
from the Cape Town Hotel School.
over 14 years’ experience in incentive
travel, Herman’s focus will be to raise
the profile of FCM Events, enhance
the brand and upskill the FCM Events
team.
Spa Manager
The Westin Cape
Town has appointed
Nicola van
Huyssteen as its
new Spa Manager.
Van Huyssteen
holds a diploma in
Somatolog y from the International
Academy of Health and Skincare,
as well as a Diploma in Sales and
Marketing Management from Varsity
College. Before joining the team at the
Heavenly Spa, Van Huyssteen spent
a few years working on luxury cruise
liners, before joining the Arabella Spa
in Kleinmond. She also headed up her
own salon in Somerset West for two
years.
Head Chef
Goldfields Casino
has appointed
Sibusiso Dladla as
its new Head Chef.
Dladla studied at the
International Hotel
School, earning a
Hospitality Certificate and Hospitality
Supervision qualification. His career
stated in 2001, as a Commis Chef at
the Durban ICC, where he worked his
way up to Senior Sous Chef. In 2015,
Dladla moved to Sun City Cascades as
Sous Chef. He moved over to Sun City’s
Valley of the Waves as Senior Chef
in 2016, before taking up his current
position,
Team Leader
FCM Travel Solutions
has appointed
incentive travel
specialist Samuel
Herman as its
Team Leader for
FCM Events. With a
qualification in travel management and
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
BITE WITH THE EDITOR
Doubling up
Liezl Gericke
HEAD: MIDDLE EAST
& AFRICA - VIRGIN
ATLANTIC
Virgin Atlantic is betting big on South Africa, adding a second daily service into Johannesburg and reaffirming
its commitment to a market its been serving for over 21 years. The airline’s head of its Middle East & Africa
region, Liezl Gericke, was, unsurprisingly, happy to host editor Dylan Rogers for a coffee in Johannesburg,
to expand on this announcement and other Virgin Atlantic news.
V
irgin Atlantic has seen
the gap. As South African
Airways continues to
attempt to turn itself around,
a by-product of the national
carrier’s turnaround strateg y has
been the shedding of some routes
and frequencies that it deems
unprofitable and unsustainable.
One of those is SA A’s second
daily Johannesburg-London service,
with April seeing the airline give
up one of its two slots into the UK
capital.
Virgin Atlantic didn’t blink.
Buoyed by the sustained success
of its existing daily service and a
host of ongoing corporate deals
that keep the front of its Boeing
787 Dreamliner aircraft just about
bursting at the seams, it grabbed
that now available slot.
“On the one daily flight at the
moment, it’s buoyant, and it’s very
difficult to find an upper class
or premium economy seat,” says
Gericke. “We are very fortunate in
that this aircraft is one of the best
performing in the network – we
never dip below 90% load factors.”
No surprise, then, that this is one
of the first Virgin Atlantic routes to
get a second daily service.
“It is so significant for Virgin
Atlantic,” says Gericke. “There isn’t
a single other country in the world
that we serve – with the exception
of the US (New York and LA) – that
has more than one frequency going
into it. We’ll be adding 188,000
seats a year to the route.”
They’ve been quite busy at Virgin
Atlantic, because news of the
48 | APRIL2018
second Johannesburg service was
followed almost simultaneously
by the airline’s first significant
economy class development news
in the past 10 years.
As part of its £300-million
investment in customer experience,
Virgin Atlantic has unveiled what
it calls “three new ways to fly
economy”, with the launch of its
‘economy delight’, ‘economy classic’
and ‘economy light’ products.
“The need was identified because
we have a lot of competition,
mainly in Europe, on low-cost
long-haul,” says Gericke. “Lots
of airlines are unbundling their
products – baggage, pre-seating
etc – but what Virgin decided to
do is to not just try and compete
with low-cost long-haul, but to
add something new that no other
airline had. As a result, we’ve
reconfigured every single one of
our aircraft with extra legroom
seats in economy, and that’s the
differentiator.”
So, ‘economy delight’ offers
a seat with 34-inch legroom,
priority check-in and boarding,
and advanced seat assignment;
‘economy classic’ offers free seat
assignment – providing extra
reassurance for families and groups
that they can sit together – and
‘economy light’ offers Virgin
Atlantic’s lowest fare, although
every economy seat comes with the
same meal and drinks service.
“If you look at the low-cost longhaul operators, there’s no meal
service, baggage and pre-seating
– you have to pay for all of that,”
says Gericke. “If you add all of that
up, you’re probably not going to get
too far off what a normal long-haul
ticket would be. But people choose
to travel like that, because they’d
rather save the money. It is a way
to compete on cost, but at the same
time introduce something unique
and different.”
In another minor Virgin Atlantic
cabin development, the airline has
decided to drop the word ‘economy’
from its premium economy class,
meaning it will be known as just
‘premium’.
Continuing the theme of good
news out of the airline, Gericke
is quite bullish about the change
in fortune experienced by Virgin
Atlantic’s Nigerian operation in
Lagos, which, for the past few
years has been plagued by fund
repatriation issues.
“We’ve now had six very good
months, with very good load
factors,” she says. “Nigeria is a
buoyant market and if we could
add more capacity, we would. We
can’t, though, because the bilateral
air services agreement for British
airlines is at its capacity.”
So, what to do?
Well, upsize the aircraft, of
course, with Gericke confirming
that of the group of new Airbus
350-1000s ordered by Virgin
Atlantic, one of them has been
earmarked for Nigeria.
As has already been said – Virgin
Atlantic are betting big, but betting
big on not just South Africa, but
Africa as a whole. C
Visit businesstravellerafrica.co.za
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APRIL2018 | 65
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