We now want to ensure that we provide all services under one roof using a specialised team of people.
The long-awaited Final Investment Decision (FID) that is expected to pave way for oil production could have been postponed several times, but that has not stopped optimistic investors from casting their nets. The latest to enter the Uganda market is North America's largest travel management agency — Travel Leaders Network — which sealed a partnership with Simba Travelcare, a Uganda-based travel management firm, to provide international corporate travel services to clients. The firm's sales director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Mark Parker, spoke to Faridah Kulabako and below are the excerpts
What is Travel Leaders Network?
Travel Leaders Network is a global travel agency network community with the expertise to empower leisure and corporate travel agencies worldwide. Most of our work revolves around consulting on corporate and leisure travel. We currently work in 80 countries, providing travel-matching solutions to our corporate clients.
What kind of services will you offer?
We shall accommodate all requirements of a corporate client; it can be as simple as a point of contact or booking airline tickets and hotels.
We also know that travel management does not just consist of booking flights and hotels; it is about managing relationships with those suppliers. For a corporate client, we must ensure that they have access to advisory data so they know what they are spending on and what leverage they can obtain as a result.
Something that also comes together with corporate travel is the need for meetings and event spaces. In the past, it has been something that used to suffer, but we now want to ensure that we provide all services under one roof using a specialised team of people.
We will lean on our partners for local expertise and they will lean on us for managing that global structure to deliver high-quality service to both small and big clients. Our small clients spend at least $10,000 a year, while big ones spend multi-million pounds a year.
What makes Uganda an attractive market for the Travel Leaders Network?
It is a combination of things. Our focus is mainly on corporate travel and there are several companies in Uganda's oil and gas sector, education and government, which triggered us to have a footprint to ensure that we serve those who need our services.
Additionally, the Travel Leaders' history is predominantly based on leisure travel; we believe that Uganda's growing population and the unique opportunities in the tourism sector will open the gateway for corporate and leadership clients across our entire network to have access to Uganda and those in Uganda to have access to other markets.
What gap are you coming to fill in the Ugandan market?
It is a personalised approach, which we feel was missing. When we look at existing major players that have been around for long, we feel that they are a small fish in a big pond of corporate clients. Part of that is because of the way corporate clients have been serviced; they feel solutions have been forced on them other than the agency getting to understand what their need is in order to grow their businesses or take them forward.
As Travel Leaders, we will have a blank piece of paper and let clients tell us what they think should be done. It thus starts with that personalised approach to travel; whether you are a
small business or large corporate client, you will always have a personalised team of people that will get to know your business and know what kind of solution you are looking for so as to provide a positive experience.
So, what differentiates us is the attention to detail at the local level; the global travel industry has become saturated with technologies and people wanting to standardise processes to work across the board. But we know that every market and region work differently; we will thus offer personalised and customised solutions supported by the latest technology.
We are flexible; we cannot offer a one-size-fits-all approach to delivering solutions to clients. We can change, depending on what the clients need. Today's corporate travellers are looking for greater value and powerful assessment options.
What are some of the solutions you say have been forced onto clients?
These solutions are those that do not address their needs. For instance, trying to force online technology unto African markets. For a long time, their approach has been just giving them the global platforms or pieces of technology because that is what works everywhere else. However, at Travel Leaders, we know technology does not work the same way all over the world.
As Travel Leaders, we will work in consultation with a client to understand what it is they are looking to achieve with this online technology. What is important is that instead of going with the same pieces of technology that have been available in the past, we will strive to present local tools that serve the purpose.
How will your entry in Uganda benefit the country?
Africa is a gateway and so Uganda is a key market for us; Travel Leaders Uganda, working in partnership with Travel Leaders Network, will open great possibilities for Uganda for tourism because our different corporate travellers will have access to what Uganda offers.
Also, Africa generally and Uganda is becoming a more popular destination for a lot of people around the world to visit. Our presence will enhance this.
Which other African market do you operate from?
We have presence in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Egypt. We are growing by the week. In the last 14 months, we have grown to over 82 countries globally and we hope to continue growing.
Apart from Travelcare, do you have any other partner agency you are working with in Uganda?
To avoid conflict of interest, we always want to have one agency per market, but that particular agency should have the ability to deliver a wide range of corporate, leisure and events services. So, our clients will be serviced by local agencies.