Travel industry honours top achievers

Johannesburg, 28 February – The Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA) and Diners Club South Africa announced the winners of the ASATA Diners Club Awards 2014 at a gala event at the Montecasino Ballroom, Fourways.

The winners are: Exceptional Commitment: Lidia Folli, Tourvest Travel Services Head Office, Johannesburg Tomorrow’s Leader: Minette Fourie, Club Travel Head Office, Cape Town Leisure Consultant: Marcha Lourens, South African Reynolds Travel Centre, Springs Corporate Consultant: Celia Kluever, Sure African Imprint Travel, Pretoria Key Accounts Executive: Shanell Mowers, Tourvest Travel Services, Johannesburg Independent Travel Consultant in association with eTravel: Janine Corry, 24Point7 Travel Studio, eTravel, Cape Town Wholesale Representative in a Tour Operator: Enid Maullin, Beachcomber Tours, Johannesburg Wholesale Consultant in a Tour Operator: Kuben Moodley, Thompsons Holidays, Durban.

Otto de Vries, CEO of ASATA says the association is honoured to pay tribute to those who are involved in this multibillion rand industry. “Last year the IATA figure for air tickets issued for domestic and international travel was in the region of R25 billion,” he says. “This amount excludes accommodation, car rental and the ancillary services connected with travel bookings.

“Today ASATA represents more than 85% of the industry in terms of market share, including the head offices of most of the major travel consortiums. We’re privileged to have a strong industry with travel agents and members who firmly believe in the continuous upgrading of their skills in order to keep pace with current trends.”

Ebrahim Matthews, managing director of Diners Club South Africa, adds, “Diners Club is proud to be associated with ASATA and its commitment to the travel industry through continued efforts to promote growth and development.

“We are once again delighted to sponsor these prestigious awards, where winners are nominated by their peers, judged fairly and independently, and duly recognised as being the elite of the travel industry.”

Diners Club South Africa demonstrates unsurpassed commitment to the travel trade and our business partners, continually looking at more efficient and effective ways to manage travel and entertainment spend.

The introduction of Diners Club ClubMiles is a travel planner’s dream come true, and Diners Club Advantage Plus offers card members a complete end-to-end expense management solution.”

De Vries concludes, “ASATA believes these awards are of great value to the industry in creating a professional environment. This industry awards programme is reflective of the excellence that we have in South Africa’s travel sector.

“The awards recognise those travel professionals who continue to offer excellent service with passion and due care, and who improve the perception of this exciting industry.”

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Are passengers, airports and airlines aligned?

It’ll be no great shakes for you to learn that the ‘connected passenger’ has become a reality, with 97% of airline passengers carrying at least one personal electronic device.

But a new report issued by air transport industry IT provide SITA says usage rates indicate that passengers have been slow to adopt new airline and airport mobile services when travelling.

‘The Future is Personal’ report shows airlines have made significant investments in mobile services over the past four years as smartphone adoption surged and the majority now enable passengers to buy tickets, check-in and access flight information via smartphone apps.

Still global rollout and adoption is proving to be slower and more complex than was anticipated. Half of passengers are keen to use their mobiles to find their way around the airport, access lounges or the aircraft, provide identification at checkpoints, or make payments. The reality is though, that despite these and other services, including mobile check-in and boarding passes provided by airlines, 24% of passengers have not yet used travel apps at all on their journey.

SITA’s report also details the desire for passengers to experience personalised services throughout their journey and explains how personalisation is now expected both on the ground and in-flight. This era of continuous engagement means that passengers also expect to be kept informed during periods of disruption and given the ability to manage the changing circumstances of their journey.

Immigration regulations the hot topic at TBCSA

Human talent gaps, public and private partnerships, Ebola and marketing South Africa were the key points of discussion at a lunch session hosted by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa this week to host the UNWTO Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai, WTTC President and CEO David Scowsill and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

A key point of discussion was that of South Africa’s visa regulations. While the WTTC and UNWTO believe it is right to focus on the issue of human trafficking and there are many different ways 
of approaching it, what’s happening in SA is “using a blunt instrument to address a very complex problem which is having very real and tangible negative effects for the travel and tourism industry”.

Visiting representatives said they were heartened to hear remarks from SONA by President Zuma on this issue. “Biometrics have to be done on arrival, it cannot possibly be done prior. The US and Australia systems can be used as reference for SA. This is the top issue that needs to be resolved for industry to get back into growth mode. This is a very competitive world SA is operating in and you have to make it as easy as possible for people to come and visit.”

Minister Hanekom says the President’s commentary around the review of visa regulations is unsurprising “given than tourism has been identified as one of the six economic growth sectors in the country”.

Here are the other highlights of their discussions:

Human Talent Gaps

Both public and private sector in South Africa need to “front up” to training and addressing 
the human talent gaps which exist for the future growth of the industry.

Public/Private partnership

The partnership encapsulated by the UWTO/WTTC means they are able to 
align their advocacy efforts. WTTC applauds the work of the TBCSA as it is extremely important for Government to have one point of reference that can talk on behalf of industry, something which does not exist in many other countries around the world:


WTTC and UNWTO spent time in the beginning to address issues such as wholesale panic over the outbreak; Government over-reaction and the issue of people not having a clear understanding of the exact location of the Ebola affected countries.

Marketing South Africa

Key issues to consider – How do you market? Where do you apply those marketing funds? Should the private sector be contributing? When people come to SA they typically want to visit neighbouring countries so how you market and facilitate travel to neighbouring countries within the region.

Chinese Market

South Africa has not scratched the surface of this market – “it is such as important and 
powerful market” having one consulate in Shanghai, one consulate in Beijing and the current complex 
visa regime.


Data security: Advise your business travellers!

It will never happen to me. That’s the belief that so many of us business travellers hold when it comes to the area of data security and identity theft, which, if you think about it, can have a far wider impact than other forms of theft that keep us awake at night.

Strange then that we would not spend hours pondering the best backup strategies as we would say to thinking about securing our homes or safeguarding our family.

Especially when one considers the amount of personal information we have to submit when we travel – credit card numbers, email addresses, home addresses, passport details – not to mention confidential business-related information we carry when travelling and the odd Facebook check-in to share our whereabouts and enviable travel experiences.

The modern business traveller is armed to the hilt with smartphones, tablets, laptops and all other manner of devices, and while being connected 24/7 has great benefits for companies, so too does it expose companies to considerable risk.

To illustrate the point, a rather sophisticated and scary case of cyber crime was recently discovered whereby the computers of business travellers staying at top international hotels were hacked and confidential information stolen.

DarkHotel, as the attack has been named, unfortunately managed to go unnoticed for several years and affected travellers when they logged on to the hotel’s Internet service over WiFi or via Ethernet. It is easy for anyone to set up a fake WiFi network and encourage people to connect to it to capture sensitive information.

Companies are starting to cotton on to the risks and are forewarning their travellers to be careful in addition to employing data protection methods such as forbidding travellers to take their work laptops to certain countries.

But keeping your personal and company information safe is your responsibility and, as was the case of DarkHotel, you now have no option but to treat all public Internet access as suspect.

What security measures should you be taking to minimise the possibility of your confidential data being compromised and stolen? Here are some handy tips to get you started:

  • Update your software before travelling to ensure that hackers cannot exploit known vulnerabilities in your software.
  • Avoid public computers at all cost! You have no guarantee of when security updates were done last, what viruses exist on the machine or what kinds of unknown software have been installed by staff and customers over the years.
  • Don’t do anything involving money or entering your credit card details.
  • Use 2-factor authentication for as many online services as possible. This combines something you know like a password with something you have like an SMS message or special app.
  • Back up your data. Yes it’s dull as dishwater, but if your laptop goes AWOL at least you’ll still have access to all your emails. Simply take a portable hard drive with you on your travels and each night, back all your files up, or use a cloud-based service like Carbonite to ensure your information doesn’t disappear if your computer gets swiped.


Fuel surcharge furore – complete our survey!

“The logic of breaking things out into components is pretty odd. It’s like a supermarket that sells margarine loading extra charges for the truck that drove it there.”

What an apt summing up of the controversial and confusing fuel surcharge issue currently hitting the international press and one that was included in a recent Sydney Morning Herald article that detailed plans by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to determine whether the “airlines had engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct” through levying passenger surcharges in an environment where the oil price has broken through US$60 per barrel over the past weeks.

While there can be no criticism against airlines for wanting to run a commercially viable and profitable business, it is the alleged use of the fuel surcharge to recoup costs in an environment, where the original reasons for introducing a fuel surcharge in the first place are moot, that has consumers all hot under the collar.

The argument is that customers would benefit more greatly if airlines instead employed cost recovery initiatives in their base fares to provide better transparency. Would the customer as willingly accept the surcharge if they knew that it was not a government tax, but in fact a fuel surcharge levied by the airline?

Would it be acceptable for industry to levy additional electricity surcharges on top of their service fees to compensate for higher electricity prices, or water surcharges or rate of exchange surcharges for that matter?

In the USA and Europe, airlines are mandated to advertise the full fare including all the extras – the government taxes, the fuel surcharge, etc. The way in which airlines comprise the fare is wholly irrelevant to the consumer, it is in fact the end price that counts.

As some airlines internationally and locally, including Qantas, SA Airlink and Mango, announce airfare or fuel surcharge decreases, and others like Qatar and Emirates consider doing the same, local aviation pundits say local consumers are unlikely to see a decrease in airfares, and more specifically, the fuel surcharge because the rand price of jet fuel remains volatile and has not seen as “significant an improvement as the oil price alone would suggest”. The volatility of the rand/dollar exchange rate and the hedging of airlines’ fuel above the current fuel price are also explained as factors.

ASATA is working with its members to define the extent of the fuel surcharge issue in South Africa and has released a survey asking its members to assist in our fact finding mission to campaign for a transparent and fair representation of airfares for the South African public.

Please take the time to complete this survey