FlightSiteAgent banks R80m/year
Three years ago, the country’s first GDS-free online travel provider for ITCs, FlightSiteAgent – a division of online travel agency FlightSite – launched. Offering members who don’t necessarily have prior travel experience access to competitive air, hotel, car and bus fares to sell onto family and friends at a markup, since 2013 it’s doubled its turnover every year and today reports that its 500 active agents make 125 bookings a day, generating R80-million in deposits per annum. This despite the industry’s initial scepticism about its viability.
Rian Bornman, FlightSiteAgent founder says, “Because it’s so easy to sign-up and then use the online platform at no cost – there are no membership or ticketing fees – agents have a diversity of backgrounds outside of travel.
Some are entrepreneurs who sell products onto family and friends under their own brand, others are travel operators who have industry experience but not in air ticket sales. Small businesses also use it to save 10% on their business travel costs.”
Its top performing agents turn over R10-million per annum and the majority is for international bookings. “While the margins are higher than domestic travel, it also requires more skill to arrange and is where agents can offer clients the most value.”
Typically agents earn between R300 – R600 in service fees for international flight bookings and R150 – R200 for local. For hotels, buses and cars it is 10% of the booking.
Besides side-stepping the need for GDS – a traditional barrier to entry into the industry – FlightSiteAgent also uses technology to make the platform more accessible for members. “Our online platform is now responsive so that agents can make bookings using their smartphones and iPads.” This has seen a 30% increase in remote bookings.
Education and engagement is also a cornerstone to FlightSiteAgent’s model and, together with support from SA Tourism, hosts a series of quarterly workshops in major urban centres with agents face-to-face. Topics range from industry trends, social media marketing and pricing.
“South African Tourism’s mandate is to promote domestic tourism and in FlightSiteAgent we found a partner who thinks differently about how to increase the accessibility of our country’s wonderful tourism attractions,” says Debbie Damant, Country Manager: Southern Africa Tourism.
It’s also just launched a blog so that “we can regularly share educational and advisory content with our members as well as the ITC industry at large,” explains Bornman.
And while the category has attracted new players from the likes of Travelstart’s neXt and, more recently, Flight Specials, Bornman believes there remains significant room for growth. “ITCs are the fastest growing sector of the R37-billion travel industry in South Africa.
As technology breaks down barriers and allows access to products that were previously only available to agents with GDS access, more and more entrepreneurs will be able to start their own travel business, at no cost to them.
“This is incredibly exciting as there is nothing more rewarding than seeing an agent make their first sale, and then go on to run a profitable business using our platform. Ultimately we hope to help transform the industry and shift the stakeholder demographic of the travel industry to become more inclusive,” concludes Bornman.