Travelstart recently commissioned Synovate, a well-regarded multinational market research firm, to do some research around the travel agent industry in South Africa. The aim of the research was to find out how Travelstart’s online offering compared to those of traditional bricks and mortar travel agencies in South Africa.
The results of the survey have been graphically represented in a snazzy infographic showing flight price comparisons per person from Johannesburg and Cape Town, difference in flight prices quoted within one travel agency group as well as tips on how to shop online for travel going forward.
What we found
- Traditional South African travel agencies overcharge customers for international flights
- Flight prices, for the same dates, vary by as much as 87% between travel agents
- It seems traditional travel agents sell the flights that earn them the highest margin – even if it’s not the cheapest deal for the customer
- Nearly 40% of the surveyed traditional travel agents either refused to offer quotes over the phone or did not bother to get back with a quote at all
- Flight prices to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London were the most inconsistently quoted
Online Travel Agents vs. Offline Travel Agents
The findings of this research show that offline travel agents in South Africa aren’t always transparent when quoting fares to their customers. Travelstart CEO Stephan Ekbergh believes the breakdown in transparency occurs when traditional travel agents:
- Quote airfares with exorbitant markup fees
- Lead consumers to believe they’re the cheapest with clever marketing campaigns like the ever popular ‘price beat’ guarantees
- Force agents to mark their prices up by offering modest base salaries
The concept of an online travel agency in South Africa is still in its infancy when compared with mature markets in America and Europe. Currently 50% of all flight bookings are made online in the States compared with only 5% in South Africa.
However, as small as a 5% market share might seem, the shift to online travel shopping in South Africa is increasing as an ever expanding web savvy audience turns to the Internet in an effort to gain control over their own travel arrangements.
Booking flights online allows consumers to see all the relevant options on one screen – enabling them to compare routes, airlines, times, stops and to choose which flights they want. They can also choose how much they want to spend on potential add-ons like insurance.
How was the research conducted?
Synovate contacted 50 branches of 6 travel agency groups in South Africa on behalf of Travelstart. The mystery callers’ common goal was to find the cheapest available prices for return economy class flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to 10 international destinations that are popular with South African travellers.
The survey measured flight pricing, consistency in pricing and the level of customer service offered.
Keep an eye out for more travel infographics right here on the Travelstart Blog.