Appeared in News On Sunday and Copyright of Defi Media Group  []

Shamal Travels is an IATA accredited travel agency established in 2006 and is a fully owned subsidiary of Shamal Group. Initially the company catered for a limited and selective clientele. With the removal and or substantial decrease of serviced fees paid by Airlines, all travel agencies faced a big challenge and had to quickly adapt or perish.

Unfortunately, some did not survive. In the wake of this grim situation, Shamal Travels continued to sell mainly air tickets. “Though not profitable, we maintained our presence, supported by other shamal group companies”, says its director Ajmal Tincowree.

Faced with unexpected challenges in, a new management was appointed and the company changed its strategy. “We stopped selling air tickets on credit while shifting our focus to marketing of value added services like travel packages, services, hotels bookings and tours for Mauritian travelers. We put together innovative travel packages and tours designed specifically for the Mauritian market”, shared the director.

With a focused and sustained marketing, Shamal Travels created and successfully serviced a new category of Mauritian travelers.”Initially we focused on Rodrigues . Though it is a very affordable destination with several incentives for Mauritian travelers, it was a little known. We trapped into this market. We formed alliances with most hotels, accommodations, car rentals, tour operators and other travel service providers. We put together innovative packages for the FIT: (free independent Traveller) market. This innovative approach was appreciated by many,” says Ajmal Tincowree. Before Shamal Travels came up with these professionally prepared packages, people would often rely on unlicensed operator in this market.

What is the future of the travel sector in Mauritius? With the addition of several new airlines servicing Mauritius, the travel sector will keep on growing steadily, he says. “More and more Mauritians, including young professionals, are now choosing to go on annual holidays overseas. To keep up with the growing competition, airlines will offer more and more attractive discounts and promotions, especially during ‘low’ seasons. With the government’s intention to open air access and empower the national airline, we notice the emergence of a fierce competitive atmosphere in the aviation arena’’, adds the travel agent.

Shamal Travels and other travel agencies are offering highly competitive packages to exotic destinations like Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore, China, Bali, Thailand, India and others allowing even more Mauritians to travel and enjoy holidays. With several daily or weekly flights to major hubs including Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, London and Paris, connectivity to far-away countries has become easier and also more affordable. A ccording to the director, there is a lot of growth potential in the travel sector over the years to come.

‘’over the past few years, we also noticed that Mauritian market seems to value international leisure travel experiences more than spending on materialistic wants. Airlines operating from Mauritius have also recorded a strong increase in the number of passengers and their revenue from Mauritian travelers,’’ he shares.

What would be the impact of the announced new air corridor between Singapore and Africa, through Mauritius?

“We believe it is good initiative and it should give a boost to travel in the region. However, there is a host of complementary and consolidation initiatives that need to be taken to get this project off the ground. Speed of action is the key. The travel and the airline industry is one of the most dynamic in the world. Every airline and every country is constantly seeking to stay or move ahead, to retain and grow current market share and to quickly get a major share of new markets. Unless new ideas and new initiatives are implemented with speed we will lose out on the advantages,’’ Ajmal Tincowree explains.

The air corridor will aim at redirecting the traffic coming from Singapore to connect with the regional and African destinations with the new recently announced regional airline. These projects aim at making Mauritius the aviation hub from outer regions to Africa. Surely this will boost travel and tourism in the region, he concedes.

What are the constraints faced by travel agencies? ‘’ our major constraints are mainly financial impediments and skilled labour shortage. In this sector, we have significant financial commitment for very low returns: travel agents are required to provide substantial bank guarantees to IATA and often additional separate bank guarantees to airlines to be able to issue tickets. Coupled with the investment in the agency with expensive licenses , trained and qualified staffs, logistics and risks the break -even point becomes very high.’’ These are some of the major challenges the industry faces.

However, the problem is compounded as airlines often promote ‘direct selling’ by proposing zero-service fees and offering incentives to customers. Travel agencies can’t afford such services. There is a lack of trained and committed personnel.’it takes over one year of on-job training for any new qualified person to understand and work with the complexities of booking systems. Additionally the new generation of professionals are not very interested in this industry fearing its extinction in the future,’ concludes Ajmal.

By Shaffick Hamuth