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October 5, 2009

Business travellers in Africa adapt to global market conditions

With the Football World Cup in South Africa only nine months away, the African continent is a buoyant market for business travellers, according to international corporate travel services company HRG.

However, tough economic conditions and concerns over traveller safety have meant that significant changes in travel policy are being implemented across the region.

“We understand that, for many travellers, Africa can represent instability, unchartered territory, poor infrastructures and personal security risks,” says Kathy Harris, managing director at HRG Rennies Travel in South Africa.

“However, we have adapted and grown our HRG Africa network to make sure that tailored, safe solutions are on offer to business travelers, while also offering our clients the opportunity to make significant savings through greater control of the expenses accrued through doing business in Africa.”

Growing opportunities
With a rapidly increasing African population of more than one billion people, many global businesses are expanding their operations in this largely untapped market. This is particularly the case in sectors such as oil, telecommunications and technology, where Africa has experienced above average growth.

Harris reports that HRG has seen many multinational companies, which previously consolidated their travel to the region through South Africa, begin to expand their presence, choosing to establish a second base in another African country.

“Anticipating further development in the region, HRG has significantly developed its African presence over the past year,” says Harris. “We have added 14 new countries to our regional footprint to provide reliable, high-quality corporate travel services, particularly in growth areas like West and East Africa. There has been a growth in demand for management information system reporting pre and post-travel, and an increase in the use of technology and online booking tools.”

Rationalising travel
While many business travellers would still rather use business class, Harris says that HRG Rennies Travel has seen a significant shift to low cost carriers in South Africa.

“Companies across the continent have not been immune from the recession and many have been looking to implement cost-saving tactics to maximise their travel budgets,” she explains.

“Some of these include consolidating multiple trips into one, booking travel earlier to benefit from greater discounts, as well as increasing use of low-cost carriers, such as Kulula.com and 1Time in South Africa, both of which operate without safety issues.”

There is a shift to locally owned guest houses instead of national and international hotel chains, according to Harris. Again such properties offer a service that does not compromise the safety of a corporate traveller. Video conferencing and conference calls are also growing in popularity as an alternative to travel.

Security matters
“Safe and reliable transfers are still a major issue across Africa, which is why HRG only works with the very best partners across 28 African countries, to offer high quality assistance,” says Harris.

Tools such as HRG Travel WatchTM, which enable companies to track employees across the world at any one time, provide reassurance that they can be contacted immediately in the case of an emergency.

With the World Cup in South Africa fast approaching, investment in infrastructure and connections continues across the continent. Regional and international carriers are expanding routes and entering new markets in Africa, although there has been some consolidation and unprofitable routes where demand has dropped have been discontinued.


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