Dinesh Naidoo, a successful entrepreneur from Durban who runs his own travel agency called Serendipity Travel, was recently appointed as President of the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA).
Dinesh told Amadeus he has ambitious plans to grow the travel industry in South Africa over the next few years. His first point of focus for ASATA is transformation. “We need to look at this issue seriously because currently neither the airline industry nor the travel industry reflects the demographics of South Africa,” he says.
According to Dinesh, transformation is currently happening at grassroot level, but the time has come to motivate people to get into the industry and become travel agency owners or senior consultants.
The ASATA Professional Programme (APP) is also high on the agenda for Dinesh. The APP provides an online platform for South African travel agents to build up a comprehensive profile and portfolio of evidence to support their application for professional designation of Travel Practitioner.
The launch of this innovative system, which has been built after extensive consultation with and testing by the travel sector, follows last year’s accreditation of ASATA by the South African Qualifications Authority as a professional body.
Says Dinesh: “The APP is there to encourage and motivate travel consultants to take their career more seriously. It will professionalise the industry, allowing travel consultants to have a designation and command the service fees they deserve.”
“One thing that is certain in travel is change.”
The main trend for the travel industry in South Africa and globally is change, according to Dinesh. He explains change is constant, and therefore the way we embrace change is crucial.
“The people who are going to survive are the ones that embrace change faster,” says Dinesh. “We see change in all shapes and forms: from booking engines to booking systems, the way we deal with customers: the trends are changing all the time. Change is the biggest thing.”
In order to stay relevant in the industry, Dinesh explains travel agents need to be kept informed and need to upskill. He says: “A lot of people think learning stops when you leave school or when you get your degree. In fact, learning is there all the time. We need to stay in touch with what’s happening around the world so that we can stay relevant.”
Technology is important, but so is switching off
Technology is crucial for any travel agency today – that goes without question. But, Dinesh warns it is important that people also have downtime. “You can’t have technology 24/7, you have to have switch-off time,” he says.
What is Dinesh’s advice for youngsters wanting to make their mark in the industry?
In any industry, but especially the travel industry, it’s important for young and ambitious employees to give themselves time. Dinesh explains: “A lot of people want to rush their career growth plans and aspirations. In this career, money will come over time and with experience, but you have to build a career. Once you build yourself to a certain level and skills set, you can add value to the business and the business will reward you.”
According to Dinesh, people coming into the travel industry have to be passionate; they have to have the right attitude, and they have to be in it for the long run. If you don’t have these qualities: find another career.