From Mauritania to the DRC, FlyAfrika is the first voluntary network of travel agencies in Central West Africa.
Created ten years ago by three travel agencies from Benin (Evénemenciel), Ivory Coast (AFRIC Voyages) and Mali (ATS Bamako), FlyAfrika today counts more than 28 travel agencies in 13 countries. FlyAfrika Co-Founder and Treasurer Marie-Reine Koné says she aims to unite independent agencies in order to attract new clients and to improve the remuneration conditions of each agency.
“By joining the negotiating powers of all agencies, the entire network can benefit from each other’s relationships with key service providers. We are negotiating with airlines in different countries to obtain better remuneration conditions. We can achieve favourable results much easier thanks to our combined purchasing power,” Mrs. Koné tells us.
The vast majority of FlyAfrika agencies are also members of global networks, such as HRG or American Express.“Despite the undeniable reach of global networks, they simply don’t offer the same benefits as a regional network,” says Mrs Koné. Click To Tweet
She cites an example and explains that regional aviation companies often don’t have agreements in place with the global networks. “Take, for example, an airline in Senegal which doesn’t have a representation in other countries. In this case, travel agents in other countries often can’t ticket this airline. Thanks to our network combined with a centralised payment system, we can overcome these kinds of challenges.”
The regional network of FlyAfrika has also facilitated a very advanced technological partnership with Amadeus, which allows members to better serve their clients.
For example, Amadeus technology allows clients to access their travel files from anywhere in the region. A travel agency in Abidjan can for example issue a ticket for a traveller who is flying to the DRC. The client can access his file from any other FlyAfrika agency in the DRC in case he wants any changes. “Our regional clients will always find a FlyAfrika member, no matter where they are, that will offer the same professionalism and the same level of service. This is exclusive to FlyAfrika.”
There is a symbiotic relationship between Amadeus and FlyAfrika, says Mrs Koné. “We sometimes even ask Amadeus to explore or create solutions to specific problems we face in the region. However, one of my favourite solutions, which I feel has made a real difference in our region, is the ability of agents to now issue reimbursements without costly errors.”For Mrs Koné, the GDS remains one of the most important technologies for travel agents today. Click To Tweet
“I know airlines are increasingly offering direct connect options, but travel agents need the GDS in an aggregator role in order to compare the offers of different airlines.”
What are some of the greatest challenges travel agents have faced in the region over the past 10 years?
“Undoubtedly, the transition to the e-ticket,” says Mrs Koné.
The Internet wave has further also posed a huge threat to travel agents across the world, but particularly in Africa, Mrs Koné explains. She adds that e-commerce has developed greatly in Central West Africa with an increasing number of sales happening on the Internet. “Sales have become increasingly dematerialised and de-located.”
“To address the dematerialisation, we are preparing our members to engage increasingly in e-commerce activities. The de-location is addressed through mobile banking,” Mrs Koné explains. “It’s a long road, which is why we can’t do without a partner such as Amadeus to guide us on the technological side. Our partnership with Amadeus is of the utmost importance to us.”
How is FlyAfrika making a real difference in the regional travel industry?
“We are making a real difference in that we have taken individual travel agencies out of their isolation. By being part of a network, travel agencies are no longer isolated: they can share their problems with others who are facing the same challenges and they’ll feel better prepared to face the future. All of our agencies are entrepreneurs who – with the right knowledge – know how and when to seize opportunities. Sharing is one of the key concepts of the network.”
Towards the future, Mrs Koné hopes to extend FlyAfrika’s network.“We want to create a FlyAfrika brand that is recognised and respected throughout the region and the world.” Click To Tweet