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Rachael Penaluna, of Sure Maritime Travel in Port Elizabeth (PE), was the lucky grand prize draw winner of Amadeus’s Soccer World Cup competition, which was held during the month-long 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament, which started on June 12. Rachael walked away with a 32-inch flat-screen TV for her efforts.

Rachael Penaluna_Winner

Each week of the competition, Amadeus Southern Africa posted a picture of a World Cup stadium on its Amadeus Africa Facebook page and agents had to identify the country and city location of the stadium and provide a useful travel tip for people travelling to that country for the duration of the competition.

Rachael says she tried to give tips that were out of the ordinary. “For example, my tip for Chicago was to find a Starbucks if you’re looking for WiFi access as Starbucks offers free internet at all its locations around the world.”

“For Cape Town, I suggested hiring or bringing a bike along as MyCiTi bus allows bicycles onto their buses, which means you no longer need a car in Cape Town as you can bus and cycle, getting to places with ease.”

Although Rachael won the grand prize, we’d like to thank all of you who participated, and for providing some amazing tips each week of the competition, many of which we have published on this site.
Talking of going places, Rachael moved to PE two years ago from high-energy Johannesburg, seeking a quieter life. ‘I convinced Sure Maritime Travel that they needed me and I joined them as the sales and marketing consultant.”

But a quieter life for Rachael was never on the cards. Before long she was promoted to agency manager and responsible for three agencies under the Maritime banner – the PE agency, one in Uitenhage, and an in-house at an oil and gas company. ‘Workwise it has gone bananas. It’s been fabulous and a great opportunity for me to prove myself. My excellent team of consultants and I have managed to work some magic down here in PE offering services, value adds and customer service the likes of which people in PE had never seen before. As a result, we’ve become profitable.”

The saving grace for Rachael is that her children are flourishing, and she and her family take the dogs to the beach on the weekends. The first thing Rachael learnt about doing business in PE was that the one cannot manage the PE market the same way one does the Johannesburg market. “A lot of suppliers make the mistake of having a single set of service fees that apply to all agencies around the country. That just does not cut it in PE, or Uitenhage for that matter.”

Rachael says one of her secrets to success is that she has been given carte blanche to run the agency as she sees fit and has grabbed the opportunity. “I have been given this company to run with copious amounts of trust and responsibility and the assurance that whatever I am doing is the right thing. It has made a massive difference to me as a person, and my sense of self worth and confidence. We’ve also aligned ourselves with very good suppliers like Amadeus, which makes an enormous difference.”

Part of Sure Maritime Travel’s success is its use of social media. Rachael and her team are very active on Facebook, and have around 3000 followers. “We use Facebook to interact with our clients. They love to hear about the things we are doing. We involve ourselves in sporting events like the Ironman Corporate Challenge every year and it’s great for business participating alongside our clients. We’re also involved in a lot of community projects.

Rachael cites a great example of how social media adds a human face to travel. “A friend of mine who is a complete fruitcake, heard about this old dog named Madiba who’d spent his whole life in a cage in a compound in Benoni. She was determined to free Madiba and fly him to PE. So we hatched a plan and asked dog lovers through Facebook to assist. This led to our raising R6000 – even some guys on an Angolan oil rig passed around a hat and raised R1000. When Madiba arrived in PE we took him to the beach where he bit water bubbles and played in the sea. This initiative really touched our clients who provided great feedback on Facebook.”

So what is it that makes Rachael get up in the morning?
“I love my job and PE’s travel community. What drives me is the knowledge that I am responsible for so many people’s jobs and must make sure this business stays afloat. It frightens me to death!”