Hailed by his peers as someone who has made a significant difference to Kenya’s travel industry, Patrick Maina Kamanga, MD Deans Travel Centre in Kenya, sees himself as a “simple man who loves life, church, charity and travel”.
Despite his modesty, Patrick has been instrumental in the fight for travel agents’ rights in Kenya. Together with the Kenya Association of Travel Agents, Patrick has lobbied for a better relationship between travel agents and IATA. “I use my time and funds to travel from Mombasa to Nairobi and Uganda to attend meetings and liaise with IATA on behalf of the industry.”
Patrick is deeply passionate about uplifting the travel industry in Kenya. Together with his peers, he has stood up to the government to see VAT in the travel industry removed and build a stronger travel and tourism industry for his country. He has also fought for improved flight access to Mombasa Kenya. And working with the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Patrick has been active in trying to resolve issues with the country’s national carrier, Kenya Airways. He has also approached numerous other airlines, including Emirates, to encourage them to start services to the city of Mombasa.
Sharing information and knowledge is key to a strong travel industry, according to Patrick. To this end, Patrick, along with his three Industry Colleagues in Mombasa, has built an impressive travel agency network – the Coast Travel Trade Facebook page – to bring the industry together, share aviation and general travel information, and uplift newcomers to the industry.
“I also attended Indaba in South Africa and shared the information obtained at this event with all agents from Mombasa who were unable to attend so they could have links in selling Africa as a destination,” he says.
In his endeavors to uplift the industry as a whole, Patrick has never lost sight of the heart of his business, his customers. Seeing his customers’ dreams become a reality is what he loves most about being a travel agent. He remembers fondly how he has made a real difference to one of his clients. “I met James and his wife many years ago. They were interested in getting into business together, but they did not have the capital for travel, as they needed to make several trips to Dubai to import goods for their business. I helped them acquire passports, visas and flight tickets on long-term credit. Today, they are amongst my best customers, and even their children have become my customers now.”
Giving back to the community is hugely important for Patrick. Apart from running Deans Travel and lobbying for the Kenyan travel industry, Patrick also runs ‘Shoulder to Shoulder International’. This NGO concentrates on three worthwhile charities: Onesimus Good News Boys Centre, a rehabilitation center for 13- to 18-year old street boys; Dickson Children Centre, providing a home for homeless children and Dickson Academy Nursery School. Patrick explains support from companies such as Amadeus, which is regularly donating computers to the cause, is crucial for the development of these projects.
Despite his success, Patrick says he is not about to sit on his laurels. His future plan is to explore the car rental market, which is a new market and an opportunity for the world of Amadeus. He would also like to see more advancement in hotel booking technology and would like to see more travel insurance companies enter the Amadeus market.
Patrick’s advice for travel consultants in Africa? “Move with the times, be flexible, and be open to change!”