South of Africa is proud to associate with the frontrunners in the industry. Rakoma Travel, a well-known local agency that provides a range of leisure and business services, is one such tourism entity that has been part of the SOA success story. While the world is presently facing a horrendous pandemic that negatively impacted the tourism industry this past year in South Africa, SOA and Rakoma Travel have been taking it upon themselves to ensure the prosperity of this industry in a new and thoughtful way. Combining forces and offering clients a credible solution to travel, SOA sat down with Rakoma Travel to talk the future of tourism and profile this insightful business who is part of the new tourism movement.
Q: Rakoma Travel has been on the forefront for many years when it comes to business and leisure travel. The past year however travel has suffered tremendously as a result of the pandemic, and very recently another setback in terms of lockdown regulations affected Gauteng travellers. How is the uncertainties from a guests’ perspective handled when it comes to travel?
A: Although it’s definitely been an uncertain time for the travel industry, it has allowed us to gather all our resources , partnerships with suppliers such as South of Africa, to name a few, to ensure that we put our customer needs and concerns first like never before. During this time clients needed reassurance that their money is safe as many clients has lost a lot due to companies closing down; so through our consistent client relations, updates on changes in restrictions, and what is required, our clients has shown to have a lot more peace of mind when enquiring and also when booking.
Q: South of Africa has implemented a wide range of policies to ensure that guests can visit our two Limpopo destination hotels with the knowledge that government guidelines are adhered to. Social distancing has affected many aspects of social gatherings, and while buffets and close seating has been modified to keep guests safe, what else does Rakoma Travel see as important factors that will put potential travellers at ease.
A: We think adhering to government rules and regulations is but just the beginning. Clients has adapted to the new normal of social distancing, wearing masks, etc. The real challenge is getting clients to trust that they will not book today and when they are supposed to check in that the establishment will be no more. As previously mentioned, the real focus should be restoring the faith of our clients when it comes to booking any travel.
Q: While many businesses have closed its doors, others have taken great initiative to survive the initial lockdown period when trade was not permitted. South of Africa introduced upfront payment prior to arrival to limit contact, removed physical room directories and replaced these with a digital version accessible via a QR code, and also offered free cancellation for main stream online reservations up to three days prior to arrival. What is Rakoma Travel doing to rise above the restrictions that some businesses have seen as limitations instead of opportunities?
A: Rakoma Travel has always had a high volume with traditional booking so our clients have always loved coming into our stores and having a chat with our friendly consultants , so in order to ensure that we retain those clients we have introduced virtual consulting to eliminate contact but also to still ensure that our clients’ needs are attended to.
We have also picked up that many clients were left to fend for themselves when airlines were no longer operating and hotels closed down, they were sitting with tickets/bookings due for travel with no avenues for assistance. We have made “after service” a big priority even to those clients who has not booked with us as it is easier for us to get information on cancellations, changes etc. We at Rakoma Travel believe a client should never feel alone when trouble arises with any travel plans. Travel should bring joy not anxiety.
Q: Group conferencing is currently the most vulnerable in terms of lockdown regulations. The recent level 4 restrictions banned all gatherings, and with the current level 3 rules, there is a limit of 50 pax indoors. Is this perceived as problematic and how does Rakoma Travel treat queries for larger groups? Is it safe to say that venues that have more than one conference room are better destinations in the current climate as they can handle more smaller groups and is there a new trend in modern conferencing as a result of this?
A: Indeed group conferencing has been affected due to the limitations , however Rakoma travel services Corporate and government and what we have seen is that many of these companies and departments tend to work from home on these levels, so when conferencing is arranged the limit is adhered to, however the rest of the officials or staff will tune in via Teams and although this does not make up for the money lost to the venue, there are other systems that is needed that one would not normally need when everyone is present which we would say evens out the cost factor, but ensures that the rules and regulations are adhered to and everyone is safe. We give clients the option of adding additional sound and audio equipment so that they understand the amount of people who are physically allowed might be limited but they do have alternative options.
We guess smaller conferencing rooms or venues are proving to be the best option at this present moment and virtual conferencing is seeming to be the way many businesses are ensuring that everyone who is needed is present.
Q: Any last thoughts?
A: Through our continuous weekly supplier training, discussions with suppliers and monthly business meetings, we are ensuring that we stay on top of what clients’ needs are as it changes daily due to the pandemic. This ensures that our clients are able to trust that we always have their best interests at heart especially during these difficult times