Online Travel Agency Travelstart Officially Launched in Kenya

 Travelstart, an online travel agency last week launched operations in Kenya in a battle to win a slice of the growing business as passenger numbers rise.

The South African firm unveiled a portal —— that allows travellers to make flight bookings, pay and receive confirmation promptly via the Internet.

The website has a query form in which one fills in the particulars of the flight such as one way or round trip; dates of departure and return; number of travellers and their age.

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 The site conducts a real-time search of the query by accessing the flight databases of all airlines and displaying all the possible results ranked in terms of cost, which the cheapest on top.

“We have brought in an innovation to the Kenyan travel industry. Online travel booking is more efficient as it can be done at any time and offers better deals by allowing comparisons,” said Mr Stephan Ekbergh, the chief executive officer of Travelstart.

Online reservations offer opportunities to business travellers to book a flight without necessarily going to a physical travel agent.

The Travelstart portal also offers payment solutions through mobile money transfer platforms like M-Pesa, Internet bank transfer, cash deposit at any Barclays or KCB branch and through use of a credit card.
“One advantage of online booking is that travellers are given an opportunity to compare various airlines and there are no hidden charges,” said Magdaline Wambua, a marketing executive at Travelstart Kenya.
Based on pre-arranged terms, travel agencies can secure cheaper bargains with airlines by assuring them a steady supply of travellers.

“Our operations are much cheaper since we so not spend on renting offices, employing many workers, printing. We thus pass this savings to our clients,” said Mr Ekbergh.

Travelstart charges a transaction fee of Sh830($10) for domestic, Sh1,660($20) for regional and Sh2,490($30) for international bookings.

The online firm offers additional services such as hotel and car booking, offering a one-stop shop for travellers. The online agency seeks to tap into the growing number of travellers passing using Kenyan airports and airstrips.

Data from the Kenya Airports Authority shows that the total number of passengers through Kenyan airports and airstrips grew 12.5 per cent to 8.1 million as at June 2011 compared to 7.2 million a year earlier.

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