While Comair’s recapitalisation and business rescue process has been well publicised, most of the media focus has been on the resumption of flagship airline brands BA Comair and kulula.com.
Travel News caught up with Comair’s executive: revenue, Desmond O’Connor for an update on the restart of Comair’s travel divisions.
“We fired up our two travel businesses – namely Kulula Holidays and mtbeds – during February and have been pleasantly surprised with how well they are doing,” says Desmond. He explains that mtbeds has been doing exceptionally well, with bookings streaming in from South Africans wanting to get away to the bush for last minute weekend breakaways. Meanwhile Kulula Holidays started up with an initial focus on domestic bookings and has been taking advantage of the low rates that its suppliers have been offering to fill the void created in the industry by the lack of international visitors.
“Since our restart the biggest demand for Kulula Holidays packages has been for the Western Cape. We are selling Cape Town weekend breaks from R2 500 per person inclusive of return flights from Johannesburg, accommodation and car hire and these bookings are moving very nicely. There have also been a fair amount of Garden Route bookings and a number of seven night bookings for clients who are reallocating their international travel budgets to a more accessible local holiday. South Africans are definitely feeling safer and have regained their confidence to travel,” says Desmond.
Kulula Holidays is now starting to expand its product range international, starting with Victoria Falls, which slots in nicely with BA Comair’s intention to resume its Johannesburg - Victoria Falls route next month. Desmond said that the operator was also eager and ready to get its Mauritius products going again but the uncertainty with the reopening of the island was delaying this restart.
“We are also planning on introducing a number of new self-drive products and additional local and international destinations within the next month or two,” he added.
Desmond confirmed that Comair’s divisional offices had merged and that Comair’s travel divisions were now also operating out of Comair’s ORTIA offices with a flexible blend of remote work and office work taking place. The travel division’s offices have been restructured and are operating under a more efficient structure. Desmond said that they had been lucky that no forced retrenchments had taken place over and above the voluntary severance packages that had been accepted by some staff members during the business rescue process.
“At present most of our revenue is coming from direct website sales. Many of our agent agreements lapsed over the past year - we are now looking at re-engaging with this market and expect trade bookings to pick up as our international products start to take off again. We have always found that our domestic bookings have been dominated by direct bookings while our international bookings have come from a mix of direct and trade channels. Clients tend to need more assistance and advice for international bookings, which is why they tend to turn to agents when planning an international trip,” he explained.