31 August 2006
Swedish internet entrepreneur Stephan Ekbergh has entered the South African market with one-stop travel portal Travelstart.co.za, and plans to move his operational headquarters to Cape Town.
“I can’t think of a better place to have headquarters than Cape Town,” Ekbergh says. “South Africa is a great country. In many ways it reminds me of my company; it’s a start-up with lots of potential and great people.”
Ekbergh is regarded as a pioneer of the online travel business, having started Mr. Jet in 1998 and the original Travelstart site in Sweden in 1999.
The South African operation is his first outside of Scandanavia, although he sees it as the first of many across the globe. Ekbergh wants to expand his company to 15 countries by 2007, with an international helpdesk situated in Cape Town.
“South Africa is a good place for us both strategically and culturally,” Ekbergh told Fin24.co.za.
He has already started a design studio in the city. Irrational Studios will oversee the branding of Travelstart worldwide and the launch of the local version.
Travelstart simplifies the process of booking domestic flights: with one search all available flights from all of South Africa’s major domestic airlines are shown. The search results can be further refined by price and time.
All costs relating to the flights are included, including airport taxes. This follows a recent ruling imposed by the Association of South African Travel Agents and the Advertising Standards Authority.
At a glance, visitors to the site can select the cheapest and most convenient flights from all available.
“When we go to the supermarket to buy a loaf of bread, we expect VAT and the rent for their premises to be included in the price. It is now the same for airlines,” Ekbergh said.
The site also offers a hotel booking service.
Ekbergh believes his site will deal with between 300 000 and 500 000 queries in a few months, and hopes to build a R1-billion business in four years.
“We believe in challenging structures. It’s good for the customers and the industry as a whole. It brings efficiency and lowers fares. That’s really what we are all about as a company.”