Banks, hotels want a piece of the travel agency pie in Kenya

Kenyan travel agents
2 min read

A major challenge facing Kenyan travel agents today is the fact that numerous other industries seem to want a piece of the travel agency pie. This is according to Patrick Maina Kamanga, MD Deans Travel Centre.

Kamanga told Inside Travel that most banks in Kenya have started selling airline tickets. “Numerous banks throughout Kenya now have agreements with airlines and hotels and sell tickets and packages directly to the client, bypassing the travel agent,” he says.

“What’s more is that banks are now making it a lot easier for their customers to book travel through them by creating apps that facilitate airline bookings. Both Equity Bank and I&M Bank have rolled out such apps,” says Haider Kurby, Travel Supervisor of Vogue Tours & Travel.

Patrick Maina Kamanga and Haidar Kurby at Indaba 2018

To make matters worse, hotels and car services such as Uber, have also embarked upon selling airline tickets and travel packages to the client. Says Kamanga: “Hotels have forged agreements with airlines to offer the traveller package deals. If for example, the travel agent wants to book a room, the cost will be $100. However, if the traveller books a flight as well as a room directly with the hotel, the hotel rate will be $60.”

More regulation is needed, Kenyan travel agents urge

The main reason why anyone in Kenya can sell travel packages is that the industry is not regulated, according to Kamanga. He explains that when the travel industry becomes more regulated, the situation for travel agents will improve.

Nicanor Sabula, CEO of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA), doesn’t see the banks as a major threat to the travel agent in Kenya, because he says travel agents offer a very unique added value to any traveller.

Kenyan travel agents

Nicanor Sabula at Indaba 2018

However, Sabula agrees it is time to professionalise the industry. He says: “The travel industry remains largely unregulated with very weak laws that undermine professionalisation of the industry. We have people in the industry who shouldn’t be in it. The nett effect, unfortunately, is that they give the genuine players a bad name.”

Sabula explains that KATA is working very hard to distinguish agents that belong to the association from the rest. He says: “We are raising awareness among consumers of travel services on the need of dealing with KATA registered agents who have subscribed to a code of conduct.”

The initiative is successful, and Sabula says he is happy to report that many are seeing the value of what KATA is doing and they are now beginning to demand a KATA certificate from those seeking to provide them with services. He adds: “We are also pushing the government to enact some regulations that will ensure unscrupulous practitioners are pushed out of the industry.”