Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) celebrates 25 years since its first agency outlet opened in South Africa this month. In January 1994, the international travel group opened its first local store in Eastgate in Johannesburg. Today, FCTG is considered one of South Africa’s largest travel companies with more than 180 teams nationwide providing leisure, corporate and wholesale services.
“From the beginning, our purpose was to open South Africa to the world and to help citizens embrace their newfound freedom after the first democratic elections,” says Andrew Stark, FCTG Managing Director Middle East and Africa.
For the past 25 years, FCTG has been proud to walk alongside South Africans on their journeys of self-discovery, he says. “From seasoned travellers who have been with us since the start, to those who are just beginning to explore the world, we remain as committed as ever to introducing every South African to affordable travel.”
Within two years of the first store opening, Flight Centre’s network had grown to 10 local stores and the company was breaking even. “When Nelson Mandela left office in 1999, we were posting healthy profits that we reinvested back into the market to keep organically growing the business,” says Stark.
“Today FCTG South Africa has a total transaction value above R7-billion, 700,000 travellers and has brands who are now a proud level-1 BEE company.” Despite tough economic conditions, Stark says the group ended the
2019 financial year with double-digit growth in sales. “The new financial year has started off well because our core brands are trusted and well-positioned in the market,” says Stark. The group’s four leading brands, Flight Centre, Cruiseabout, Corporate Traveller and FCM, all reported growth. The company has a 20% overall market share and is a Platinum winner in Deloitte’s Best Company to Work For survey.
The company attributes its ongoing success to its ‘blended’ travel strategy, which Stark explains is “the perfect mix of technology and human support… allowing the customer to choose how they wish to interact with us, be it online or in a traditional retail shop. Our customers are our number one priority; we will never leave a customer stranded.”
He adds: “Harnessing technology, innovating and engaging with customers on how they want to be approached has allowed us to reach new traveller markets. We are always striving to foster a culture of travel with all South Africans, ensuring that our offering is meeting the customer needs.”
The group’s annual Travel Expo, returning for its tenth year in 2020, has become a highlight on the travel calendar for those prospective travellers looking to snap up incredible deals. “Our Travel Expo next year will be bigger and better than ever before. Watch this space,” says Stark.
Flight Centre Stokvel, a saving platform that allows customers the opportunity to gradually save up for a trip, was launched at Travel Expo in 2018. The product aims to make travel accessible to all South Africans, irrespective of income and demographic. Over 500 clubs have since been signed up to date.
Earlier this month, the group became the first travel retailer in the country to launch an online travel series, aimed at the young, first-time traveller. The series, called Hamba Nathi, will be aired on Flight Centre’s YouTube channel and will follow three young, local micro-influencers as they travel for the first-time.
“Our aim for the next 25 years is to continue to grow our business and employ more people to become Africa’s greatest travel and technology experience company by 2030,” says Stark. “We will continue to deliver streamlined travel experiences to all South Africans in a hybrid manner; whether they wish to engage with our brands online or through people. The future is very exciting.”