Interview: South Africa’s Most Affordable Way to Travel Isn’t What You Think

Gallivant Africa

Travel in South Africa is growing steadily but barriers like cost often hinder potential travellers from indulging in their wanderlust. While the industry is working hard to find solutions to the most enduring problems across the sector, Flight Centre is offering a uniquely South African solution.

In this interview, we chat to Flight Centre’s Lance Nkwe (Business Leader of Emerging Markets) on their Stokvel product as well as how they are getting more travellers on the road.

For those who have absolutely no idea our big question is – What is a stokvel?

A Stokvel is an informal group savings initiative. Historically they were used for the advantages of their purchasing power.

Flight Centre offers a uniquely African product in the travel stokvel. Tell us more.

Flight Centre stokvel is a travel savings platform for groups, friends or family. The common goal is eventually being able to afford that dream holiday. Customers can take turns travelling or travel all on the same holiday.

Flight Centre’s Stokvel mirrors the traditional stokvel framework in terms of operations. There are two options available to the customer. One can either activate the sole initiative (1 to 2 members) or the standard group option which accepts a minimum or 3 to 30 members.

The initiative is not based on any specific product or deal. Customers save first and then make their holiday reservation once they have enough saved up. Although the initiative doesn’t offer any interest, being a stokvel member means the customer will benefit from exclusive deals with savings that far outweigh the interest value.

It is a flexible initiative that gives the customer full control and flexibility over the holiday savings process. The customer can withdraw at any stage with no penalties or fees attached.

All it takes is R500 to activate your account. From there, the customer will determine how much they wish to contribute each month. The customer can make bookings at any Flight Centre store nationwide.

Who is your ideal customer?

All South Africans that wish to travel debt-free.

Where do you stand on the stokvel’s potential to disrupt the travel industry?

It’s an industry first, but more than anything it gives ordinary South Africans the opportunity to travel. It is about opening travel up to everyone. It’s about market expansion and growth within the travel industry.

What should companies in the travel industry do to prepare for the potential shifts the stokvel will bring their business?

It’s essential to understand the consumer profile and the informative and educational approach to nurturing the customer, long before the customer makes a booking. The Stokvel customer life span is generally longer during each stage of the buying cycle.

If the stokvel reaches a tipping point in terms of adoption, who do you think has the most to gain in the travel industry?

The consumer and the travel industry have the most to gain. We are allowing customers to save up for a holiday and travel debt-free. This is a direct advantage to market sustainability.

Are there specific markets you are looking to tap into as the stokvel grows?

As a mass-market generalist, we offer products for all audiences regardless of their demographic profiling. Although this is a platform targeted mainly at lower-income households, this is not to say higher-income customers can’t take advantage of this offering.

My Travel Spend – When you travelled the continent for business or leisure – what’s the one souvenir you bought that had the greatest impact on your view of the continent?

In Mauritius, I purchased some unique teas with a variety of flavours. Whenever I have a cup, I’m reminded of and can appreciate the abundant minerals on this beautiful continent of Africa.

Parting Shot

Travel is undoubtedly life-enriching. Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience a different country. Organisations such as the Flight Centre Travel Group and platforms like these, and Travel Expo 2020, continue to give every single South African the chance to travel.


Miriro Matema
the authorMiriro Matema
Born in Zimbabwe and living in South Africa, Miriro is a seasoned publishing editor and writer, having worked with leading brands in investment, business leadership and entrepreneurship. Passionate about Africa’s development, Miriro is also a dynamic marketing consultant with 10 years experience working with startups and large multinational corporations. With a heart for travel, Miriro spends her time discovering the nooks of crannies of Africa’s hidden gems, taking the roads less travelled, meeting the beautiful people that call Africa home while exploring their food and culture. Miriro is currently a writer with Byolife Travel and Gallivant Africa

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