- June 21, 2018
- Posted by: Lugendo
- Category: Uncategorized
Hi Declan, briefly tell us about yourself.
I started my career in the airlines/travel industry back in 1983 with British Airways in Dublin, Ireland. My first position was a Telephone Sales Assistant, I worked in the Telephone Sales Department on Mount Street in Dublin for two years before moving to the retail sales office and then to the ticket desk at Dublin Airport. In 1989, I moved overseas with British Airways and have been lucky enough to work in many countries around the world. In 1991, I was appointed the Customer Services Manager for British in Harare, Zimbabwe. Then in 1993, I was appointed the Country Manager for Uganda and I stayed here until 1997, I then moved to Sao Paulo as the Sales Director for Brazil and was based there until January 2000.
I then left the airline and took up a new challenge as the Managing Director at Uganda Travel Bureau in March 2000 and stayed with the company until March 2005. In April 2005, I opened Simba Travelcare and as they say the rest is history!
With the development of new online platforms, the functions of a modern travel agency have widened. Having been in the travel industry for over 10 years, could you share your thoughts on the importance of an online booking platform today?
There is no doubt that there has been a radical change over the past number of years in how a travel agency operates and survives. Airlines have been aggressively wooing travellers to book directly online via their respective websites, in addition to all be eliminating commission payments to travel agents.
So, as one of the leading travel agents in Uganda, we need to clearly differentiate ourselves from what the airlines are offering. No longer can we just sell an airline ticket, we need to sell the whole travel experience. In addition to airline tickets, we need to be selling hotels, car hire, transfers, insurance and cruises etc.
And more importantly our service levels must be top notch and unlike what airlines offer, we have to be available 24/7.
What led you to start Lugendo.com?
Recognising that there is a growing segment of the market who are happy to book online and in order to capture some of this market, we decided to develop our one online booking platform plus to offer something different.
How does Lugendo.com work?
Lugendo.com is an online booking platform that provides travellers with a one-stop-shop for all their regional and international flights within and from East Africa.
What value does one get from Lugendo.com?
As a low-cost travel website we have made sure that our pricing is very competitive and we carry no allegiance to any one airline, thus offering a non-bias selection of flights and fares.
Unlike many airline websites, we offer three payment options;
1) book and pay online using a credit or debit card
2) book online and pay cash at our Lugendo.com ticketing point
3) book online and transfer the payment directly to our bank account.
In addition, we provide telephone support as well as a 24/7 emergency service should you need any assistance.
What has life been like for you working as an expat in Uganda? How easy has it been for you to travel back and forth to your family?
I first came to Uganda back in June 1993 and it’s hard to believe the transformation in the airline/travel industry since then. I remember, the only other long-haul carrier that operated to Entebbe was Sabena (Belgium Airline). Uganda Airlines was still flying, as was Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Egypt Air. I don’t think that there were any more airlines flying here at that time.
Just look at the market now; South African Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Rwandair, Precision Air and Flydubai all now have a presence in this market.
Entebbe Airport was very run-down and the check-in process was all manually done. I remember that the baggage conveyor-belt was constantly breaking down.
Travel agents at that time were very unprofessional and the reservation system (Galileo) was just being introduced to the market. Travel agents were unable to issue tickets; all tickets had to be purchased directly from the airlines.
I really think that travel agents in Uganda have upped their game considerably, invested in their staff and technology and the larger corporate agents have now a global affiliation. There is also a strong travel agent association (TUGATA) with strong professional leadership.
Tell us a bit about your travel story; when did you start traveling and what are some of the places you have traveled that have had an impact on you?
You are not going to believe this, but shortly after I joined British Airways I was due to travel to Amsterdam on the then new Boeing 757 aircraft, so I could experience the on-board product. However, I arrived at the airport without my passport, totally forgot to bring it. Luckily, I lived fairly close to Dublin Airport and I was able to get home to pick up my passport and get back to the airport in time for the flight.
Any tips on how to make travel more accessible for Ugandans?
I genuinely believe that travel is very accessible for Ugandans, however, I always recommend travellers to book as far in advance as possible which gives you a better chance of getting the lowest fares and best deals.
Travel agents play an incredibly valuable role in the corporate travel industry today. How is Lugendo.com working with travel agents to serve their different client needs?
To be honest, Lugendo.com is in competition with our competitor travel agents and airlines as well. The travel market is relatively small and we are all vying for the same business.
Importantly, Lugendo.com compliments what Simba Travelcare offers by giving those customers who now prefer to book online a very credible and reliable alternative.
What are Lugendo.com’s long term goals?
At the moment Lugendo.com is the only independent online booking option that is 100% Ugandan owned and available in this market. We aim to continue growing the brand so that the name becomes synonymous with travellers looking for a good deal online and want to book with a reliable company.
In addition, we will add the ability to book hotels, car hire and travel insurance.
Are there any enticing offers or freebies we should look out for from Lugendo.com?
We’re still working on building the name in the market and I think once we start seeing some volumes come through the site we will be able to entice our airline partners to come onboard with some joint promotional stuff exclusive to Lugendo.com.