Soul Traveller launches domestic group tours

NEW domestic tour operator Soul Traveller is to develop new business with fully-inclusive, guided tours aimed at first-time travellers and groups. Thebe Tourism Group is a partner in the business, which is managed and run by founder and Chief Executive Officer Penny Ndlela.

Ms. Ndlela has 20 years experience in communications and marketing and crossed paths with Thebe when she led private Holy Land tours for mothers of South Africa’s black corporate elite and community groups.

Soul Traveller has launched with six domestic tours, themed according to the colours of the South African national flag. Each tour includes an immersive experience, all meals, accommodation and transport and tours are one price: R11, 895, with a central collection point. All tours are commissionable.

“Through research and development, I got experience [travellers’] fears and delights firsthand. 88 percent of customers were first-time travellers but were willing to pay R30,000 plus to go to the Holy Land. Money is not the issue; feeling safe, hassle-free travel is…This market does not understand [pricing] ‘from’ and, a month later, the cost is up because the rand has devalued or there has been a terror attack,” said Ms. Ndlela.

Red Route tours are about food and urban experiences; Green is about connecting with nature and one’s self. Black Route tours are for daredevils. White tours concentrate on South Africa’s heritage and Gold/Yellow tours are focused on South Africa’s economy, from whale oil trading to gold rush sites in Mpumalanga and Kimberley’s Big Hole.

Ms. Ndlela said she hoped to cater for school groups in future and has a badge system for repeat passengers, which they can use as bragging rights.

“It is like Contiki but for adults. [Our market is] five to 65 years old and potentially all South Africans. We would like customers to do all six tours and eventually get their badge of honour.”

“What industry has not realised is that South Africa is changing at a very fast pace. So are its people…We also need to be treated like inbound [markets]. We look for owner-operated and managed hotels…[but] I have to sell my tours and take the risk. That is not sustainable…I want to be Beachcomber Tours. I want to be an African Beachcomber and have everyone sell my packages. It is a premium experience that is affordable and hassle-free,” said Ms. Ndlela.

Thebe Tourism Group Chief Executive Officer Jerry Mabena said the time was right for a new domestic travel product.

He is a major advocate for the development of South Africa’s domestic tourism industry and tourism culture and positive about benefits for the entire supply chain.”

“There is a whole market in South Africa that does not travel; that nobody bothers to even speak to…South African Tourism has it’s Sho’t Left but that has always been with the status quo in mind.”

“Picture my mother; over 60, debt-free…we made her fly for the first time a few years ago. It has to be an engineered exercise. We had to make sure everything was seamless…There are people who, in the 80s, were millionaires, a whole generation who were never spoken to about products that could enhance their lives, like financial planning, tourism…”

“You are saying South Africans cannot afford to travel but we are seeing a new generation of South Africans travelling to London, to Dubai. I am saying these youngsters have never been to Knysna, to Mpumalanga…[The appeal is] if it is packaged as all-inclusive. That is where Penny comes in. It is an exciting place to be.”

Thebe’s investment strategy includes new acquisitions for and with businesses it already has a share in.

Mr. Mabena said the goal was to be one of the top three brands in every sector the group has an interest in in five years. “The next level is to say, December flights, if you book early, you get all these other discounts. And if you don’t have the money to book them in January, we need to speak to the airlines to find out how we can pay them R100 a month…It requires different thinking.”

Contact penny@soultraveller.co.za or visit www.soultraveller.co.za to view the launch line-up.

Source: TIR Southern Africa – 1 November 2017, Page 4

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