Sure Travel, South Africa's largest owner-managed travel agency group, has launched the country's first retail travel agency app for smartphones and tablets. In its first version, the app offers streaming travel news, the latest travel packages and an agency locator using the smartphone's GPS capabilities.
Abigail Pires, solutions optimisation manager for Sure Travel, says that next versions of the app may also offer commercial and transactional services. "We view it as a first step on our broader digital journey. Right now it's a way for our 100 plus agencies to engage in a new way with clients and to drive new traffic to these agencies."
The app was created by Realmdigital, the leading Cape-based e-business developer on web, mobile and social platforms. CEO Wesley Lynch says while many mobile travel apps have seen the light (such as flight search, flight checking and online booking), none has been developed for the retail segment. "The origin of this is in the industry's approach to online commerce," he explains.
Agencies are relevant again
"The travel industry embraced online commerce from the outset, but also accepted that it has put travel agencies under strain, as travellers went straight to the source. But with the arrival of app-based mobile computing, agencies are relevant again. Most people carry mobile phones, which creates new opportunities like location-aware services. Mobile apps are also easier to use. Apps are the logical vehicle to bring retail stores into the digital mix." Future possibilities for the app could include card-less loyalty schemes.
The Sure Travel app is available for iPhones and Android handsets, with most requests for downloads coming from iPhone users. Realmdigital is also developing a BlackBerry version, given the platform's continuing popularity in South Africa.
Since launch the company has had multiple downloads, making it the tenth most popular SA travel app in the Apple Store at the time of its launch. "We're really pleased, as this has given us the advantage of being the first retail travel group in South Africa to engage with the travelling mobile generation," says Pires.
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