Start Your Own Online Travel Agency In South Africa

The tourism sector contributes around 2.9% (around R125.1 billion) to South Africa’s GDP. This is a huge number, because for comparison the agricultural market brings only 2%.  This is because our country is among the top three most visited destinations in Africa.  Therefore, starting your own online travel agency is a chance to rely on tourism as an important sector of the economy and invite foreign tourists to our country without the overheads of a brick and mortar agency.

Getting Started

When starting this business you need to look at a few things: the most obvious is a website, with booking functionality that can also integrate with some of the places you will be promoting to check availability, its not compulsory but this will automate things.

Then there is another thing to consider and that is whether or not to join an industry body such as  ASATA which sets a code of conduct and is a well known trade organization. This will help you look more credible but its not necessary.

An online travel agency accepts booking via a website, everything is done online, you won’t even need an office.

This idea is about helping other people visit South Africa, not South Africans visit the rest of the world. In this case, you will deal with people living in other countries and offer your services exclusively online.

This is what you will need:

  • a website;
  • a phone line and someone that can accept the calls
  • online marketing specialist to help you (this market is very competitive)
Business Model

Now we look at the business model, the best way is to create travel packages and this is what differentiates one travel agent from another. Here is where companies often choose a niche and stick to it: business travel with accomodation close to airports or convention centres, luxury safari’s, township tours etc.

Regardless of your niche, you need to be able to create a full package: plane tickets, airport transfer, hotels, tour guides. You need to approach and liaise with all of these companies, get prices, creates packages adding your profit on to it (some will also pay you a commission depending on arrangement).

This is also not a business where you can choose which hours to work, you need to be available to take calls and give advice. If you want a business that does not have a lot of labour in this industry then you should look at becoming an affiliate marketer.

Target Market

Most tourists to South Africa come from outside of the African continent.  A country that contributes more than others to our tourism industry is the United Kingdom.  The second place goes to Germany, the third – to The United States of America.

Some other countries where your prospective customers will come from are China, Netherlands, India, Brazil, Switzerland, Portugal, Canada.


Most tourists from other countries who visit South Africa For various purposes cheap holidays, honeymoon, business or just want to spend their time in a African country or look at the landscapes for whatever reason.

This is why this is your job to come up with a plan in your business model. If you going for Safaris some of the most common places foreigners visit in South Africa are:

  • Addo Elephant National Park;
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park;
  • Kruger National Park.

There are also a lot of interesting places to visit within big cities.

Tourism in SA is a competitive good business to be in, our currency is weak against major currencies so it is a popular destination even in slow global economies. To get more ideas on how the tourism industry behaves during the economic downturn in our country watch the following video