" RESHAPING TRAVEL AND TECH."- STEPHAN EKBERGH, FOUNDER, TRAVELSTART
Travel is the most important industry in the world. It is the starter engine of the global economy; a silent peacekeeper and a lubricant for our lives. It is the starting point in making this planet a better place. Travel advances society by appreciating diversity, brings understanding between peoples and cultures, and allows us to better understand an urgent need for unity.
My mission is to do better business than everyone else: When we do business with heart, we contribute to a better tomorrow for humankind. To accomplish that, we need to be smart, too. Business must be a force for good and drive change in societies by uplifting people and communities. As with business challenges and market changes, many of South Africa’s challenges can be overcome by innovation and disruption. Network-driven co-creation disrupts the status quo, and innovation develops and advances industries and societies.
Here’s a real-world example: Travelstart is blessed with great colleagues that can turn things around even when facing adversity, as we did with COVID-19 restrictions in South Africa. We figured out a way to support our staff and how to survive as a company by co-creating solutions. We then turned our full attention to work on how to serve the tens of thousands of customers who could not get their money back from the airlines. We focused on ways to help people return to travel and business. While the South African government’s restrictions hit the travel industry hardest, we managed to turn our company around and assist in reviving the travel industry and the South African economy.
I live by the creed: ‘If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not being a realist.’ Those miracles are innovation and disruption. When building Travelstart in 1998, just about everything was a challenge: The industry was very young, and most things needed to be invented, from websites to payments, getting suppliers, and taking it to market.
My creativity was overflowing during COVID-19’s restrictions. My team and I saw opportunities where we could improve our business to make it easier for people to return to travel – and make the user experience all the better. We are betting on ways to improve online payments. It is the greatest challenge for Travelstart and other online businesses. Travelstart customers can pay for online travel services using a variety of channels tailored to suit the needs of people in each country. In some countries, Travelstart uses mopeds to deliver tickets bought online and also collect payment at the customer’s door! I am always looking at where technology can be a differentiator for change.