Insights Into South Africa's Travel Agency Sector With Respect to Service Quality

Insights Into South Africa's Travel Agency Sector With Respect to Service Quality

Vannie Naidoo (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8434-6.ch007
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Travel agencies remain important points of call for tourists wishing to travel locally or abroad. In South Africa, the Association of South African Travel Agencies (ASATA) drives the travel agency sector. The primary aim of ASATA is to maintain and further improve a sustainable and profitable sector of its members by ensuring the delivery of a professional service to the travelling consumer. This service is achievable by the travel agency or tour operators through a strong relationship and open dialogue being present with all stakeholders in the travel and tourism value chain. Since tour agencies operate in dynamic, continuously changing environments, the concept of service quality is an important strategic tool that can be used by a tour agency to retain its clients and attract new clients. Word of mouth is an excellent tool that can create brand awareness and build customer loyalty towards a tour agency. Travel agencies that provide superior quality service in those service offerings to their clients can be leaders in the travel agency sector. This chapter employs the qualitative research approach and looks at unpacking literature on the travel agency sector. Service quality in the sector in South Africa is another key theme explored.
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Tourism is an exciting industry that allows people to travel and explore unknown attractions and destinations in different parts of the world. If we look at the tourism sector worldwide, it can be characterised as a dynamic growing industry that generates millions of jobs in the world. Tourism also has a direct impact on contributing positively to the worlds’ and a country’s GDP. Tourism is a major catalyst driving economic growth in the South African economy. The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) governs and drives tour agencies in South Africa. ASATA sets the professional, ethical and regulatory standards. This association works tirelessly to set out the ground rules that assist tour agencies operating in the country. Tour agencies are competing and operating in very dynamic and highly competitive environment. This paper therefore introduces the concept of service quality that can become a tour agency’s competitive advantage to differentiate it from other tour agencies.

The themes in the chapter are:

  • Tourism and its impact on the South African economy

  • The South African travel agency sector

  • Services provided by the tour agency sector

  • Unpacking the concept of service quality

  • The concept of Service quality and its implication on tour agencies

To begin the discussion, it is important to unpack the important issues theorists have indicated on tourism research. In the discussion below, the different views on tourism, with reference to how it affects the South African economy would follow.


Tourism And Its Impact On The South African Economy

There are differing views by theorists on how tourism affects South Africa and the global economy. There is a very vibrant market for people to travel and see destinations in this world. Some theorists are of the opinion that the millennial and the educated working class spend their money on travel and leisure. In recent times, tourism has become an important sector across all regions worldwide. It has generated more income than any other sectors. According to Geldenhuys (2000) travel (and tourism) has existed since time immemorial. Elliot, (1997) indicates that travel and tourism is a vast, complex network of business, which may include activities, and travel carried out for leisure, family or business reasons, and usually has the following purposes: rest, entertainment, conducting business and/or personal development. Morgan, Pritchard and Pride (2011) argue that the tourism business has become a fundamental money-generating sector across regions all over the world. Tourism has grown at an accelerated pace over the last few decades since the end of the Second World War. It has become one of the world’s highest priority industry and employer, with a contribution of 9% to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creating 235 million jobs worldwide in 2010 (WTTC, 2010). According to Statistics South Africa (2018) in March 2018, the distribution of overseas tourists that came to South Africa was as follows: Europe, 167,370 (64,2%); North America, 40,560 (15.6%); Asia, 24,393 (9.4%); Australasia, 11,375 (4.4%); Central and South America, 10,454 (4.0%) and the Middle East, 6,362 (2.4%). The ten leading countries in terms of the number of tourists visiting South Africa in March 2018 from 'other' African countries, were: Nigeria, 4,349 (30.7%); Kenya, 2,104 (14.9%); Ghana, 1,760 (12.4%); Uganda, 1,001 (7.1%); Ethiopia, 913 (6.4%); Egypt, 654 (4.6%); Gabon, 459 (3.2%); Cameroon, 447 (3.2%); Côte d’Ivoire, 269 (1.9%) and Congo, 239 (1.7%).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tour Operators: Theses are agents that provide advice and customise holiday and business packages for clients who are travelling.

Travel Agency Sector: This sector is made up of private retailers or public service that provides travel and tourism related information and packages to clients who want to travel.

Tourism: This refers to travel be it for leisure, business or holidays. Tourism is a very lucrative sector that contributes to county’s GDP.

Service quality: Refers to excellence provided to the end customer in the service offering provided.

Holidays: This refers to breaks and getaways that people take for leisure.

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