Launched at Indaba last month, Safarisource is an online platform that seeks to give local tour operators in Africa direct access to overseas tourists, unmediated by overseas wholesalers and travel agents.
The platform is the brainchild of Jessika Nilsson, who describes it as the “Airbnb for safaris”.
According to Nilsson, the platform empowers local African businesses. “We lead the traveller straight to the source for a more personalised safari experience.” She explains that by bypassing external agents, local operators are able to engage the tourist directly. “We want to give local operators, especially the smaller ones, the necessary tools to market themselves independently to the traveller and help them be their very best on the Internet.”
Nilsson, an anthropologist, says that while working worked closely with Maasai people in the tourism industry when researching her PhD, local operators would complain about being at mercy of foreign travel agents and wholesalers
While renting out a spare bedroom on Airbnb, Nilsson realised that the needs of both tourists and local tour operators in Africa could be adequately addressed with a technology similar to Airbnb. After completing her studies, she embarked on her start up project with Safarisource.
Users of the website can search packages by destination, keywords and date. Packages can be further filtered according to category, budget, activities, places visited and duration.
Users can then view packages that match the search query and either request a booking or make an enquiry. There is currently no instant book and pay system, as with Airbnb. Instead users can submit a booking request, which the tour operator responds to. Users are encouraged to using the messaging system to liaise directly with the operator. Thereafter the booking is confirmed and paid online
While testing the site, a few searches turned up no results, with no prompt directing the user to get in touch with a local operators to custom make a package.
While processing a booking for a particular tour, it wasn’t possible to pay on the website. The operator of the tour in question responded to a booking request made in the afternoon the next morning. Safarisource responded within a few hours explaining there were issues integrating the payment gateway and that these would be addressed in a couple days.
Nilsson says roughly 80 local tour operators across Africa have started loading their packages on the website. Safarisource adds a 9% commission to the price of packages booked on the website as well as a 3% bank fee. Bookings can be paid for using a Paypal account, debit or credit card and bank transfer.
According to its site, Safarisource is a limited liability company incorporated under the laws of South Africa. Furthermore 30% of payment is due on booking, with 70% due 90 days before the start of the trip and 100% due 60 days before the start of the trip. A 70% refund is available until 90 days before the trip and a 30% refund is available 60 days before the trip.
Safarisource has its headquarters in Woodstock, Cape Town, and a field site in Arusha, Tanzania with plans to open field sites in other African countries.