Kampala, Uganda | INTERVIEW | David Gonahasa is the founder and director of Roundbob.com, an online travel agency. He spoke to The Independent’s Agnes E Nantaba about revolutionalising travel in Africa and beyond
What are the key elements in your management style as a manager?
My role is to bring forth the vision and ensure that we have the right products. In addition to motivating the team, I also delegate almost everything except building the business development strategy
What is your assessment of the performance of Uganda’s travel management system?
We may not have the exact numbers to date but relying on 2014 figures point to only 350,000 Ugandans travelling out of the country annually and that includes those just crossing the boarders. With regard to the market size, the potential is still untapped and we can get there with the relevant products. That is why we are currently doing in-flight expos and other products which can help us to tap into the market. However, we are optimistic as the cost of travel reduces for different destinations
You work to revolutionise travel in Africa and increase travellers’ numbers. What is your strategy to achieve this?
We aim to grow travel in and outside Africa. For instance, we took over 65 people to Gabon for AFCON and we were $400 cheaper. So, I believe the market is ripe for so many products as travel is an opportunity, experience and exposure. Our vision is to genuinely change travel experience in Africa through the online platform as well as hybrid and agent models across the country. We are piloting agents in Fort Portal, Arua and Lira and the idea is that these agents can give more information but also create travel options within their destinations as we work on validating bank partnerships.
What about the cost management system that is run in partnership with financial institutions?
We have a fully built financial system on our platform that shows individual accounts and their account status. The account is random and the bank keeps the money in trust until the time when one decides to travel. When they cancel the travel, the money is refunded. The idea behind is to remain relevant and innovate or build around the products in place.
For some time, you have been focusing on travels outside Uganda or outbound travels. How inbound travels?
As of November 1, 2017, we plan to provide inbound options. The aim is to promote domestic tourism.
What are some of the challenges that you encounter in business management?
Being an African business, it’s harder to raise money, build partnerships and get inventory. Also, the market is too small to be attractive for any serious player. We can create a new destination but if the number of genuine travellers is too small, it’s hard to bargain for few people. For instance, Dubai, receives over four million leisure travelers a year yet Ugandans traveling outside for leisure are just 10,000 per annum. In addition, Uganda doesn’t have enough facilities to support luxurious destinations. For instance, Five Star hotels are concentrated in Kampala which makes it hard to market those in the countryside.
What are some of the travel opportunities that arise with regional integration?
These are quite so many for instance Kenya represents a bigger market and we don’t have to worry about the multiple visas especially for the regional travellers so we hope to benefit much from it.
What is your projection of Roundbob operations in Uganda in the next few years?
Our plan is to work directly with communities to facilitate community tourism. No one has ever tried to create a trail or write stories about the unique features in the different communities but with a deliberate action to write the tourism story, then, we can work around the clock to change the face of community tourism. In the next five years, we envision to be in at least six markets with a target of about 10,000 travellers annually in the core markets.