SA entrepreneurs break down barriers with Airstudent
ZAMANDOSI CELE firstname.lastname@example.org
African News Agency
ACCORDING to Airstudent chief business officer Brian Kitchin, technology is changing the travel and tourism industry and when everybody has access to the same technology, what sets a business apart is how it meets the needs of customers and the type of experience it can provide. This way of thinking is the foundation on which Airstudent was built. Airstudent is an online booking platform that allows you to book flights, accommodation and car hire efficiently. It negotiates preferential deals with airlines to enable more affordable travel and a better overall experience. It’s not just a win for cash-strapped students. It’s also a boon for airlines and travel agents, for whom distribution remains one of their biggest costs and headaches. The brainchild of Ndabenhle Ntshangase (CEO) and Lwanda Shabalala (COO), Airstudent was launched in 2017 in a UCT dorm. The Kwazulu-natal entrepreneurs Ntshangase and Shabalala, who are from small towns in northern KZN, Vryheid and Newcastle, understood the power of the collective. They merged their businesses to create a multi-faceted single solution, Airstudent. Before the two met, Ntshangase’s business focused on organising and negotiating cheaper flights for students while he was organising groups to share Ubers to the airport and after a few chats they agreed to partner up following the African idiom, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. By pooling students into larger groups, they were able to negotiate preferential deals with airlines for more affordable travel and a better overall experience. According to Ntshangase, the cost of travel is just one of many barriers that South Africans face in their quest for higher education and opportunity. “If you live in KZN, but study in Cape Town, travel is an expense that takes away from other areas where you could spend. Or worse, it blocks the opportunity to study at all. If we can use technology to break down barriers, we’re creating opportunities and experiences that go way beyond buying the cheapest flight or bus ticket that you can find,” Ntshangase said. He also believes that technology is allowing new players to enter the market in other ways to serve the new-age traveller. “It isn’t just making it possible for small businesses to get a foothold in the tourism industry: it’s helping to break down barriers by enabling the development of new products and services,” Ntshangase said.