Johanna Mukoki, group CEO of Travel with Flair, says she learned that a key to success is to be an expert in your industry – this is something that Mukoki has achieved in the tourism industry. Mukoki is a B.Comm graduate who started her travel management company in 1996 after being an accountant for several years.
Travel with Flair’s services include corporate online travel, leisure travel, film and production travel, awards and incentive travel, and a global network.
Since then the mother of two has won several awards which include winner of the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s 37th annual Businesswomen of the Year Award: Entrepreneur Category. In 2007, Mukoki’s company was the Winner of the SA Tourism Award: Best Travel Agency.
Mukoki is a former Board Member of the Association of corporate travel executives representing the Middle East and Africa. She is also a public speaker.
I’ve learned that a tourist will give you repeat business because of how you make them feel
Be an expert in the tourism field
“I think I realised it at the first board meeting I sat in. It’s important (to be expert in your industry) especially when you’re the only woman there. I had to know my company’s ins and outs, about statistics out there… it’s so that I can be taken seriously,” explains Mukoki.
“People will then realise that every time you open your mouth, you’re going to give valuable input. You gain respect that way,” she says.
Mukoki and her sister, Basetsana Kumalo, a businesswoman and television personality, took part in beauty pageants when they were young. “Beauty pageants taught me to have a lot self-confidence, which is necessary when you run your own business.”
Travel with Flair started in 1996 with three people. It now has a staff of 752 employed, of which 85% are women.
“Women are very reliable,” says Mukoki. “We have that maternal instinct and we want to be able to build. If you give them a comfortable working space and they are treated equally, have opportunities to grow, then they will stay with your business.
“We have the highest staff retention in the (tourism) industry. Most of our women have been with us for ten years.”
Travel with Flair has offices all over South Africa. It also has representation in nine other African countries.
I love that I’m able to get different experiences around the world. I found my true passion. I love the industry I work in
Advice to entrepreneurs
Mukoki says one of the mistakes she’s seen business owners in the tourism industry make is lack of attention to detail. “You have to treat each customer as if they are the only customer. Treat them like gold. They will spread the word and come back.
“Also, people don’t upgrade their properties, especially a bed and breakfast.”
Her advice is: “I’ve learned that a tourist will give you repeat business because of how you make them feel.”
Mukoki says a challenge for her as a business owner is when VISAs are not processed quickly enough for her customers. She says she likes that the department of tourism takes local enterprises abroad to showcase the different offering that South Africa has, to the world.
Mukoki believes that travelling enriches the soul. “I love that I’m able to get different experiences around the world. I found my true passion. I love the industry I work in.”
Her motto is: “I believe that if you can think it, you can do it.
“Also, never measure yourself against others. Always try to improve yourself.”