LAST MINUTE:MARA OFFERS INCLUSIVE TRIPS TO ONE OF KENYA’S FINEST GAME RESERVES
(Posted 20th June 2019)
The Maasai Mara is a unique wildlife destination, unquestionably one of the greatest game reserves on the continent and the only one with such quick access from a major urban city. Several airlines fly both morning and afternoon services from Wilson Airport to almost all airstrips and airfields in the Mara – weather permitting for some – and charter flights too are available from the likes of Safarilink and others.
The Masai Mara is home to many lodges and camps of vastly differing standards and subject to shifting seasonal demand, to some degree driven by traditional weather patterns and the timing of when the animals of the Great Migration are in the reserve.
High-end lodges and camps rely predominantly on long-lead time bookings from foreign tourists, often through a highly-intermediated travel distribution network.
The result is that the local market of affluent residents in Nairobi is poorly served, as market pricing is relatively expensive, only adapting informally with limited referral-only type access to resident rates, segregated resident / non-resident pricing, or a reactive approach to enquiries, so as not to upset their traditional trade partners.
Last Minute Mara is a new booking platform that seeks to serve this market, using custom-developed technology to seamlessly connect high-end lodges and camps that suffer from seasonal shifts in demand, with the local market who are price sensitive and willing to sacrifice the certainty of booking far in advance in exchange for better value.
This market includes affluent Nairobi residents, Kenyan citizens and ex-patriates, as well as transient visitors such as conference delegates and last minute business travellers.
Last Minute Mara is the first of its kind to deliver an end-to-end online booking process for this sector, including return flights on multiple airlines from Nairobi and accommodation at high-end lodges and camps in the Maasai Mara. It does this by linking directly into the airlines’ and lodges and camps’ bookings systems, making complete travel packages to the Mara – or at the very least flights, transfers & accommodation – available in just a few clicks.
The platform aims to provide properties with a new channel to a new market, which won’t cannibalizing existing business because of the strict 30-day lead time requirements. Through an extensive technology system, it grants absolute control to set the terms on which properties engage, based on a number of factors including the lead time, number of guests travelling and length of stay, as well as analytical reports and the flexibility to change the offered terms in real-time. This could be an effective yield-management tool for properties who are seeking ways to actively fill unsold inventory, often in the loss-leading off-peak months. In time, further development may enhance the ability to offer more complex pricing including children and alternative room-sharing configurations.
The platform aims to provide airlines with an efficient new channel to reach the last minute market, which could be yielded to fill seats on non-full flying routes.
The platform aims to provide travellers with access to high-end lodges and camps at prices which are a fraction of published and available rates, offering excellent value for money. This could make the best of the Mara more accessible to many Nairobi residents, challenging the misconception that high-end lodges and camps are only for foreigners, and enhancing the sense of pride in the nation’s premier game reserve. In time, further development may enhance the ability for travellers to leave reviews for their favourite properties, and in return, allow properties to black-list poorly behaved guests.