It takes passion, determination and a proclivity for risk taking to run a travel agency – a business sector not known for high profit margins and be successful at it.
But to launch an online travel agency in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis, takes guts, drive and tenacity – three traits Ravella Lambert, co-founder of iGO Travel has in abundance.
“Starting a business in a financial downturn is extremely challenging in every aspect. Ensuring your brand becomes a trusted brand, that your cash flow remains positive despite expenses, and having the right team around you is a real challenge and also essential to making one’s business a success.”
Ravella is no stranger to success. It was her drive, determination and talent that got her a scholarship to play softball at the American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts after school, where she completed a Masters Degree in Athletic Counselling before being drafted to play softball professionally in Italy for three years.
So how did she go from being a professional sportswoman to owning one of the most successful online travel agencies in South Africa?
On her return to South Africa, she was looking for something to do and a friend suggested a career in the travel industry because of her extensive travel experience. She joined Flight Centre as a consultant but quickly moved up the ranks. Following various area manager positions in both Durban and Johannesburg, she accepted an opportunity to head up Flight Centre’s corporate division in Johannesburg, which is where her passion for the business travel sector was born.
Although Ravella enjoyed being part of Flight Centre’s senior management team, she had a yearning to get back to Durban, a city that’s in her blood. So when her husband landed a fantastic work opportunity in KZN, and she fell pregnant, she decided to resign. “I did not feel I would be effective in my position having to commute weekly and I also felt I wanted to spend quality time with my baby.”
It was during this time that Ravella met Rob Crankshaw, her former partner and co-founder of iGO Travel and discussions about starting an online travel agency began.
“We didn’t have high expectations on the outcome of the business initially as we had no idea with the downturn in the economy how we would fare. But being naturally competitive, failure was never an option for me.”
Today iGO Travel is a highly successful, innovative, online travel agency that combines internet and communications technology with dedicated personal service, offering its clients the best in travel coordination and planning.
A few years ago, Ravella took 100% ownership of the agency. It is run by an all-women management team and is among the Top 5 online travel agencies in South Africa – with offices in Durban and Johannesburg.
But iGO is not competing with the big boys in online travel such as Travelstart. Instead Ravella has created a boutique agency that serves a niche clientele, with a focus on building sincere relationships and guaranteed travel experiences of a lifetime. Her team is her greatest asset, time and again exceeding customer expectations.
iGO Travel caters to the leisure and corporate markets and also specialises in school, sports and group travel arrangements.
“When it comes to school and sports tourism, my team has a keen understanding of the pressures families face (financial and otherwise) when a child is selected to participate in a sports event or goes on a school tour abroad. In such instances we make every effort to ensure we create affordable packages that cater to different interests allowing, for example, the child to participate in a sporting event while also enjoying a host of cultural experiences in the destination visited.”
For Ravella, winning and success is not about coming first. “It’s about living my passion, having an incredible working environment, successfully balancing work and home life, and having time to be with my family. And I want this for my staff as well.”
She believes that true success comes from taking risks.
Her advice to others in business: “Do what you love! Re-invent yourself from time to time and don’t be afraid of change. Change is inevitable and if you don’t embrace it, you’ll get left behind.”
For further information about this boutique online travel agency, contact iGO Travel on
+27 (11) 463 8195 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about this boutique online travel agency, contact Lesley Simpson on +27 (11) 463 8195 or email email@example.com
FAST FACTS ABOUT IGO TRAVEL
• iGO Travel, founded in 2009 by Robert Crankshaw and Ravella Lambert
• iGO Travel is a professional and innovative travel agency that combines internet and communications technology, with dedicated personal service, to offer you the best in travel coordination and planning.
• iGO Travel has offices in Durban and Johannesburg