ILIOS Travel is a tour operator that focuses on delivering top quality tours and transfers across the country. With a heavy focus on the experiences of their guests, Ilios manages to deliver services that build everlasting memories.
“We take a great amount of pride in the people who take you where you want to go, who share their history with you or those whose who take your hand as they guide you into unknown territory because we know that when you look back and think of your time in South Africa, you will not only remember the heavenly landscape or the diverse cultures but you will also remember the friendly smile of the person who welcomed you into their home with open arms in a true South African fashion!”
How did the idea for your business come about?
A gap in the South African inbound market existed which gave us the opportunity to become South Africa’s most sought-after operator offering a national ground-handling service. ILIOS Travel was thus born, and the business was built to incorporate seven branches countrywide. Through collaborative product development with our existing partners, ILIOS Travel was able to become a much-needed extension to the service offered by inbound operators.
How did you come up with the name for your company / experience?
We wanted a brand that was easy on the tongue and that spoke of the concept of the sun and public perception of Southern Africa. A lot of time was spent on research in terms of branding, starting with Africa brands. We also considered different languages and came across the Greek word for ‘sun’ which is ‘ilios’.
Who is your ideal customer and why?
In the past few years, we have focused on developing our brand to become synonymous with luxury, geared toward individuals with higher spending power, seeking exclusive and bespoke experiences. ILIOS Travel is also an ideal fit for those tour operators and international wholesalers seeking the destination expertise our team provide, the consistency in branding and service levels at every touch-point through the traveller’s journey, and 24/7 support to the traveller and inbound operator.
Why do you offer the very best experience / product for your customers?
ILIOS Travel has gained an enviable reputation for the quality and depth of its service by carefully selecting each and every one of our accredited tourist guides and chauffeurs. Our ambassadors have an in-depth understanding of South African history, geography and culture. The company of an outstanding guide is an irreplaceable experience that will leave one with a completely unique South African encounter – and a friend that will long be remembered.
What is your greatest hope for your business?
My hope is to sustain a business that continues to provide sustainable employment and career growth in the tourism industry; to rebuild a business that is sustainable for many generations; to derive workable benefits; and to impact transformation within the South African tourism sector – ensuring our impact is greater than our presence.
What has been the most satisfying achievement in your business?
Our people – ILIOS Travel is devoted to the welfare and development of our ILIOS family. ILIOS Travel provides permanent employment to over 150 employees including guides and chauffeurs, all of whom receive healthcare benefits and pension fund contributions. Providing sustainable employment allowed us to access UIF-Covid19 TERS funds for all staff from April 2020 to July 2021 as well as administer pension pay outs during the Covid-19 pandemic when staff were placed on temporary lay-off.
Our partnerships – the lessons and experiences of the Peer Learning Cooperative, in the latter part of 2004, gave me the courage to shift the focus of my business from mere service provider, to one that encompassed collaborative partnership within the leisure tourism industry.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who want to get into tourism?
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of investing time into gaining knowledge and understanding of the tourism industry and the particular sector considered. Spend time researching the various mechanisms that exist at a governmental level and within the private sector to support, guide and assist tourism businesses by way of investment, funding and mentorship etc. Much thought and research must go into the feasibility of the business or product first. Understand market access and the prospective businesses value chain before investing in or committing to a tourism product.
If you could have a do-over, what would you do differently?
I would take and act on the above advice, however, every experience and challenge we have faced during our journey has taught us very valuable lessons.