Tanzanian entrepreneur bringing his travel startup home

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Joachim Freyhold was born and grew up in Tanzania, but left at the age of 12 to attend school in Germany.

There, he began working in the technology industry after graduating from university, and launched his business – Tiketi – initially as a side project blog.

“The original Tiketi blog was a way to relax, write and share what I loved about Africa. As I saw the potential of the website grow, I decided to progress my idea for what Tiketi should be,” Freyhold told Disrupt Africa.

“Later, I expanded the service to a flight comparison website, but noticed that this service was not working very well in the most African countries. It was an example of trial and error, but it helped me develop the path I wanted the website to pursue. In 2016, I changed the business model and launched a new website for selling tours and activities.”

Growth has been consistent since then, with Tiketi now offering a curated selection of unique travel experiences in a variety of popular destinations around Africa. Customers can find African tours and activities via the website or mobile app at the best prices, and book them easily.

“As a travel destination, a place to do business and an economy, Africa continues to rise. The continent has seen growth like never before over the last decade and a half,” Freyhold said.

Through Tiketi, travellers can experience this growing set of nations like never before. Africa is so diverse. Visitors can explore the eastern coast in countries such as Kenya, Zanzibar or Tanzania. Travellers could find their destination to be South Africa and all the wonderful sites located there. Africa is vast and has so many great travel destinations. That is one reason Tiketi was created.”

Uptake has been strong, so much so that Freyhold is bringing the business “home”, with the opening this summer of a new African headquarters in Dar es Salaam.

“The market for tours and activities is growing at a rapid clip and we are seeing good uptake on our mobile website, with bookings more than doubling compared to the desktop service in the past six months,” he said.

“I knew the mobile app would be a game changer, but I have been pleasantly surprised it has done as well as it has. The Tiketi app’s ability to give travellers the chance to book activities on a whim gives us the chance to reach people a traditional website wouldn’t.”

That said, travel is an extremely competitive market to be in, and very much prone to becoming a winner-takes-all situation.  

“If you look at flight and hotel bookings, most brands are either owned by Expedia and Priceline, and these players are also starting to get into the activities booking space. The problem is, these companies offer the same activities that everyone can experience,” said Freyhold.

“Tiketi wants to give its customers a true taste of Africa, not a western idea of what our competitors think travellers want to see. Rivals mostly cover western destinations and cater for western travellers and the online penetration in tours and activities remains quite low. Tiketi currently focuses on Africa, catering to the continent’s own tourists as well as inbound travellers. Again, Africa’s economy is growing and we want those people on the continent with their new money to enjoy travelling around their homeland.”

He said he was also optimistic that the boom in inbound visitors to Africa would put Tiketi in a good position.

“As with all startups there are ups and downs. However, I feel Tiketi is a unique company offering one-of-a-kind adventures,” Freyhold said.

The startup – which takes a commission on every tour booked through its platform – is 100 per cent self-funded, with Freyhold saying he loves having total control of the company.

“I have got to see my ideas grow and flourish,” he said.

In October of last year, the platform became available to view in four languages, while it has also started regional websites that focus solely on tours in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya to better promote its service to African customers.

“Those three destinations are the most popular for African customers and we want to promote those specifically due to the great travel experiences one can have,” Freyhold said.

“In the new year, we are planning negotiations with cooperation partners. However, this is a long road and it will take some time to find the right groups to pair with.”

This year, Tiketi plans to continue growing its reach to more major markets in Africa.

“We have seen so much growth already and hope to reach these additional major markets to expand further. In the next year, we are planning to expand our service to Nigeria, Algeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Tunisia, Egypt, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Mauritius,” said Freyold.

“All of these countries are great travel destinations for western tourists and African travellers. If we can reach these markets, it will be a huge coup for us as a company. To think, I started Tiketi as a travel blog and now it has become a company that books unique travel activities for customers. I couldn’t be happier.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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