Cape Town travel startup Timbuktu launches in US

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Cape Town-based travel planning startup Timbuktu has launched in the United States (US), offering users an interactive experience where they can fully customise their safari trips.

Formed in 2013 as Big5Boutique but rebranded in 2016, Timbuktu is attempting to revolutionise the safari industry by empowering travellers to design their own trips in Africa, giving them complete control in the planning process and saving them money along the way.

The startup, which was one of the 20 selected to take part in the World Bank’s XL Africa accelerator programme last year, gives customers access to a selection of curated routes across Africa, allowing them to choose from multiple themes that fit their travel preferences.

Once complete, the individually-designed trip is sent to Timbuktu’s on-the-ground concierge team who have expert knowledge of African tours and safaris to guide the traveller throughout the planning process.

It has been seeing safari bookings from guests across the US, especially in California, New York and Texas, and has now launched full operations there.

“United States travellers are extremely tech savvy and very engaged in the ‘DIY’ planning process of booking a safari trip,” said Johnny Prince, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Timbuktu.

“Almost 50 percent of our current bookings are from the US so launching here was imminent and we’re excited to be able to finally provide this service.”

Additionally, Timbuktu is launching a new technology called Routes, giving travellers access to a selection of handpicked routes by a travel concierge, showcasing favourite ways to explore Africa based on the company’s on-the-ground safari experiences. It has also redesigned its trip-builder feature by adding innovative filters, making it easier to find lodge availability in real time, as well as varying locations based on personal style and budget.

“Our new live availability technology instantly shows the traveller how busy the accommodations will be on preferred travel dates and if a deposit should be put down to secure their favourite choices,” said Prince. “Saving travellers time, money, and giving them a wide array of choices along with having 24/7 assistance is a big priority for us.”

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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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