Last Minute Mara: Selling luxury at bargain prices

In a market where customers are spoilt for choice, with travel companies offering several affordable packages, it can be difficult to find ways to be different.

But that didn’t stop Last Minute Mara from trying. The firm offers luxury trips that allow lovers of the wild to stay in the most luxurious safari camps at discounted rates. Nicole Hankar is the firm’s general manager, and explains just how they’re able to offer this.

Nicole Hankar, General Manager, Last Minute Mara.
Nicole Hankar, General Manager, Last Minute Mara.

What’s Last Minute Mara’s travel proposition?

We’re a new travel platform that enables travellers to book all-inclusive package deals at leading lodges in Kenya’s Maasai Mara at the best possible value. But that’s provided travel is within 30 days. This challenges the misconception that high-end lodges and camps are only for foreigners, and makes them accessible to anyone at the click of a button.

How sustainable is this model?

We’re an online travel agency that provides end-to-end bookings, and we believe this model adds value to our clients, who are discerning residents or visitors.

It also benefits our suppliers – the camps and lodges who typically depend on foreign visitors paying full rates and booking a long time in advance, but who suffer from seasonal fluctuations in demand – and airlines eager to sell the last seats on a flight.

By using technology to connect all these parties in an efficient manner, we’re able to offer excellent value for money to travellers, and provide a new source of revenue for suppliers and airlines, without damaging their brands.

In a highly intermediated segment, we offer a platform that allows end-to-end bookings (flights, accommodation and park fees) at the click of a button. In some cases, this is at never-before-seen prices due to the relationships we have with our suppliers.

How are you able to offer this lower pricing?

Our offering is limited to last-minute travel, which allows for immediate confirmation of travel plans. The complexity added by the flight and park fee elements makes this a much more complicated package to build and sell than pure online directories, which have proliferated in recent years. We only work with camps and airlines who’s technology we can seamlessly integrate with. And once a booking is made, it’s confirmed.

What’s the discount a traveller can expect on Last Minute Mara?

The savings vary from camp to camp and season to season, but can go as high as 70 per cent off the publicly available rate.

Which camps are you working with?

Our launch portfolio of camps and lodges includes Angama Mara, Alex Walker’s Serian, Asilia, Saruni, Kicheche Camps and Speke’s Camp. And to make these lodges accessible, we’re working with Air Kenya, Safarilink and Mombasa Air Safari.

What did you learn from your biggest mistake?

To not underestimate the complexity involved in bringing multiple parties to the same table, and that building relationships – and a brand – takes a considerable amount of time.

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