The agency stood out by the fact that it ventured in areas where no one had; it was among the first agencies to start charted flights to Northern Kenya and also took a leap of faith when they set up in Hergeisa in 2009.
Ayan Abdi Diriye
Four years ago, Sagal Travel Agency surprised industry watchers by being nominated for the World Travel Agency of the Year 2013. The award recognises tourism, tour and hospitality. The agency stood out by the fact that it ventured in areas where no one had; it was among the first agencies to start charted flights to Northern Kenya and also took a leap of faith when they set up in Hergeisa in 2009.
This year, the agency that is headquartered in Kenya and has two branches in Somalia got two accolades. The company won the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Youth of the Year and also the Overall SME of Year in the first ever Somali Annual Business Awards [SABA] held in Mogadishu on January 12, 2017. This award recognises a youth who founded, owns, and manages an SME company. The award also evaluates customer service, online promotions and service to the government. It also takes in to consideration a company’s growth in clientele base and profitability, something that Sagal prides in.
However, perhaps the unspoken is the resilience of the employees of the company. Their offices in Mogadishu were destroyed twice in consecutive months in 2016 due to explosions, but they dusted themselves up and started afresh.
For the manager of the agency in Somalia, Abdifatah Mohamed Ali, the awards is a recognition of the contribution the company is making in building the new Somalia and also serving as a model for the youth in Somalia in running profitable, formal and organised businesses. “At a personal level, I feel these awards are the future. I feel more responsibility is expected of me,” says Ali who started off with the company as an accountant and is now a partner. The agency was founded in Kenya in 2002 and has opened branches in Hergeisa and Mogadishu.
Sometimes, our clients may need medical services that are not available in Somalia. We ensure that there is a line of communication with specialists especially if the patient doesn’t have to travel. In other instances, a local doctor may write a prescription and perhaps our clients need second opinion. We deliver their diagnosis to doctors abroad and they can advise the best way forward. We just don’t drop off patients at the airport, we also make sure they have information of hospitals they can seek medication,”
– Abdifatah Mohamed Ali, Sagal Travel Agency Partner.
To him, being with the agency was always his dream — to work to better Somalia— and he does so through promoting it as a tourist destination.
“It defines what contribution I want to make in Somalia because our agency is more than booking tickets or arranging tours to and from Somalia,” says Ali.
Ali notes that the reason the agency stands out is because they give a ‘full hospitality package’. These include; ticketing, airport pick up and drop, medical and educational tourism.
Also, the Somali office comprises of 30 young employees and Ali chuckles saying that the CEO is younger than him (although he doesn’t disclose his age).
In medical tourism, Ali states that they are in touch in hospitals abroad in India and Thailand and can pick and deliver prescriptions for their clients as directed by doctors. They also have negotiated special packages in hotels for their clients.
The other aspect that sets it apart is the fact that the government of Somalia uses the agency to arrange travels for civil servants. One curios observation is that even clients doing interstate travels within the US and other countries abroad contact Sagal to have their flights and travel arrangements made.
“We are connected to various airlines and since we are internationally certified, we are able to offer local flights abroad,” he says. The organization also engages in social responsibility. Last year, they were part of the organisers of Mogadishu Book fair (one of the biggest fairs in the country).
Sagal also supports the national football team and charters planes to disaster areas during emergencies for rescue missions at no fee.
Ali says the reason the company invests in these activities is because the world is more than making profits.
“Young people look up to us and we must be role models. We want them to grow up knowing that they also owe service(s) to Somalia.”