Online travel agency Travelstart may be a newcomer to the South African market, but it is determined to challenge the industry's other players on pricing and service levels.

Owner Stephan Ekbergh, who started the company in his home country Sweden in 1999, said he decided to set up business here after seeing the many possibilities Cape Town and South Africa offered.

"The market here is consolidated, an oligarchic travel market. The players are too fat and too complacent," said Ekbergh, who has moved his head office here .

Travelstart specialises in low-cost airline tickets and hotel accommodation, and clients can browse its online store to make their own reservations.

Ekbergh, who has his base in Gardens, calls his service "flat packs". "It is the same if you go to Ikea (a Swedish furniture shop) where you buy a cupboard in a box that you can erect at home."

But many would argue that this is nothing new, as several local travel agencies offer these services. But Ekbergh maintains that his company distinguishes itself by offering low service fees, a consumer-friendly service and a technologically advanced website that is connected to all airlines across the world.

"You can compare the prices of all carriers and filter the list of results. You can also search on specifics like departure time or arrival time, and you can combine searches," he said.

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