SA travel startup Big5Boutique relaunches as Timbuktu

By Tom Jackson

South African travel startup Big5Boutique has relaunched and rebranded as Timbuktu after raising funding last year.

Big5Boutique has been around a couple of years, but now reappears as Timbuktu with a new tech stack after raising funding from United Kingdom (UK)-based travel business veteran Giles Trotter and CRE Venture Capital.

Timbuktu’s interactive platform allows travellers to choose, chop and change an itinerary, and send through enquiries direct to people on the ground in Africa.

The startup describes its model as “driving a machete between the traveller and the traditional travel agent”, allowing safari-goers to do more of the choosing and booking themselves. African safaris have always been notoriously exclusive and complicated to plan and book, with Timbuktu looking to address this issue.

Users are offered a large selection of trip options and itineraries, which they can choose and amend in order to create a journey that suits their needs and budget. Once a satisfactory trip is saved, enquiries can be sent directly to experts on the ground.

Co-founder Johnny Prince came up with the idea while running a traditional tour operator in the UK, where he saw the changing market and the growing desire for people to be more involved in the fun planning of their trips.

“The African safari industry is ripe for disruption. The tools have not been available for people to take control of the planning process themselves,” he said.

Initially, the business will be focused on Europe, the United States (US) and South Africa source markets, with Africa as the destination. Long term, the plan is to expand to a global market.

“In five years time we want Timbuktu to be the website which people turn to in order to create their own trip to far-flung locations around the world,” said Prince.

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