Holiday Cars and Tours: Driving East Africa’s Corporate Vehicle Leasing Industry

    James Mwaura, CEO and Founder, Holiday Group of Companies

    The firm, one of the largest car leasing and tours companies in Kenya, provides bespoke transport solutions to a range of customers

    In Nairobi and most other East African cities and towns, getting affordable and reliable car hire and tours services is a hassle. The car hire and tours industry is hugely unreliable because most of the operators borrow a leaf from the chaotic public transport industry, notorious for being disorganized, unreliable and for providing low quality services. Holiday Cars and tours is gradually changing this. The firm provides bespoke transport solutions for individuals and corporates at an affordable cost.

    They are surely making a mark in the industry. Holiday Cars and Tours provides flexible and reliable services to their ever-increasing customer base. Driven by their mantra, “We take you there,” the company works closely with its clients, providing them with quality services at competitive rates. “Whether you are looking for corporate leasing, or you simply need an alternative to pooled cars, we are always at hand to develop a flexible program that fits your needs,” says James Mwaura, the founder and chief executive of Holiday Cars and Tours.

    By providing a range of transport solutions, including vehicle hire, leasing, taxis, hotel transfers, tours and safari bookings and shuttle transfers, Holiday Cars continues to offer leadership in the local car  hire and tours industry. Their driving force, according to the chief executive, revolves around flexibility, competitive rate, reliability and great customer services.

    To get their customers the best rates in town, they price their services in terms of volumes, although they also have a daily, monthly and leasing rate.

    With a variety of vehicles to choose from, including vans and buses, saloon cars, and SUVs, they cater for a range of customers. These include sporting clubs, religion groups, tour groups, schools, businesses, NGOs and big organizations. “We help you to make your corporate, social and sporting events a breeze when you rent a bus from us.”

    Their bus-hire and bus-charter services are among the most popular products, for a reason.

    “Our approach is simple. We offer the lowest bus leasing and coach leasing rates in the market.”

    He adds that the firm’s services are reliable, cost-effective a tailored to suit the needs of the customers.

    “We allow you to go wherever you want, in a safe and reliable way. We have local coaches, local drivers and local knowledge of locations, areas and events.”

    With a fleet of over 500 vehicles, no one can deny that Holiday Cars is among the largest car-hire and tours companies in Kenya. But this has not always been the case. The company has beaten odds on its journey to become a successful venture.

    Mwaura started this business as a side hustle in 2000, having worked for more than ten years in the industry. “I was working as a chief accountant for Avis-owned by DT Dobie, and that’s how I felt the need to start a business that I was familiar with.”

    At about the same time that he was starting his business, he says the economy was on its knees and retrenchment was the order of the day for most employees. He remembers how the thought of getting retrenched could unsettle his mind, the reason that he started looking for an alternative well before the situation worsened. Although he didn’t have any experience as a business person, he marshalled his courage, took a leap of faith and started his venture.  He kicked off his entrepreneurial journey with a fleet of 16 cars. They say the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur is the ability to find opportunities and to pounce on them, making a successful business out of that, Mwaura has both. As soon as he spotted the opportunity in the car hire industry, he set out to introduce a new way of doing things, and this set him up for success right from the onset.

    Within a short period, 12 out of his 16 cars had won lucrative contracts with Central Bank of Kenya among many other companies, marking his entry in the car hire and tours industry at a higher level. It didn’t take him long before he realized that he was making way much money from his side hustle than he could from his day job. Seeing the opportunity to grow his business, he quit his day job and worked full-time in his fledgling business. He says that there’s a huge difference between being in employment and being in business. For instance, while the former has its comfort zones, the later has none. “In business, you have to take care of the many responsibilities that come with running a business,” he says.

    He adds that businessmen need to work strategically to sustainably grow their businesses. It’s these business lessons that has seen him grow his business from a side hustle to a leading service provider in the industry. Indeed, with his ever-increasing fleet of vehicles, his business has since expanded and provides employment to many people. He says that their slogan has paid off. “Our slogan is not just a marketing campaign but a mantra that we have incorporated in our culture,” he says.

    To his customers, he says the slogan promises better services and gives them the confidence in the services offered by Holiday Cars. “For us, it means providing our customers with the best solutions for every situation.”

    Along the way, the firm has made a reputation for being consistent, and for keeping its word. They say the most successful companies innovate continuously to stay ahead of competition and this rings true for Holiday Cars. For instance, when the founder realized that there was a growing need to take charge of the ever-increasing insurance needs of his fleet, he diversified to form an insurance brokerage-Bridgesure Insurance Brokers Limited. The brokerage helps the firm to meet its insurance needs. Over time, it has grown to offer similar services to other companies and individuals. Another offshoot of Holiday Cars and Tours is Holiday Defensive Driving School that was started in 2009. It has a foot print in 28 locations in Kenya. Besides offering driving lessons, it equips learners with road safety tips and defensive driving skills with excellent customer care.

    The road ahead

    Mwaura foresees a huge demand for reliable transport solutions, triggered by massive infrastructure development across Kenya and a booming economy. He says that his firm is strategically positioning itself to take the lion’s share of subsequent opportunities that come with a resurgent economy. In the meantime, he intends to continue doing what he knows best-providing bespoke car leasing and tours solutions.

    Mr. Mwaura at a glance

    • He is an established entrepreneur with strong business leadership and governance skills.
    • He holds an Executive MBA, graduate business and management degree from the University of Sunderland-UK, a graduate of Strathmore Business School and several professional and business certification courses.
    • He was the assistant governor in Rotary District 9212 in charge of Parklands, Karura and Industrial Area.
    • He was the president of the Rotary Club of Nairobi South 2012/13.
    • He was the assistant governor in Rotary District 9212 in charge of Hurlingham, Karengata, Syokimau and Naivasha clubs.
    • He sits on the board of several local companies.
    • He has interest in financial empowerment and intermediary.
    • He enjoys playing golf and is active member of Limuru Golf and Country Club and Royal Nairobi Golf Club.