African Travel, Inc. is appealing to a different generation of travelers, says President Sherwin Banda. The company is also launching a new extension to Jordan and looking at an expansion into Ethiopia for 2020.
What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
We have seen a rise in a different generation of travelers, those aged 35 to 50, who are looking to travel off the beaten path, to bucket list destinations across Africa. Popular destinations include Egypt and Rwanda, and our favorites, such as South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. These are travelers looking to experience a combination of both land and water safari options. Botswana is a growing trend for those looking for luxury experiences, particularly the combination of traditional land and water safaris that makes this destination well sought after for people seeking intimate experiences, since there are fewer people in Botswana compared to some of the other African destinations.
How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
Clients are choosing to buy travel from travel brands that have a specific focus on sustainability. Making travel matter has always been part of the core of what we do at African Travel, and a donation will be made to wildlife conservation and protecting local cultures across Africa when they visit.
What new destinations have you introduced this year?
Our five-day extension to Jordan offers immersive experiences to discover the ancient city of Amman, exploring the “lost city” of Petra by the light of a thousand candles, and dip into the Dead Sea’s therapeutic waters. It complements our Cape to Cairo itinerary from South Africa to Egypt, and then Jordan.
Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
Our “South Africa in Ultimate Luxury” itinerary has a new tented camp, called the Saseka Tented Camp, set within the 14,000-hectare (34,600acre) Thornybush Nature Reserve, which has earned its reputation as one of the country’s finest bush experiences. It is a beautiful luxury tented camp, ideally suited for travelers who want to have an immersive and transformative experience in the bush. The new “one and only” camp on our Rwanda in the Mist itinerary, called “Gorilla’s Nest,” opens in September. Rwanda travelers will have intimate encounters with primates, big and small, especially since the mountain gorilla has achieved numbers surpassing 1,000 in the wild. A new itinerary called “Captivating Kenya,” has a focus on sustainability for wildlife. It combines two prime wildlife regions and allows guests to participate in Kenya’s conservation success story — such as going on a behind-the-scenes tour of Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Kenya’s first community-owned and managed elephant orphanage, and Kenya’s oldest national park in search of endangered black and white rhino.
What are some of the destinations you’d like to go into?
Ethiopia is a destination we’re looking into for 2020. It’s beautiful. Some of the earliest non-nomadic tribes settled along these rivers and Ethiopia is often referred to the cradle of humanity because it has some of the most ancient fossils of the human race found on Earth. Ethiopia has 243 mammal species and 23 of them can only be found there.
What are some of the challenges on the horizon for tourism in general?
Sustainability of Africa’s wildlife and protection of local cultures will always be our paramount concern. Urbanization impedes on the wildlife and maintaining the rich heritage of local culture comes more and more as a challenge. Our social responsibility is to have a positive impact on the people and communities we visit, to help protect wild and marine life, and to care for the planet we all call home. When travelers post pictures, they post the exact coordinates of endangered wildlife species just from their phones. One thing a traveler can do is simply turn off the location tracking on their device. We want our guests to experience a safari in a way that is intimate also safe for our wildlife.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2019/20?
Our goal is to present advisors as the travel experts to fully customize experiences based on their clients’ desires. When agents use our three-way conference calling service with their clients to speak to our African Travel, Inc. experts, the conversion rate to close the sale exceeds 90 percent. Our goal is to make travel advisors look like rock stars.