Early in my career I had the opportunity to edit some classic stories by Robert Ruark for a tribute piece. Ruark, a popular journalist and novelist in the late 1940s and ’50s, was the epitome of the African big-game hunter, and his stories of tracking lions or staring down a bull elephant captured the imagination of a whole generation of would-be thrill-seekers.
It would be interesting to know what Ruark would think about today’s African safaris, as we discuss in this issue’s cover story, “Abercrombie & Kenya.” Besides the fact that today we take photos instead of trophies, I think he probably would be most amazed by the range of options available to travelers and the general democratization of the experience.
No longer the domain of privileged daredevils, an African safari is attainable at a wide range of price points today, encompassing all sorts of experiences for travelers with a variety of physical skills. Marett Taylor, vice president of sales for Abercrombie & Kent (A&K), cites this as one of the major changes in the safari product in recent years.
“Some say if you have never slept under canvas, you’ve never been on safari,” she said. “But there are guests who want walls. We have tried to adapt to have both options — we have canvas tent camps and luxury lodges. The same is true with the cost: There’s a price point for everyone. There are more people who can have an A&K safari than ever before.”
Travel agents can thrive in this environment because there are an overwhelming number of decisions to be made by the consumer and, given the fact that it’s a bucket-list experience, travelers don’t want to leave those choices to chance.
Just as Ruark had guides who he trusted with his life, travel agents can be trusted guides for their clients. Working with a tour operator, agents can create lifelong memories of a destination that has always captured clients’ imaginations.