Safari Specialists

Kenneth Shapiro When we decided to do a cover story addressing the misconceptions about traveling in Africa (“African Safari,” page 18), I knew just who to call. Ron Mracky and his wife, Sylvia, own Los Angeles-based Production Travel and Tours, and they are true African specialists. Ron also serves on t

By: Kenneth Shapiro

When we decided to do a cover story addressing the misconceptions about traveling in Africa (“African Safari,” page 18), I knew just who to call. Ron Mracky and his wife, Sylvia, own Los Angeles-based Production Travel and Tours, and they are true African specialists. Ron also serves on the International Board of Directors of the African Travel Association (ATA), a great resource for agents.

“By just being a member of the ATA, you have access to a network of experts,” said Ron. “We’re always helping each other out.”

According to Ron, the West is a great place to find candidates for an Africa vacation.

“The area west of the Rockies supplies well over 50 percent of the leisure travelers to Africa,” said Ron. “Southern California alone supplies anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the leisure travelers.”

Westerners are more adventurous in general, Ron feels, and in Southern California in particular, the entertainment industry with the long breaks between productions especially lends itself to African travel. Plus, Africa is hip.

“In the last four or five years, Africa has been elevated to a very up-and-coming destination,” said Ron, “because your serious long-haul traveler who likes to travel for personal enrichment has been everywhere already. [Tour operators] are looking to find something new and different to satisfy some of the more creative desires of the traveling public. And Africa’s got that.”

Ron also sees increases in family travel as a small but growing niche market, because “kids love it. There’s nothing more exciting than suddenly seeing a giraffe right there in front of you literally eating out of your hand. It’s wild.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit to helping clients overcome their misconceptions about traveling to Africa, however, is that there is tremendous satisfaction in helping people realize what is often the dream of a lifetime.

“I have not met anyone yet who, after going to Africa for the first time, is satisfied with that being their only visit,” Ron said. “Nobody says ‘Nah, I never want to go to Africa again.’”

The African Travel Association can be reached at: www.africa-ata.org. K.S.

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