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African Travel, Inc. is no ordinary tour company, primarily because its first order of business is discovering exactly what each client is looking for. Instead of offering set departure tours, the tour operator works with travel agents and guests to fully customize each safari, creating a vacation that clients won’t soon forget.
“Since Africa is complicated, we persuade travel agents to use us for a three-way conference call with their clients,” said Jim Holden, CEO of African Travel. “We try to work with agents, recognizing that our product is not one that you can just buy off the shelf. Each itinerary is a customized FIT and, because Africa is obviously a very distant destination, you want to get it right.”
Notably, the tour operator works consistently with Africa experts, all of whom have either lived or traveled extensively through Africa’s top safari destinations. These employees share their firsthand knowledge with travel agents and clients in order to help customize itineraries to match individual needs.
According to Holden, demand for safari vacations is on the rise. With recent releases — such as National Geographic’s wildlife adventure film, “The Last Lions,” and Disneynature’s “African Cats” — the big screen has drawn attention to the very landscapes of African Travel’s expertise.
“Those films will absolutely generate a lot of interest because people will want to know where those scenes were shot and if they can visit those same areas,” said Holden.
African Travel, which has been organizing excursions to the continent for more than 35 years, realizes that planning an Africa safari is complicated, and the vacation is not a spur-of-the-moment decision for clients. Therefore, the tour operator helps the client get the best combination of working with a professional travel agent as well as a knowledgeable tour operator.
“We’re taking bookings now for trips with departure dates in 2012 [and beyond], so it’s something you work on for a long time,” said Holden. “We have been completely loyal to the retail channel and have worked exclusively through travel agents from the day we were founded.”