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"Africa is huge for us right now," said Daniela Harrison of Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, Ariz. “Our Africa bookings are through the roof.”
Harrison and I were chatting at the inaugural Global Travel Marketplace (GTM) West event, held May 2-4 at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz. She and 75 other elite travel agents spent the weekend networking, meeting one-on-one with suppliers and breaking into small groups to discuss new trends and products. GTM West, created by Northstar Travel Media (parent company of TravelAge West), is a Western spin-off of last year’s first-ever GTM held in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. In order to participate in GTM West, attendees needed to go through a rigorous screening process that resulted in a group of agents who represented millions of dollars in total sales.
Harrison’s comments about Africa’s popularity to travelers made a lot of sense to me. The destination incorporates many of the trends that came up again and again over the course of GTM West. As you can read in this issue’s cover story, “Top Safari Destinations in Africa” (page 12), a trip to Africa is exotic, lends itself to bucket-list moments and has a range of adventures and attractions that appeal to a wide variety of interests. Africa also has the potential for incredible cultural immersion, unforgettable voluntourism and a focus on active ecotourism. All of these are themes that came up in the lively discussions at GTM West.
Plus, Africa is a complicated, once-in-a-lifetime destination that will drive consumers to seek out the advice of a travel agent. Harrison said she mainly does custom itineraries based on what her clients are looking for in a vacation. Africa gives her the perfect opportunity to showcase her value to customers.
“That’s just what we do,” said Harrison. “We don’t sell the same trip twice. Sometimes even couples who are traveling together have special activities based on their own interests.”