“Don’t panic, everything will be okay”


The life and occasions of a safari journey marketing consultant

How to decide on the fitting tour operator that can assist you plan and e-book your safari, and methods to get the very best from them? To discover out, we sought the views of Illona Cross, a journey marketing consultant at Steppes Travel, the place she has labored for 20 years. Prior to that she had 10 years’ expertise in southern and East Africa, in conservation, guiding, lodge administration and, as she places it, “misadventure”.

How has organising safaris modified over time?
We used to spend a very very long time chatting to individuals on the telephone; now we have to use every kind of media to get forward of the sport and to affect [prospective] shoppers. Twenty years in the past there have been actually solely a handful of operators and experience in Africa was distinctive, now everyone seems to be an ‘expert’ and there are various rivals on the market. It may be very tough for travellers to determine the gems.

How do travellers discover ‘the gems’?
Often shoppers don’t ask sufficient questions of their tour operator. They ought to interview us. However, I really feel it’s the individuals who make the distinction. The greatest approach to know the way good an operator is is to have interaction and ask for info or a quote. The high quality of the operation will be clear after the preliminary telephone name and the quote.

What attributes make an distinctive journey marketing consultant?

  • Speed: to catch a consumer’s consideration it’s important to be fast off the mark, reply the identical day – inside an hour, in the event you can – normally by telephone however at the least by e mail. The key’s: make contact.
  • Knowledge: it’s worthwhile to actually know the place, and never simply from having visited for 3 months: have you ever been there for work, do you converse the language, have you ever grown up there, been there greater than as soon as, or lived there? Also realizing what’s new is vital.
  • Skill: you may know so much, however except you’ve got been educated to hear, ask the fitting questions, use your system, be organised and knowledgeable, you may’t be distinctive.
  • Empathy and character: it does assist if you’re a bit older, however there’s an artwork to dialog that builds the connection and belief.

How do you propose an itinerary?
Every consumer is totally different, together with his or her distinctive causes for journey and vacation necessities. Being independently-owned, we attempt to tailor every vacation to go well with every individual precisely. I believe within the 20 years I’ve been at Steppes I’ve provided the identical itinerary solely twice.

Every proposal we create is particular person. If somebody involves us and desires to remain in a specific lodge, we are able to e-book it. If matching a vacation expectation means we have to discover a hut on a abandoned island seaside, we are able to try this. The important goal is to fulfill and exceed expectations.

To perceive a consumer’s expectations, although, requires an intensive dialog, some skilled questioning and a superb serving to of character and empathy. If you ask all the fitting questions in the course of the first dialog, then there’s a good likelihood that you just will provide precisely what they’re in search of.

This doesn’t imply that they will e-book the primary itinerary you ship. However, it will put each of you on the identical monitor. It takes lots of belief for a consumer to e-book a vacation and constructing that begins with the primary dialog.

Do individuals attempt to pack an excessive amount of into a visit? If so, how do you advise them?
We are sometimes requested for recommendation on this. We have the dialog after which we give our greatest opinion, based mostly on our in depth first-hand expertise. Frequently that recommendation is questioned and we now have to elucidate why we now have instructed it. Sometimes we then embark on an extended journey, whereby we discover many choices and options – however it normally transpires that the unique concept is the one that’s booked.

Many individuals who journey with us must be reassured that their treasured time and fellow travellers are nicely taken care of. There is nothing extra disappointing than a vacation that doesn’t match expectations, so each consumer is completely proper to query us – and so they need to.

What would you advocate for a first-time traveller to Africa?
Imagine what you need, paint an image of it and see your self there. Then clarify what you see to your journey marketing consultant.

South Africa is a well-liked first-time vacation spot due to simple transfers, no visa necessities, variety of actions and lodging – and it’s implausible worth for cash.

Do you discover individuals have security (or different) issues and, if that’s the case, how do you tackle these?
Even essentially the most seasoned traveller has security issues. Conversation is the beginning, to seek out the basis of the priority after which allay it with sincere info, which is sourced from private expertise, implausible native connections and good analysis.

What are your high ideas for journey?

  • Buy your insurance coverage once you e-book the vacation, not simply earlier than you journey;
  • Pack mild, handle your personal baggage and don’t let it distract you from having fun with your self;
  • Before you go, halve your garments and double your cash;
  • Make a decision once you journey, observe it and attempt to stick with it at house;
  • Drink extra water than you suppose you need to, ideally from a non-disposable bottle;
  • Be curious – drink the native espresso, eat the native meals;
  • Keep a diary;
  • Allow your self to calm down.

Why is Africa so particular as a vacationer vacation spot?
An abundance of massive, furry and feathered wildlife differentiates Africa from different continents. Mix in its various tradition, an enormous vary of actions, a shocking shoreline, some Western luxuries, cosmopolitan cities, uninhabited wild areas and a contact of thriller – and it turns into the final word vacationer vacation spot.

What is your favorite place in Africa and why?
An unfair query! So, I will must say: wherever I can odor the dew on the grass within the morning, see the smoke from the night time earlier than within the air and listen to the decision of an ibis.

What has been your greatest expertise in Africa?
Again, a tough one to reply… so I will listing a number of:

  • Coming throughout a journey of 90 giraffe working throughout the plains of Grumeti within the Serengeti;
  • Chatting with an area coffee-maker and sharing his scrumptious espresso in conjunction with the highway whereas ready for a ferry in Meroe, Sudan;
  • Watching a white rhino graze as much as my ft whereas seated downwind on a termite mound;
  • Sleeping below the celebrities on an uninhabited island within the Dahlek archipelago, Eritrea;
  • Walking among the many rutting seals on the Skeleton Coast, Namibia;
  • Catching crocodiles for analysis functions within the St Lucia Estuary, South Africa;
  • Finding aestivating crocodiles in holes on the banks of the Salamat River in Zakouma National Park, Chad;
  • Walking as much as lions feasting on a kill within the South Luangwa. The lions had been full — they noticed us coming, some stored consuming, some moved off. With lions you’re okay if you’re in a gaggle, present respect and don’t get too shut. However, it does get the blood pumping.

Finally, what have you ever discovered out of your years within the journey enterprise?
Don’t panic – everything will be okay.

Illona Cross is an African specialist journey marketing consultant at Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.com



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