*As seen in The Logbook. Interview with Gary McIntyre.
For the relationship between a supplier and a client to develop and grow, there has to be trust. One of the ways to determine whether you can trust a supplier is by assessing how much passion they have for their work. We interviewed Group Managing Director of East African Canvas Company, Gary McIntyre. A man who is very passionate about the safari industry’s continued growth and who is also determined to shelter it.
LUXURIOUS AND STURDY
East African Canvas Company (EA Canvas) was established over 15 years ago by Gary McIntyre and Robert Flowers. Both were previous directors in other companies also in the industry and together bring over 25 years of experience to the table. Between the two of them they’ve written the book on the manufacturing high-end safari tents that are not only luxurious and aesthetically beautiful, but sturdy. Their influence has shaped how the industry in East Africa operates now that safaris and glamping have combined.
Gary who is a second generation Kenyan, explains, “The perception of luxury camping has largely been led by our team and some very skilled designers over the years.” He says, “We’ve innovated and improved with design and materials to meet the ever-developing desires of our clients.”
A sense of grandeur and a taste for unique experiences has influenced modern trends and expectations. People are able to see the grand and magnificent online and as such now expect tents to be much bigger, bolder and requiring more high-level engineering than ever before. EA Canvas has met this challenge head on, producing the only brand of tents to make use of a hybrid mix of light gauge steel (LGS) and traditional materials. The company has an excellent reputation as a business that synthesises modern techniques and innovations with a traditional tent feel. Their creations have an old-fashioned feel but with modern improvements to colour, design and comfort.
The result is an artistry. A beautiful balance between reliability and aesthetics which has garnered worldwide attention.
Kenya is famous for its wildlife, safaris and spell binding accommodations. EA Canvas holds a leading position in the regional market. and has been able to introduce the international market to next-generation luxury tented accommodation.
EA Canvas dominates the industry with their product range. Hardly surprising, since the combination of quality materials put into use by a team of highly skilled technicians and designers who are able to bring their experiences to bear will often have that sort of result.
Big projects might include everything from traditional camping tents to luxury lodges and custom-built living spaces. However, this isn’t the sum of what they offer. Their clients don’t always need the awe-inspiring majesty of some of their more prestigious products. So, EA Canvas offer canopies, portable shelters and general-purpose tents that are being used for many military-based applications where reliability and robustness is everything.
Gary explains that essentially, EA Canvas provide the services of custom and bespoke luxury tent design, manufacture and supply to the high-end tourism industry within the east African region.
“Generally, these include the more discerning, high end tour provider within the luxury camping business across Africa. But it isn’t isolated to that,” he says, “With the boom of the glamping market we’ve also supplied luxury tents to Australia, Israel, Nepal, Italy, France, Sweden and USA.”
Over the years EA Canvas has been a part of the expansion of the inbound travel business in east Africa, providing essential products that have come to identify Kenyan tourism. They’ve helped the industry leaders in destination and accommodation develop their products and these relationships have become integral to both sides. As Gary says, “Regular repeat business over the years reflects the importance of these relationships.”
The luxury accommodation business is dynamic and ever changing worldwide. Gary says, “Glamping was just a trendy hashtag a few years ago and has now become its own industry!
“Driven by an entire generation placing “lifetime experiences” as a priority, new ideas and a flexible minded design team are so important to keep things fresh and moving in the right direction. It is an ongoing development.”
As an example, to make sure that EA Canvas are in a good position to capitalize on changes in technology and trends, they manufacture their products using the latest production methods and high-tech fabrics.
Their business has always been about progressive growth and development which becomes even clearer when looking at the company’s timeline. Gary explains, “The business essentially evolved from making simple, utility bags from canvas,” he says, “We then moved into tarpaulins and vehicle seat covers. Making tents was a natural transition for us, and so was our movement into the Safari Business.”
TRAVEL WORK AND LEISURE.
Robert says that, as one of their specialities is remote installations, the directors and project managers are constantly on the move. In fact, according to his estimates, up to a third of their time is spent on travel.
“We do try to balance out work and life,” he says, “But with demand of our tents at the moment, work does seem to prevail.”
When they do get the chance to travel purely for leisure, you’ll find them near a beach somewhere – or in one of their tents if it is available- or in one of Europe’s wine country. Tuscany is one of his favourites.
Passion and love for this industry has guided the pair for years and they say they are proud not only of what their business has achieved, but also its role in the evolution of the luxury travel industry, not only in East Africa, but the world.
“The company has a real place in the story of this industry and we believe it has given more to east Africa than it’s ever needed to take. It’s a wonderful legacy to have.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Clearly highlighted on their website www.eastafricancanvas.com is the approach that is taken to turn a client’s idea and expectations into a reality. This process is broken down into a series of steps that create this turnkey solution.
Strategy and Design
They say that everything begins with a blank canvas, but this is not necessarily the case. In all of his years in this industry the company has never worked on two sites that were the same. Each one had its own characteristics and charm to start with that needed to be harnessed.
The first step is to deploy a team of experts to assess, advise and determine how to approach it outside and in. It is also at this stage where the conversations about how long it will take and what will be required are had. Then once everything is out on the table on paper, design, construction and installation can begin.
Flexibility of design is maintained throughout the process so that things can be modified as per personal preferences. This helps avoid any errors and project delays. Once a prototype has been created and confirmed, it is then used for the production process.
The best grade materials are sourced from EA Canvas’ cache of trusted vendors. No corners are cut with resources and the most professional techniques are always employed. Especially when it comes to the small details that help minimize issues along execution of the design. Along the entire process rigorous quality checks are performed to make sure that at each stage everything is right before committing to the next.
East African Canvas Company is a one-stop shop for all canvas tent requirements, from furniture ranges to other accessories. This is when you get to go shopping and choose all those essential touches to make your tent your own.