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Hospitality Afrika. The Introduction of “Shadow Travel”.

*As seen in The Logbook.

Hospitality Afrika offers a unique travel experience to their guests. This is a “managed” trip – where every detail is taken care of – as Hospitality Afrika actually “shadow travel” with their guests to ensure a seamless travel experience. This is achieved with a team of trained Concierges, appropriately titled Hospitality Ambassadors who are assigned to take care of their guests.

SHADOW TRAVEL

Accomplished via text messages, the dedicated Hospitality Afrika travel concierge keeps in touch with the guests by text from the time they arrive till the time of departure. Diana checks-in personally with the guests from time to time by e-mail where this service is available. Botswana is a challenge as there is little or no connection, but the team at Hospitality Afrika are in constant contact with head offices in Maun. Additionally, not only do they monitor guests, but they are in touch with all service providers – drivers, guides, hotel concierges etc a few times per day to make sure that their guests have a seamless travel experience. 

Diana pioneered this service 20 years ago, and it is now ingrained in the DNA of the company.

“I started this company as a hobby and as an advisory service to friends over 25 years ago,” Diana explains, “I then decided to make a fully-fledged business of it. With my experience in the conservation world, as an Honorary Ranger of South African National Parks and as a Trustee of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, as well as private lodge owner, I was well positioned to serve the industry from all angles. Part of this is knowing full well what travelers require for a successful and happy trip.”

With her husband Martin heading up finance, legal and administration and with their PR coming predominantly from word of mouth, over the last quarter of a century, they have built up some wonderful relationships with both their suppliers and guests.

“We have many repeat visits, and our relationships with our suppliers, many of whom we know personally, enhance the offering we are able to extend to our guests.” Diana explains.

WOW FACTOR

These great supplier relationships allow Diana to always include the all-important “WOW” factor in each trip. Furthermore, these long-term relationships with their suppliers allows them to plan something super special each time.

“As we work on a “personal referral and by word of mouth” system we have never had to advertise in over 25 years of business” she says.

KEEPING UP TO DATE

Diana explains that keeping up to date is a full-time job which includes having to read the travel related correspondence and constantly engage with people in the industry. Attending workshops and arranging private education and product training in their offices and in the field when possible, is extremely important to motivate the team as well, and enhance their knowledge. Diana says she serves really good coffee, so that also helps.

As they offer a “tailor-made” experience, personal contact with their guests is of paramount importance. Diana says, “We always chat to our guests, bypassing technology initially, as we believe that there is a limit to what you can do on the internet!  So, we kind of “go with the flow”.”

At the end of the day, she says, “We design and craft experiences for our guests that they have requested. Most guest have done their research or have taken advice from friends or family who have travelled to Southern Africa and surrounds, so they are pretty savvy and mostly tell us what they would like to experience. We believe in a collaborative experience, so that our guests feel involved in the whole planning process.”

Diana is involved in all aspects of her business, everything and anything related to the safari industry and she represents some exclusive lodges. She is also extending her service to the industry as a consultant and offers a turnkey Interior Design service for safari hospitality.

“I began the company to share with inbound guests the rare pleasures that this continent has to offer. Also, to offer a safe and comfortable travel experience – like none other.”

BALANCING WORK AND LIFE

Travelling between four and five months every year, mostly on-site inspections as well as family and business visits to the USA, Diana says there is no such thing as vacations in her industry. When she does get the chance, she says that spending time with her family on a South African safari is the best.

Outside of safaris, travelling mainly sees them staying in boutique hotels, as they prefer something unique and luxurious. “Luxury travel has always been both our benchmark and our passion.”

But finding the balance is difficult.

“As we offer a 24/7 service to our guests, we are constantly “on duty”. However, we do try and enjoy a rare break every now and again to get our “balance” back,” she says.

To unwind Diana reveals that she and her husband are great fans of classical music and enjoy opera and symphonic works. “We are great fans of the Met and Carnegie Hall and try and get to see whatever productions we can when we visit New York,” she says, “We are patrons of many musical groups here in Johannesburg, and will spend most of our leisure time at concerts and recitals when not at our private game lodge in the Waterberg. We also enjoy ballet, good theatre and are passionate foodies.”

NAME: Diana Smullen
ADDRESS: Burnside Island Office Park, Building 12, 410 Jan Smuts Ave Craighall, Johannesburg 2196
TELEPHONE: +27 11 326 4023
CELL: +27 82 881 2727
EMAIL: info@hospitalityafrika.com
Website: www.hospitalityafrika.com