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Having manufactured luxury tents for celebrities and royalty, and with regular clients from high-end destinations including resort development investors, safari lodge owners and tour operators, it is safe to say that Bushtec Safari does not simply make tents.
Bushtec Safari is the official luxury brand of the Canvas and Tent Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of canvas products and a name that is synonymous with style, high quality and reliability. Louw Bekker, Chief Executive Officer of the Canvas and Tent Group, took some time out of his schedule to share what has made this business the great entity that it is today.
“It is a business that began with a vision,” he explains, adding that Canvas and Tent was originally founded by a young couple in the late 60s, “They later sold it to a group of investors and over the next three decades, the tiny company with their great reputation was developed into a global leader in providing canvas products.”
According to Louw, in 1968 the company was mainly providing canvas tarpaulins for South Africa’s burgeoning railway industry. However, the singular quality of their canvas caught the attention of the South African Defense Force, which has since been one of their longest lasting clients. “This was the beginning of Canvas and Tent spreading across the African landscape to showcase the ingenuity and innovation that characterized the product,” he says.
Unlike many suppliers to the safari and glamping industries, Canvas and Tent was actually catering to a completely different market before they found another use for their product. After decades of providing tented products to various militaries and Defense Forces across the globe, Canvas and Tent really found their niche in the tourism market.
“The African market at the time lacked a competitive network of canvas manufacturers who could service the popular safari game lodges and resorts with accommodation tents,” Louw explains.
“Also, considering that our company’s product had been stress-tested in the most extreme circumstances for many years, there was nothing that the tourism industry could throw at us that we hadn’t seen before. So, using what was already a very high-quality product the company began manufacturing and installing luxury tented units and quickly becoming a market leader in this arena. It is easier to add style to a reliable product than adding reliability to a stylish one.”
THE GLAMPING EXPLOSION
While the business has existed for several decades Louw tells us that its true success has been over the last ten years. Specifically, as the glamping industry has matured from an innovative idea to a multi-million-dollar industry which has been the biggest and most influential development to hospitality ever.
“Importantly,” he says, “This quickly increased the number of competitors in the market which encouraged us to find modern, neoteric ways to remain ahead of the curve. This is after all very important for any business with a long-standing reputation because you can’t allow yourself to become too set in your ways. This is why Bushtec Safari and Bushtec Creations had to exist.”
THE RISE OF THE BUSHTEC TURNKEY SOLUTIONS
Glamping in general has no borders because it runs almost entirely on the imagination of people. As such it has changed the accommodation market in two specific ways. Firstly, it became advisable for established companies on either end of the hospitality industry with camping on one side, and hotels and resorts on the other, to offer new and innovative styles of hospitality. Secondly, it gave complete newcomers the opportunity to work outside the box and offer something unique and treasured.
While Bushtec Safari’s initial focus was purely on manufacturing and installation, Bushtec Creations expanded the current service offered to provide full turnkey solutions for clients that would meet both of these new markets. This enabled them to make full use of their expertise and workforce to provide complete camp planning and concept design services, as well as qualified site inspections and thorough project management for clients.
“This means that in addition to construction and installation, we also do full electrical reticulation and water treatment,” Louw says, “As well as back-of-house solutions such as staff accommodation, kitchens, laundry and storage. If the devil is in the detail, then we know all the fine print.”
THE VALUE OF VALUED RELATIONSHIPS
Louw says that some of the investors who are now directors and senior management had long standing business relationships from decades of previous ventures. It is their relationships which have made them more family than business partners, and allowed them to steer the company to where it is now.
“Our business is incredibly reliant on building good relationships. Frans Vermaas and Dave Court, who head Bushtec Safari and Bushtec Creations respectively, were in the Safari Lodge business for years before joining Canvas and Tent,” Louw says, “Their connections with hundreds of lodge owners and industry professionals has allowed us to build a close-knit network of clients who trust the brand enough to have worked with us year after year.”
“Further to that,” he adds, “Some of our earliest clients’ children have now come to be our clients too. Some of these relationships with resort owners span over 30 years, and we’ve constantly been the port of call for all resort upgrades and maintenance.”
BUSHTEC SAFARI SERVICES
With a reputation of unyielding reliability and prestigious design, Bushtec Safari and Bushtec Creations have some truly incredible projects under their belts. They’ve worked with government, royalty and global conservationist organisations, but it is one of their latest that is most noteworthy.
“We are especially proud to announce the opening of our Magnum Opus, the luxury eco-resort Kingfisher Lodge, in the UAE,” Louw says.
This tented lodge was commissioned by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (SHUROOQ) and constructed exclusively by Bushtec’s team of multi-disciplinary experts. At the end of 2018, the eco-lodge won the award for Hotel Launch of the Year at the Middle East Hospitality Awards.
When construction was completed in early 2018, Kingfisher lodge boasted an opulent array of structures. Among these are twenty luxury accommodation units, five for families and fifteen for couples and single guests. These tented chalets include bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas and patios, as well as their own private swimming pools. The lodge also boasts a spa, conference facilities, prayer rooms and an outdoor entertainment deck.
“We work with a range of clients from large international companies to smaller groups including humanitarian organizations, mining houses, aviation companies, and outdoor enthusiasts,” Louw says, “Our products are applicable to everyone and our services fit all projects.”
The best product at Bushtec Safari is definitely their luxury tents! They’re manufactured from military-grade Ripstop canvas to ensure the highest possible quality for temporary and semi-permanent structures. The tents boast a myriad of unique selling points, including being water resistant, rot proof and fire-retardant.
With adequate maintenance, which they do provide, the tents can retain their tensile strength and colour for over ten years. In fact, there are tents that have stood at prominent lodges in a variety of climates for over twenty years, surviving everything from heavy rains, to extreme temperatures and wind storms.
THE CUTTING EDGE
According to Louw, their industry has never been more competitive or fast-paced. As such, one of their most vigorous marketing activities is market research, for which they employ the most highly-skilled and vastly-experienced team of innovators. He reveals that glamping has boomed in a way they never expected over the past year, and that it is vital that they study the market to understand how client bases have expanded and how client needs have evolved.
As such, they attend a variety of international travel and tourism shows, including Africa’s Annual Travel Indaba, The Glamping Show in the UK and Sun Rimini Outdoor and Lifestyle Show in Italy.
“Exhibiting at these shows has allowed us to realize how unique our product is,” Louw explains, “And how starkly it differs from some of the standard renditions of glamping tents across the globe. The research done on these tours has allowed us to sharpen our strongest tools and improve on old and new technologies to ensure that we retain market share and futureproof ourselves.”
WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS
Their factory in Ladysmith South Africa is an innovation hub of note, Louw says, adding that once the research is done by the marketing maestros, the magic is created by what he calls their technical savants. The factory is 22,000m² and houses a host of technological wonders. The first of these is the Eaton System, which is an overhead production line system and power management solution that makes electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power operate more efficiently, safely and sustainably. This has been an enormous contributing factor in their ability to maximize productivity and output.
The factory is also home to a state-of-the-art laboratory, where they research innovative and improved methods for curing, treating, laminating and strengthening canvas. The 6000m² steel factory has a similar task, ensuring the absolute structural integrity of the metal components intended to keep the tents standing for years. Here, new innovations such as powder coating have been perfected and implemented.
“We also boast a sophisticated design department which has won the company several design awards, including the Platinum Award at Africa’s Annual Travel Indaba,” Louw says.
To ensure that their global reach does not come at the cost of any of their quality or reliability, several other business components have been established as separate entities to ensure a focused approach for clients. Such entities include two businesses in Africa, Tents Direct in South Africa and Kalahari Kanvas in Botswana which provide outdoor gear supplies. And, two businesses internationally providing luxury tents and glamping camp solutions, Canvas and Tent Europe in Belgium and Canvas and Tent Australia which services Oceania and Asian clients.
STAFF. THE BLOOD OF THE BUSINESS.
In total the group and related campuses employ approximately 600 permanent staff members composed of the top caliber of minds. They include academically and professionally trained engineers, architects and designers who participate in continuous professional development programmes to stay up to date with industry changes.
“Our business is heavily reliant on artisans, who are trained and have certification in various trades including electrical reticulation, welding, plumbing and tailoring,” Louw says, “Our sales and marketing teams also participate in soft-skills training courses and one-on-one coaching sessions to guide them towards their peak professional potential.”
PLANS FOR 2019
Louw reveals that expansion of their footprint in the Americas through Bushtec USA is on the agenda for 2019 and they’ve already begun several projects in Texas and other states with exciting leads coming out of Central America. They are also expanding in Europe through their Belgium satellite office, and already servicing several clients across the European landscape
“There are a number of various exciting projects,” Louw says, “In a great variety of scope and scale like a huge investment from a popular zoo and the completion of the biggest canvas product showroom in Africa at our Pretoria headquarters. There is always so much happening with us, you have to keep your eyes open all the time.”
ADDRESS: Denel Irene Campus, Nellmapius Drive, Centurion, South Africa
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +27 12 671 1010
USA: +1 888 589 8368 || firstname.lastname@example.org
Europe: +32 11 784 795 || email@example.com