*As seen in The Logbook.
Looking after the client from arrival to departure, Max Favours Safaris is a Kenyan company offering quality packages for visitors to East Africa. With a range of thrilling vacation options including wild African safaris, mountain climbing, excursions, cultural expeditions, volunteer packages and photographic safaris they also provide reliable car hire and shuttle services to ensure that every client’s holiday goes uninterrupted. In addition to the Kenya safaris they also offer day and Tanzanian tours for a completely rounded impression of what this side of the world has to offer. Owner, Mary Gathogo explains that it is all down to looking after the small details.
“We want clients to arrive and feel completely taken care of,” she says, “Moreover, we aim to provide quality safaris that leave lasting impressions and treasured memories of Kenya and Tanzania. To achieve this, you have to take care of the little things. Such as making sure that the logistics are sorted for a client and that, when on tour, the guide is able to speak their language.”
Mary explains that in all of their safaris they cater for every budget be it the first-timer, individuals or organized groups. The range of products are carefully created and tailored to meet each and every traveler’s interests. Each is discussed in a one-to-one basis with a specialist and accommodation is part of the safari and this could be in a lodge, a hotel or a camp site depending on what the budget is.
“There is such a variety of affordable options with high standards available, that people should never dismiss the opportunity to see Africa simply because of their budget,” Mary says.
EXPERIENCED GUIDES, PASSIONATE STAFF
Mary founded her business after a lifelong dream of working in the industry. Possessing of a passion for travel, meeting new people and building new relationships she found that helping others fulfill their own dreams, that of seeing Africa, was something she naturally took to. When it came to scaling up her business, she discovered that it was very important to work with like-minded people on the same page as her.
“You should work with people who share your passion for the business,” she says, “We have ten staff members who are friendly and personally motivated. We provide periodic inhouse training to them to ensure that they are conversant with the various aspects of the tours of travel as we are very strict regarding our standards. Our staff, guides and drivers are the ambassadors of our business after all.”
The staff are all locally recruited and there are some things that Mary looks for when hiring, such as communication and engagement, honesty, good work ethic and an eagerness to add their knowledge and skills. Hands-on experience is especially important when it comes to the driver guides who are thoroughly trained in the tourism field. It is important for them to have an encyclopedic knowledge of local culture, flora and fauna in the area as well as being able to make decisions on the road with confidence and charisma.
“Making informed decisions on behalf of our clients is something they need to be confident in doing,” Mary explains, “Where will the animals be? How will the animals and the clients be affected by approaching weather conditions? What is necessary ‘at the moment’ to ensure the clients have a successful safari? All of these questions play an important part and help build our reputation as a reliable safari provider.”
SECRET TO GOOD RELATIONSHIPS
Strong business relationships keep the business moving in hard times and according to Mary the positive relationships that you build with your customers, suppliers, business partners and employees bring about more opportunities and successes.
“When you are kind, courteous and attentive you establish a good reputation for your business,” she says, “Our reputation is that we offer a strong personalized and experienced approach which clients trust, and this opens more doors than it could ever close. Your reputation is what brands your business and when times get hard it is what will keep your business afloat.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Mary has taken several steps to futureproof her business from changes in technology, trends and the developing and changing needs of their guests and clientele. To her, it is important that any plan for the future be strong enough to succeed but flexible enough to change if necessary.
“We cannot depend on one part of the business for complete success,” she says, “So we are bringing in a number of new elements that can act as extensions for the existing business or stand-alone products.”
To do this, she explains, they have had to keep themselves updated with global trends, which has never been easier thanks to social media. They also pay attention to what customers say and observe how they behave during the safaris, as their enjoyment is the compass with which they direct their business.
“You cannot predict the future demand,” she says, “You have to use your imagination, experience and research to estimate what will be trending in the industry. This is usually determinable by what people are speaking about now.”
She elaborates that by being able to plot a course based upon this information you can begin to identify and manage the risk that is involved. Business is always unpredictable, but it is important that you’re able to pivot easily and have a favourable environment for innovation.
“To encourage this innovative creativity, we regularly send our employees to conferences and seminars,” Mary says, “And we give the freedom to experiment and try new things.”
Mary reveals that one of the challenges that she faced when setting up Max Favours Safaris was marketing. It was a decisive step to ensure that this part of the business did not let down the others and things have improved reliably since those early days.
“Communication via a strong website is so important,” she says, “That any queries are responded to within an hour, if not sooner, sets you apart from many competitors. Our website has been designed very well and we’ve integrated our Facebook page to it. This makes it easy to communicate through our messenger. We encourage communication with everyone thinking about going on a safari so that any questions can be answered right away.”
Photographic safaris have taken off in a big way. With photo-friendly platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook providing every professional or would-be photographer with an engaged audience of their own. Mary sees it as good business practice to offer the sorts of expeditions that will provide clients the opportunity to capture the best pictures.
“We have a new product for those who have a love for visiting remote places and engaging with diverse cultures and taking photographs,” Mary says, “We are already partnering with a professional company that can offer the best standards on this new product and will be launching very soon.”
Additionally, Mary believes that through the use of multimedia and by enabling her guests to produce these images it helps spread the international message regarding the importance of this land being left undeveloped. Helping to fight against the incessant rise of land buying, poaching and trophy hunting by replacing shooting with guns with shooting with cameras.
PRICE: see website
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +254 (0) 780 337 638
Feature Image: Elephant in front of Mount Kilimanjaro.