Having brought together the cream of safaris, operators and locations from around the globe, SafariDeal’s founder and managing director Robin Cormack is confident with what 2022 has brewing for travel. Anticipating huge growth for this wild industry, he believes the future lies with the stamina of individual operators to take accountability and evolve.
OLD SAFARI TASTES
As SafariDeal specialise in supplying the savvy traveller of today with the finest businesses in the sector to book their trips, Robin and his team spend their time at the bleeding edge of the market. Thanks to this, he has seen what is becoming a predominant behaviour of first time and regular safari goers.
“People are seeking more content for their tours,” he explains, “More engagement, more experience and this has put a lot of pressure on many old-template safaris to evolve quickly and adapt their thinking.”
For many decades the standard safari template has remained the same: guests are zoomed around parks and lodges with little or no time to reflect, learn or experience. In these safaris, the focus is on the game drive, with guests piling into a vehicle at 05.30am and being whizzed around for a couple of hours. Then it’s back to the camp for brunch, a siesta and then out again in the afternoon.
“This kind of production line safari trip has been the standard for decades,” Robin says, “Afterall, it is adequate for guests who are satisfied with simple exposure to the wildlife, the scenery and the local cultures. But the new generation of adventurers, with their developing tastes, expect more.”
And these expectations can easily be met. There is, after all, no shortage of potential content that can be used to enrich a tour. This relies on businesses proactively training their guides to make the most of every opportunity to do so.
GIVE THEM MORE
Instead of simply pointing out the animals (“There is a zebra, there is a buffalo, there is a lilac breasted roller…”) , Robin believes that safaris should offer more value and share deeper experiences and insights with the guests over and above the norm.
“Our research reveals that safari goers are now more informed and more interested than ever before,” he reflects, “In the past guests just wanted to see animals and it was purely tourism, but today they are seeking engagement, education and understanding as well. This presents an opportunity to tour operators to pick up on relevant themes, be them conservation, climate change, government initiatives or even government failings.”
In his experience, this sort of delivery of information creates an army of safari ambassadors that will return home and share their new knowledge with their circle of friends. Word of mouth is fantastic marketing but relies on content that people actually want to share.
THE NEW SAFARI FLAVOURS
Considering how competitive the safari market is, it isn’t surprising that there have been many innovations introduced over recent years.
For example, Robin has noticed a steady march towards uber luxurious camps, with the wealthy elite seeking to enjoy the “authentic safari experience”. Along with the luxurious beds, spacious tents, air conditioners, butlers, gourmet meals, constant WIFI and private tours the eye watering prices have made these sorts of tours available exclusively to the rich and famous.
Interestingly, instead of luxury, safaris originally were focussed on exploration. They were expeditions conducted largely by those seeking enlightenment and education. While some operators have gone the direction of using exclusivity and price to single themselves out; others have looked to increase activities based around conservation, education and guest engagement.
“The more involved a guest is in an activity the more invested they will be in the whole experience and champion the cause,” Robin says, “At SafariDeal we’ve seen an increasing number of lodges and operators moving towards this idea as they make more use of what they have readily available.”
Along with a deeper focus on guest engagement, more businesses within the industry have started including sustainability in their day to day operations. The innovative approach to doing this is marvellous, including community engagements, recycling and the use of alternate fuels like solar and even wind power.
“We are building a safari community of travel partners and travellers that want to explore our world responsibly, make a contribution and protect the land, the cultures and the people for years to come,” he says, “Working together is helping us to achieve this.”
WHAT TO CHOOSE?
Like a waiter in a restaurant who may help a guest decide what they are in the mood for. Robin knows, for a fact, that most people only have the slimmest idea of what they actually want to see or experience when on a safari.
With thousands of options available on almost every continent, the choices available can be daunting. To cut out the fuss, the menu that SafariDeal offer their clients can be split into two main categories. The sort of uncomplicated tours that offer the perfect wildlife focusses for first time safari goers and the second part, which can be classed as non-traditional safaris.
“We are working hard to bring on more suppliers from many different countries that are doing cool and even unusual things,” Robin says, “We really believe there are safari opportunities everywhere. When we talk to suppliers in these areas, they may at first feel a bit threatened by going up against the more traditional juggernauts such as Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa. But once we explain that the trips they offer are just as appealing then they get it. It adds variety to have a Tanzania jeep safari featured next to a whale safari in the Azores. After all, it is about the experiences that send shivers down your spine rather than just the location.”
THE KEY INGREDIENT FOR A GREAT SAFARI
According to Robin, the main component that makes a safari great, is the individual traveller themselves. Like any recipe, there is a trick to make all the ingredients work together.
“Safaris should be approached with an open mind and an open heart,” he says, “When you are on a safari you are an explorer, you should make friends, ask questions and get stuck in.”
Respect is above all one of the most important parts of a safari. To get the most out of your time on tour, guests should listen to the people on the ground and respect their opinions and knowledge.
“Leave your first world views and opinions at the airport and pick them up on the way back,” he says, “Give yourself the chance to see the world from a different perspective, enjoy every second and go home with a buzz and a brain full of new stories.”
WHEN BOOKING SAFARIS IN 2022
Some advice for safari bookers, talk with your operator. The range of safaris and seasonal events are limitless but often time sensitive. Communication with the tour operator is a top priority as they will discuss what you want to see compared to when it is available.
Many decisions need to be made, including when you want to travel, your budget, whether you want to travel during peak or off peak seasons and also your expectations and desires. With this in mind, booking ahead, sometimes up to twelve months, is a good strategy.
“Be proactive and think ahead,” Robin says, “Safari is really growing in popularity and beds are limited.”
The safaris on SafariDeal range from $300 to $45000 per person. The average costs across regions will differ but in Africa a good 10-14 day safari would be around USD 3,500 – USD 5,000 per person (although you can find some great bargains on SafariDeal)
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