Guest comment: with Martin Edwards, sales director Bench International

Guest comment: with Martin Edwards, sales director Bench International
By admin

The biggest challenge for the industry right now is the trend for consumers booking direct with properties in Africa thinking they can get a better deal. But a safari isn't the same as booking a night in a city hotel, there are many things to consider. When things go wrong, and unfortunately they do, the person who books direct doesn’t have any emergency contacts and can face high costs resolving issues.

For example, this January there were heavy floods in Kruger NP and the adjoining reserves. Lodges were flooded, there was severe damage to the roads and bridges submerged – thankfully we were in constant contact with the properties and our clients could be evacuated or relocated.

Even though people are beginning to book directly through the internet, I am not saying the internet is a bad thing. We need to work with it and not against it. The majority of passengers to Africa have already researched something about their trip online and this is why we have increased the amount of product and information on our new website. We want people to research but then we want them to go to their local travel agent and book through them.
Africa is the hot topic at the moment and every man and his dog is starting to sell it. There is nothing wrong with this I suppose, all competition is healthy competition. The problem is people claiming to be specialists in the destination when they have maybe only visited Kruger National Park, if even that. With so much product on offer and everyone claiming to have exclusive use properties (which can be found in at least half dozen other Africa brochures) means the travel agent, consultants (and consumer) are being misled. As an African specialist we pride ourselves by knowing that our entire consultation staff have lived there or been there and done it time and time again. We go there for work, on our holidays and even honeymoons.

This also means that inside the travel agency, where they only have a small amount of space for Africa brochures to be displayed, the space is now overflowing with Africa brochures. Which one does the consultant pick up?

One of the biggest challenges we, and other Africa specialists have at the moment is finding staff. As specialists, we look for people who are thoroughly versed in travel throughout Africa. We are not looking for a typical sales person, we are looking for someone with the background and the passion. If they have passion, they can sell.

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