Charles Bench, founder of Bench Africa, has passed away following a lengthy illness.
Credited with introducing Australians to Africa’s wildlife and scenic wonders, Bench died on Monday evening aged 82.
Born in London’s Belgravia in 1936, Bench began his career at BOAC (now British Airways) with hopes of seeing the word, followed by a series of short jobs at Aristotle Onassis’ Olympic Airways, Eagle Airways and Sabena until South African Airways decided to open their office in Oxford Circus and offered Bench the opportunity to set up a sales force.
In 1969 he visited Australia to play tennis, but immediately sensed business opportunities for southern Africa tourism so set up an African holiday organisation which grew into leading Australian wholesaler Bench International. While Africa was his primary focus, he also led tours through India and South America, set up a motorhome travel operation in the UK and Europe and organised tennis competitions for the travel industry, the prize being a ticket to the Wimbledon finals.
Bench International became the “Benchmark for Travel to Africa” winning a massive share of the Australian business to southern and east Africa until he retired in 2008 after selling his business to Kenyan interests which now operate the business as Bench Africa and recently celebrated the original company’s 50th anniversary.
“Charles really was a major figure in African travel and he has left a lasting impact amongst the Australian travel industry,” said Bench Africa general manager Martin Edwards.
“Charles retired over a decade ago but his legacy continues, and Bench Africa is proud to carry on his good name and reputation for excellence. We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”
Charles leaves a wife Barbara, three daughters and two grandsons.