By Karl Cushing | February 2016 | 12 minute read
Few products in travel are as iconic as an African safari. As Sean Clark, Belmond Safaris’ Director of Sales, Marketing & Touring notes: “It’s hard to find someone whose bucket list doesn’t include an African safari, which bodes well for the continent, its people and conservation in general.”
“Now’s the time to take advantage of the unbelievable exchange rates for the South African rand and the Namibian dollar to sell some really high-end luxury lodge itineraries at really affordable prices”
LOUISE STANION, AFRICA PRODUCT MANAGER, COX & KINGS
Walk the walk: Zambia is ideal for walking safaris, which are also offered in Kenya’s Masai Mara
Splendid isolation: Namibia has stunning wildlife sightings against dramatic backdrops and empty spaces
Cheers: The winelands of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Constantia make a perfect South African add-on to a lodge stay
Mix and match: Beyond the obvious consider everything from Indian Ocean beach extensions in Mozambique to Ethiopian lodge stays and air safaris in Madagascar
Beyond the big: From aardvark to black-footed cats, check out Mokala National Park and Marrick Safari Camp in South Africa’s Northern Cape
Water works: Recommend Botswana’s Okavango Delta for water safaris in ‘mokoro’ dugout canoes
Migration station: Coincide a stay with June’s Great Migration across the Serengeti and Mara and consider a mobile camp such as those offered by Sanctuary Retreats
Cat calls: Top spots for big cats include Kenya’s Mara and Botswana’s Moremi
Float high: Top balloon safaris include the Mara, Serengeti and South Africa
Bountiful Botswana: For sheer variety Botswana is hard to beat
Trends to watch
All eyes this year are on Kenya, which has witnessed a resurgence in bookings since the FCO lifted its most recent travel advisories. Elsewhere the Kenyan government’s Charter Incentives Program aims to reinvigorate the coastal areas by offering passenger subsidies and waiving landing fees until June 30 2018 for charters with passengers terminating in Mombasa and Malindi.
Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) Sales & Marketing Director Samuel Hancock reports a 10% increase year on year for UK visitors, with self-drive holidays dominating and average stays increasing to more than 17 nights. “The UK is back where it was when there was a direct flight route,” says Hancock.
Watch out for NTB’s planned trade campaigns and revamped online training site (with Travel Uni), incentivised with prizes and fam places.
Both Rainbow Tours’ Senior Product Manager David Pointer and African Pride’s Sales Manager David Holland have seen increased demand for authentic, ‘experiential’ product and an increase in average booking values.
“Africa offers a huge range of luxury product and demand remained strong throughout December and into January with South Africa number one, and demand for Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Namibia also looking good,” says Holland.
Ranch Rider Managing Director Tony Daly also reports strong demand for product offering authentic experiences, alongside a trend towards multi-generational travel and Brits upgrading at its South African lodges.
Belmond’s Clark points to ‘diverse’ sales trends regarding lead times. “Whereas previously African lodges, particularly at the top-end of the market, were mostly booked as far as two years in advance we are now seeing both very short and very long lead times in most major markets. One particularly interesting trend is a departure from the traditional three-centre trip in favour of a one- or two-centre African vacation.”
Wilderness Safaris says it has seen increased demand for ‘wi-fi free’ safari holidays and will be offering this at a selected camps this year.
What the experts say
“The UK remains the number one market to Kenya, with the latest arrival figures showing an increase year on year for June, July, September and October 2015.
“Last year also saw significant investment in Kenya’s hotel sector with Radisson Blu in Nairobi, Angama Mara and English Point Marina in Mombasa all opening their doors. And this March will see the opening of Hilton Worldwide’s $25 million Garden Inn Hotel in Nairobi and Elewana’s exclusive Loisaba Tented Camp.
“Following the lifting of the FCO advice for Malindi in October Kenya’s coastal offering will be a core focus for our promotions through 2016.”
ROSINA WILLIAMS, ACCOUNT DIRECTOR, KENYA TOURISM BOARD UK
“Thanks to the strength of sterling against the rand, the value for money a South African holiday brings has never been better. A five-star meal in South Africa is now about the same price as a starter in London. In the coming year we will be highlighting South Africa’s varied experiences, value and superb new lodge developments through a number of exciting trade campaigns, training events and fam trips.”
TOLENE VAN DER MERWE, COUNTRY MANAGER UK AND IRELAND, SOUTH AFRICA TOURISM
“Botswana is the home of the luxury lodge in Africa. It continues to sell well, especially the Okavango Delta. Zambia and Zimbabwe are picking up while recent good level lodge openings are generating interest in Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.”
LOUISE STANION, AFRICA PRODUCT MANAGER, COX & KINGS
Accommodation: In Botswana, Belmond’s flagship Eagle Island Lodge in the Okavango Delta reopened last November following an extensive refurbishment, complete with onsite helicopter offering private air safaris.
Six new all-inclusive mobile camping safaris launched his February in Botswana from andBeyond Expeditions (from £2,500pppn).
Sanctuary Retreats’ new-look Chief’s Camp opens in Moremi Game Reserve’s Mombo Concession in July. Its 12 luxurious bush pavilions have been expanded from 51 to 141sqm and come complete with plunge pools. Sanctuary also has a current ‘stay six nights, pay for four’ accommodation offer.
In June, andBeyond’s Ngala Safari Lodge, bordering South Africa’s iconic Kruger National Park, reopens after a two-million-pound facelift.
Operators: Carrier’s Africa 2016/17 brochure features a new tailormade ‘14 Days Over Africa’ air safari to Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania and four of 2015’s new openings — Angama Mara in Kenya; Singita Ebony and Makanyi Lodge in South Africa; and The Aiyana in Pemba, Tanzania, designed to help satisfy increased demand for ‘Bush and Beach’ holidays.
Where to book it
Abercrombie & Kent’s 10-night Kenyan ‘Out of Africa’ itinerary is priced from £6,640pp and includes a full-board safari at Finch Hatton’s, Lewa Downs and Angama Mara, plus B&B accommodation at Hemingway’s in Nairobi, international flights and transfers.
The six-night private Great Botswana Safari from Cox & Kings is priced from £5,195pp, twin-share, during the high season including two nights half-board at Savute Safari Lodge, Chobe; Camp Xakanaxa, Moremi; and Xugana Island Lodge, Okavango, plus flights to Johannesburg with British Airways, internal flights to the lodges.
A six-night package from Rainbow Tours featuring two nights all-inclusive at Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge and Belmond Khwai River Lodge, is from £4,659pp for November 15 to December 23 2016, including game activities and flights from the UK to Manchester.