In an effort to win back business, some safari lodge owners and other suppliers of African travel are offering substantial deals and specials such as two-for-ones and 50-percent-off savings, TravelWeekly reports.
The damage to Africa’s economy, more specifically to its tourism economy, has been severe in the wake of a setbacks that began with the Ebola outbreak a year ago, followed by the terror attack in Tunisia and the university killings in Northern Kenya.
Travel suppliers and specialists have to get creative with their marketing and selling to prevent their businesses from becoming casualties of the continent’s catastrophes, according to TravelWeekly.
“For the geographically informed and second-time visitors, now is a great opportunity to visit Africa, (with) great value for the money,” said Jim Holden, president of African Travel, in a TravelWeekly report.
The challenge, he said, is that “to the uninformed, Africa is one country.” For example, tourists are rarely sent to the town near the Somalia border where the Garissa attacks took place, Holden said.
It’s 13-percent cheaper for Americans to vacation in South Africa, where the rand is losing value against the dollar as commodity prices slump, CNN reported March 30.
Flights from New York to Cape Town are down 24 percent from a year ago, according to the travel data site Hopper. New York to South Africa is more than twice the distance than to Paris, but flights there cost about $130 more. If you don’t mind really long flights, South Africa offers a lot of bang for your buck, according to CNN.
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Unjustified and lingering fears over Ebola are costing the continent billions of dollars, according to Bernard Gustin, CEO of Brussels Airlines. Along with Royal Air Maroc, Brussels Airlines continued service to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the height of the Ebola crisis, TravelWeekly reports. The airline serves 19 African destinations.
People still associate Africa with images of healthcare workers in hazmat suits, Gustin said.
Specialty tour operators focusing on Africa must be prepared for the peaks and the valleys, said Dave Herbert, CEO of Great Safaris in an interview with TravelWeekly. “In the too-frequent valleys, you need to grab market share from the big, multi-destination operators and keep expenses in check.”
In times of crisis, one strategy in the tourism business is to offer two-for-one deals and 50-off savings, to kick-start bookings, Herbert said. Another way he managed to keep stay afloat is by working more closely with travel agents who are skilled at using statistics in a way that can calm some potential travel clients.
“The job of a travel counselor is to gather the facts — not from sensational media — and present those facts to their clients, including the fact that Africa generally is more secure than 80 percent of American cities,” Herbert told TravelWeekly.
Herbert admits that message has been increasingly difficult to communicate.
Despite the xenophobic attacks, South Africa continues to be a bright spot in Africa travel, “with fewer perceived security issues and the strong dollar making for good value,” Holden said. Tour operators are working hard to assure travelers that the destination remains safe, he told TravelWeekly.
Extraordinary Journeys, a New York-based African tour operator, held a press conference this month to market its Zimbabwe product and overcome objections about the Robert Mugabe dictatorship.
If you care about Zimbabwe, the worst thing to do is not travel there, said Marcia Gordon, the company’s co-founder
The same message applies to most of the continent, Africa operators say, according to TravelWeekly.
Experts predict the U.S. dollar is likely to stay strong through the end of 2015, but CNN reports it’s uncertain whether travel to South Africa will pick up enough to cause an increase in flight and hotel prices prior to that.