Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Trafalgar’s new 2019 Africa program was “72 years in the making”, says Trafalgar CEO Gavin Tollman. The first-ever sub-Saharan lineup for the company pairs 10 Africa itineraries in countries including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya with the power of a go-to brand.
Why now? “We wanted to ensure that when we went to Africa, everything the brand stood for would be executed impeccably,” says Tollman in an exclusive interview with Travelweek.
It was only after Trafalgar’s parent company The Travel Corporation 100% acquired inbound South African travel company Cullinan Holdings Ltd. that Tollman felt the stars had finally aligned.
Offering sub-Saharan Africa was a long-held dream for Tollman, who is South African. Even if they live in other cities now, the entire Tollman family, who head up The Travel Corporation under the direction of TTC Chairman Stanley Tollman, call this part of the world home.
The 2019 Africa launch “is incredibly exciting,” said Tollman. “This is truly a passion and we’ve been waiting for this moment.”
Tollman adds that he comes from a family “with an enormous legacy” in South Africa.
The rebirth of tourism to KwaZulu-Natal can be traced to The Oyster Box hotel, he says, bought by the Tollmans in 2006 and lavishly restored to join The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, headed up by Founder and President Bea Tollman.
The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is also behind Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, voted one of the top three best hotels and resorts in the world just five years after it opened by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, and Cape Town’s famed The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa.
Can clients booking Trafalgar’s 2019 Africa program check out The Red Carnation experience for themselves? Of course, with a stay at The Oyster Box on night six of the ‘Best of South Africa’ itinerary. The 15-day tour winds its way from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, to Durban and the Southern Drakensberg Mountains and then on to Port Elizabeth and Tsitsikamma National Park and Oudtshoorn before finishing up in beautiful Cape Town. The two-country tour includes 26 meals and starts at $6,550 per person, with early bird savings worth up to $708 per person.
Other trips include the 4-day Victoria Falls Experience, the 10-day Essential South Africa, the 5-day Botswana Delta Experience, the 14-day Namibia Explorer and the 14-day African Safari Adventure.
Rounding out the Africa program are trips to Trafalgar favourites Egypt (Best of Egypt and Egyptian Voyager, both 9 days, and the 12-day Wonders of Ancient Egypt) and Morocco (the 10-day Best of Morocco).
Departures for the 2019 program kick off in December 2018.
With the family’s history and understanding of Africa “we had to make sure we delivered,” says Tollman. “We challenged ourselves.”
The timing is right on so many levels, he adds, including the centenary of the life of Nelson Mandela.
“We want to give every single Canadian access to Africa in a way that is so easy,” by booking a brand and experience like Trafalgar, says Tollman.
He says the program got an enthusiastic endorsement from Trafalgar Canada President Wolf Paunic, who said “this is exactly what the Canadian market has been waiting for.”
The Trafalgar brand has gone through a radical transformation over the past 10 years. “The evolution began in 2008, 2009 when we started to look at how we could change the world of escorted tours,” says Tollman, adding “we are a way of travel.” For Trafalgar, it’s all about wanderlust, a common denominator for Trafalgar clients, he says.
Out of Canada Trafalgar is on the cusp of seeing double-digit growth for 2018, says Tollman, capping what will become a four-year run with growth in the double digits from this market. Asked how many of Trafalgar’s bookings come through travel agents, Tollman says “the vast majority”, and that’s not an understatement: the percentage tops 90%.
“Agents embrace what we’re doing,” he says, adding that the most successful agents connect people to what they want out of travel. “Start with a simple, basic question. Say ‘Tell me about your last holiday and what was your most exciting memory about it?’”
He recommends agents start with the aspirational questions first. “If you start with the rational questions about price and budget, the nuts and bolts, it’s impossible to then turn that into an emotional, inspirational sale”, says Tollman. And it’s the emotional sale that can often create opportunities to up-sell.
He adds: “Selling a Trafalgar trip to a client is like selling an annuity.” It’s one that pays back to the agent year after year, because the client keeps coming back for more. Now with all the destinations Trafalgar offers around the world, sub-Saharan Africa is finally part of that lineup.
In celebration of the new 2019 Africa program clients can save 10% on select Trafalgar trips when paid in full by Jan. 17, 2019.