“We only sell what we know best”: Victours launches its new Africa lineup
Firdosh Bulsara, General Manager, Product & Marketing, Victours

“We only sell what we know best”: Victours launches its new Africa lineup

TORONTO — Most people associate Victours with Italy but the company long ago expanded its product lineup to other European destinations and now offers Africa as well, under the guidance of one of the industry’s best-known Africa product experts: Firdosh Bulsara.

Victours is a very boutique company, “small but a giant in how we handle client inquiries and work with travel agents … anything you need in terms of customization, we can do it,” says Bulsara.

The company began distributing its 2018-2019 Africa brochure earlier this year but didn’t officially launch the product until last night at an industry dinner for 20 travel trade media and travel agency partners, plus representation from Victours’ partner airline group SkyTeam, at Toronto’s Royal Canadian Military Institute.

Why Africa? “This is my 36th year in the Africa business … and it’s been my specialty at Victours for the past three years,” says Bulsara. “A couple of years ago we began sending out feelers to the trade and the calls started to come in. And the clients came back and the travel agencies gave us repeat business. In 2017 the business grew to such an extent, we decided to bring out a 16-page brochure.”

And the rest is history. In Africa Victours now covers the safari lands of East Africa, namely Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. In Southern Africa, itineraries include South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Other destinations include Seychelles and Mauritius.

Victours’ motto is simple, says Bulsara: “We will only sell what we know best”. The company has even been known to turn down an inquiry if they know they can’t service the request properly with the right product. Getting the right fit is that important, says Bulsara. “We will work with you from concept to finish. We are not a big company, where you client is just a client number. Agents call us seeking us options other than off-the-shelf product. Keep that in mind forever.”

The decision to put out a print brochure, rather than market everything online, is also part of Victours’ small-is-better strategy. “There are 332 million registered website domains and 1 billion websites out there,” he said. “So explain to me, what would be our SEO exercise with those numbers? We decided to stay within the confines of Canada, to work with the travel trade, be personal, be serviceable, and that will be our success.”

Just like its Europe lineup, all of Victours’ Africa product is customizable, with more than 150 properties available. Africa has come into its own in recent years, says Bulsara, “It has been a sheer delight to walk into the new five-star lodges. And the African hospitality is totally different than what you would find in Europe or North America. The people, the cuisine, the scenery and of course the wildlife. Africa has it all.”

The drop in value of the Rand gave South Africa in particular a great year for tourism in 2017, says Bulsara. “It was the best year Africa has ever had for tourism, especially South Africa.” The Rand’s fall meant “they had a boom like they’ve never had before.” That drove up demand for rooms, and suddenly it was tough to find space, even for travellers booking months out. The Rand is starting to rise again “so prices are going back up, but availability is too.”

Price points for popular bucket-list experiences like gorilla watching can be wildly different too. Bulsara notes that while Rwanda doubled its permit price from US$750 to $1,500, Uganda offers gorilla experiences – “and don’t worry, they’re the same gorillas”, jokes Bulsara – for $650.

Bulsara also dispelled confusion about Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ low-water situation. The dramatic ‘Day Zero’ awareness campaign about Cape Town’s dwindling water supply got the world’s attention but not surprisingly sent tourism numbers plummeting. “There is no Day Zero for Cape Town. Even the government has realized that. The hotels are installing their own water desalination plants. I follow the situation every day. It rained yesterday. Not much, but it did rain.”

Africa is not for everyone, he adds: “It’s a boutique destination.” Luckily, Victours is a boutique operation. “If you have a client who has a question about Africa, that you can’t answer, put them on the phone with us. We will close the sale.”

Victours also has a 2018-2019 India brochure as well as its 2017-2018 ‘Journey to Europe & Beyond’ brochure that includes Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Iceland.

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