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With 29 brands operating across 70 countries, The Travel Corp. is expanding into southern and eastern Africa, launching itineraries for three of its key brands.
While already active in Egypt and Morocco, Trafalgar, Contiki, and Luxury Gold will offer starting in 2019 a range of multi-day escorted vacations to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
The Travel Corp. has obviously seen a gap in the market, but the company also has loftier goals, said Gavin Tollman, former president of the parent company and current CEO of Trafalgar.
Mindful of the impact the drought in southern Africa has had on the tourism industry, “We made a decision that, instead of just talking about it, we wanted to be a more impactful driver of tourism into the region,” said Tollman. “These are our three core brands, and it made sense for us to start with these to ensure that we could have the necessary impact.”
The Travel Corp. already has a foot in the door when it comes to ground operations on the continent: The company is wholly owned by the Tollman family, who in April took over sole ownership of South Africa’s Cullinan Holdings.
Founded in 1978 as an outbound wholesaler, Cullinan Holdings — of which Gavin Tollman has been chairman since 2014 — has since grown into a multifaceted tourism business with retail travel agencies, coach operations, outbound wholesaling, and inbound destination management companies in the fold.
While the three Travel Corp. brands will each offer their own African itineraries, on-the-ground logistics will be handled by one of the local partners. However, the service and product offering will be comparable to Travel Corp. products elsewhere in the world, said Tollman. Local guides will spend time shadowing tour directors in Europe in October, and key elements of the international product offering will remain.
Trafalgar’s popular “Be My Guest” inclusion, for instance, sees clients enjoying dinner with the family owners of a wine farm near Cape Town, while social impact visits range from Himba villages in Namibia to the Shangilia Children’s Home outside Nairobi.
“We want each brand in Africa to be able to put its individual stamp on what it’s trying to achieve, but at the same time remaining true to the core of the brand promise. Having a sales and operating office in South Africa has allowed us to really fine-tune the experiences to ensure they are aligned with each brand,” said Tollman.
The Contiki tour offering, managed on the ground by Springbok Atlas, could certainly shake up the millennial travel market in Africa. While many youth travel companies in the region focus on camping expeditions and cut-price adventures, the Contiki itineraries offer small-group options that tap into mid-market safari lodges, and extension trips including beach resorts on Zanzibar and (pricey) gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Although the new itineraries have only been actively marketed in Australia and the United States, the new tours are already seeing firm demand from travelers.
“We are pacing 30 percent ahead of where I thought we would be,” said Tollman. “We’ve only been in the market for three months, and we haven’t yet hit our peak booking season. One trip over Christmas is already sold out, and we have a few in the game reserves in August and September next year, which are already sold out.”