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Wednesday, 31 December 2008 19:00

Selling Kenyan Safaris in a Dry Season

Written by  Mark Laiosa
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The excitement of your clients’ first encounter with a member of the “Big Five—” lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, or leopard - will outdistance any pause they may have about booking a trip of a lifetime during this economic crisis. At the same time, convincing them that this is the time to go on safari is challenging, but will be rewarding for clients and agents. This could be the best time to go - when money is freefalling and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Additionally, now there is a newsworthy selling point as Kenya is the ancestral home of America’s 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama. New York-based tour operator, 2Afrika.com, is selling a Presidential Heritage Safari that includes a visit to the President’s ancestral town of Kogelo. Aardvark Safaris, among other operators, are also using Obama’s heritage as a selling point. Visit www.2Afrika.com and www.Aardvarksafaris.com

Several Ways to Go
From flying, driving, fishing, and a new addition to the inventory, an Obama-related safari, new combinations can have pleasant surprises. One client I met while on safari, said, “It was the only place I went during rainy season and came home with a tan.” Clients can save by avoiding safaris scheduled during Christmas or Easter holidays. Airfares are usually lower mid-September through the end of October, when the famous wildebeest migration takes place in the Masai Mara National Game Reserve.
Christine Eichin, a safari expert and owner of Above and Beyond Africa, based in San Jose, CA, also a certified master KATS (Kenya Authorized Travel Specialist) says traveling during low season can “shave-off” as much as $500 per person in airfare. Another saving tip for the single traveler is that there are usually no single supplements during April and May. Visit www.Yoursafariexpert.com
“Now more than ever, clients are looking for the best value for their money,” says Eichin and compares the all-inclusive aspect of Kenyan safaris to cruises. “They are a good value because arrangements include all meals, accommodations, activities park fees, driver/guide and transportation.” One advantage safaris have over cruises is a greater interaction with local people, cultural diversity, and animals, great and small, she added.
Specialty travel can be a focus in selling Kenyan safaris. Birders tend to be more affluent and the desire to add sightings to their log is a big draw. There are more than 1,000 recorded feathered species that fly over Kenya, and the not-to-be-missed spectacle of lesser and greater pink flamingos at Lake Nakuru awes birders and non-birders alike.
Alicia Laumann of Altiss marketing, a provider of marketing services for products in the Canadian market, advises agents whose clients are on a tight budget, to urge them to consider joining a tour. Laumann represents Nature Expeditions Africa in Canada, and suggests clients join groups of no more than six passengers traveling together in a chauffeur-driven minivan with a pop-up roof for easy game viewing and photography.
“At this number, each passenger will have a window seat. A 7th passenger may travel next to the driver-guide, which means this person will also have a window seat but has no access to the roof hatch,” she says. Additionally, this will sharply reduce the cost of booking their own minivan and may help to persuade clients to say yes to a safari. Visit www.natureexpeditions.com

Evaluating Accommodations
Kenya has accommodations for every budget, from small family-run guest houses to hotels and luxury lodges. Tented camps range from standard with private toilets and showers, to deluxe accommodations with full amenities. Samburu Serena Safari Lodge, for instance, has a swimming pool, library, an airstrip, massage and beauty treatments, laundry services, baby-sitting that can help sell a safari.
Eichin sees a wide variety of accommodations in Kenya and notes that “some of the most luxurious “camps” are not necessarily in the best game viewing area, and you can have a more moderately-priced lodge smack in the middle of the best animal corridors.” Another factor to consider is proximity to National Parks or Reserve boundaries. Eichin says, “You may have a longer access drive into the park where there are many more animals.”
Laumann suggests agents sell more safaris by becoming a KATS after studying and passing a written exam, agents receive authorization and selective FAM programs. Eichin counsels agents to assist clients arrange airfare without or little markup, or to help them access their frequent flyer miles. She knows “there is little money in selling airfare, but agents are extremely savvy in finding their own discounted or consolidated fares for their clients. This can go a long way in securing the safari booking.”
Eichin suggests an agency and tour company team up and host small gatherings at the agency or potential clients’ homes for a slide presentation. Clients’ face time with an expert can overcome doubts, fears and objection on the spot. Mailing postcards, either by traditional mail or e-mail can help stimulate sales.
Looking toward the future, IATA’s Jet Fuel Price Monitor indicates jet fuel prices are down almost 25 percent compared to a year ago. The Nairobi international airport has almost completed its upgrade to FAA category one that means agents will have more flight options to sell making selling Kenyan safaris in 2009 more profitable.
Kenya Airways operates flights from major European capitals. Call 866-536-9224; www.kenya-airways.us. For more information on jet fuel prices, visit www.iata.com
For further information, contact the Kenya Tourist Board, 866-44Kenya; www.magicalkenya.com. For agents interested in becoming a Kenya Authorized Travel Specialist (KATS), visit www.kenyagent.com

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