1. How did you end up working in the tourism industry?
After an internship at Burberrys in London in the eighties, there were some months left and together with a friend of mine, we started a flower company – selling flowers and plants on Portobello Road. Opposite our stall was the Travel Bookstore later famous because of the movie “Notting Hill”.
During my breaks I read a lot of travel books in the store and this, in combination with the English weather made me decide to study Tourism & Economics at the NHTV in the Netherlands in order to be able to “go places” afterwards. Eventually I ended up in the most beautiful and diverse country in the world – South Africa.
2. What inspired you to start this company?
Funny, but is was never a goal or dream to own a company. My wife and I both studied together; Germaine worked afterwards as Chief Purser on several cruise ships and afterwards spent 6 years based in Monaco as personnel/recruiting manager.
I worked as product/marketing manager worldwide for several tour operators, like Hotelplan and TUI. We only saw each other a couple of times a year during these 10 years, so we decided to move to our dream destination in 1996. After working for a local company, two EU tour operators asked us to start our own agency, because they could not find an original agent/DMC. We started around 1997/98 with Baobab and Hoteplan as our first tour operator clients.
3. Describe your first sale/customer.
This was our own joined honeymoon in 1997. We decided to get married in Cape Town and totally unexpectedly, we had beside the family, 15 friends coming over from Europe. We could not just disappear after the wedding and instead we organised a joined honeymoon via the Karoo, Garden Route and Addo Elephant Park.
4. What was your first tour like – and what has changed compared to your most recent?
Because we worked with a soft adventure companies from the beginning we offered beside the highlights of Kruger and Cape Town, the small Kingdom of Swaziland and the “Nepal of Africa” called Lesotho. Because tourism only started in the mid ’90’s, there were nearly no places to stay nor organised activities. In Southern Africa we opened up new areas where even the local tourist were not going, like the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, the Caprivi in Namibia or Kariba in Zimbabwe. Now we offer almost all combinations of African countries, clients arriving in Kenya, visiting the highlights, than they visit Serengeti, continue to Zanzibar and on to the Vic Falls, the Okavango Delta and ending up via Kruger or in Cape Town.
5. What part of the company are you most proud of and why?
Our colleagues J, a lot of them are there for 10 years or more and in the good and the bad times they are great. In times like now, with the low Rand and booming tourism arrival numbers, they just do that extra that is required, others come with new and crazy ideas, we are a proud pride!.
Also proud of our sister company www.abangafrica.com which is the first DMC worldwide awarded with the Travelife certificate, handed over by the UN.
6. What do you feel sets your company apart from other DMC’s?
We are not really involved in the local tourism boards and joined activities, so do not really know the ins and outs of other local colleagues, but comparing worldwide I think we offer a value for money travel experience. We offer not only highlights, but create on a daily bases original ‘off the beaten track’ routes and experiences. The enthusiasm from our clients who return home with stories about their new local friends, their understanding of social projects and other ‘unexpected encounters’ makes them and others return to southern Africa.
7. What does a standard working day look like for you?
Germaine manages the office from 8 till 13:00 and focusses mainly on finance, risk & operations. My contribution -According to my kids- is drinking coffee at Darios the local coffee shop and assisting with Social projects, like
http://sijonga-phambili.org/ ; http://hbufc.co.za/ ; http://gapafrica.net/ ; http://angelstarfisheducare.yolasite.com/ ; http://www.envirochild.org/
8. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The beautiful weather and surroundings and our daily drug i.e the everyday surprising Africa Challenges.
9. What keeps you up at night?
The clear sky, the fresh air, the nice people & SA wine.
10. What other CEO’s do you look up to and why?
Germaine, my wife, wish I was so focussed and organised.
11. where do you see the company in 5 years?
Depends a lot on some hopeless leaders in Africa. Overall the aim is to offer more weird travel experiences all over Africa, more involvement of colleagues, and tours from Cape Town to Cairo.