|Number of staff||32|
|Destinations served||Ghana, Togo, Benin, Sao Tome & Principe|
|Language(s) spoken in office(s)||English, French|
|Target markets||Europe, North & South America, Asia|
All-in-all we had a fantastic time and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Ashanti as a tour company for anything – butterflies, birds and culture
The assistance of the administration team was perfect!
This tour ranked high up in the list of about 35 major tours we made in the last two and a half decades worldwide.
I am now home. Every activity of the Ashanti team was wonderful! I would recommend Ashanti to all, you are among the best I have experienced
1. How did you end up working in the tourism industry?
I always had a love for Africa, culture and wildlife from a young age and held a passion for wanting to make a difference in conservation on this continent. I had a connection with West Africa through my Wife who was from Ghana and we both decided we wanted to return as we had been living and working in the UK for several years. Our dream was to establish a tour company focused on ethical travel that would ultimately benefit the communities we visit by connecting them with the conservation of their environment whilst offering the international tourist an authentic holiday of a lifetime.
2. What inspired you to start this company?
I loved travelling, learning the history, cultures and traditions of the places and peoples I would meet whilst enjoying the environment and nature. I craved authentic trips where I would see life how it was for the locals and not just the main tourist routes and international hotels offered by many travel companies. I wanted to create a company that could cater for all types of traveler, offering the most professional, authentic experience that would benefit the communities and environment in the areas we would visit. There was a real lack of quality tour operators in West Africa and none were really into ethical tourism and we wanted to address this by establishing Ashanti African Tours.
3. Describe your first sale/customer:
Everything was in place, full time local guides and drivers, vehicles, office and website we just needed our first booking. It was July 2006 and Maria a single traveler from Switzerland booked a private 14 day Ghana Birding and Wildlife Tour. I wanted to ensure our local guides led the tour with the Ashanti African Tours philosophy so I was the driver and I had 3 of our guides travel with Maria which we had already agreed with her and she was very happy for this. I had spent several years planning to start our business and knew all the locations and communities we would visit so the actual travelling around was straight forward and all hotels and logistics worked well. Maria left Ghana very happy and satisfied, giving us good feedback. However I was not as happy as I had noticed several areas we needed to improve upon and the next few years were dedicated to this.
4. What was your first tour like – and what has changed compared to your most recent?
It was a great trip and we all learned so much. West African travel is more difficult compared to the more established East and Southern African countries. Our tourism industry is not as well managed, monitored or maintained as in these other parts of Africa and we the tour operator have to make up for this shortfall through our professionalism, dedication and attention to detail. There are always teething problems and one area we soon noticed was an issue in West Africa was hotels and guesthouses giving away rooms when larger groups would book, even though we had pre-paid. We now have measures in place to prevent this but initially it was challenging to say the least. I always describe our tours, on the surface they run very smoothly, logistically well-organized so our participants have a seamless journey and enjoyable experience, however to achieve this we are like a duck or swan on the lake calm and elegant on the surface but our legs are working very hard underneath the water to achieve this.
One of the main areas where my eyes were opened during our first tour is the connection between the local guide and clients is so important. There are so many experts in wildlife, culture and history but this is not enough, being a local guide is much more than having the knowledge and passing that onto the participants. There needs to be a connection between the local leader and tourist and this is only possible if the local expert guide has the personality to be open, inclusive and friendly. It took me a few years of trial and error to get the local leaders and drivers we have today that we are 100% happy with and that are a major part of our AAT family. It is why we employ all of our team on full time contracts offering them many benefits and also a share scheme in our new lodge we are opening. Once you have found the best, it important to keep them.
5. What part of the company are you most proud of and why?
There are a couple of areas I am very proud of. Firstly is that we often exceed the expectations of our tour participants which is so important to me. Many have saved hard and maybe will not return to West Africa as there are so many other places to visit in the world and ensuring they have had a great experience is the best feeling ever.
I am also very proud that we have made such a difference to so many people in areas we visit during our tours through our ethical travel initiatives. To date from our company profits we have built 2 schools giving access to education to more than 400 children and also saved a rainforest and endangered birds and mammal species from being destroyed through our current eco-tourism project.
I also need to mention how proud I am to have been able to improve the lives of all my wonderful colleagues that work with me. They give our company so much and it is wonderful to see their personal lives and family benefitting from their hard work and dedication.
6. What do you feel sets your company apart from other DMC’s?
1. Local and industry knowledge
2. Professionalism and company ethics
5. Broad network
6. Local/community impact
7. Staff working conditions
7. What does a standard working day look like for you?
As a DMC running multiple trips daily year round my work is 24/7 as I always have to be on hand when needed to communicate with our tour leaders and groups. Technology has enabled me to connect with our office and global client base from anywhere in the world. I am sometimes based in the UK but the majority of the time in our Ghana office. I mainly monitor our operations and focus on our company development projects as we are currently building our own offices a lodge in a National Park and Hotel. I have Directors and Managers in place to operate the day to day running of the business and I am focused on improving our services and pushing our company to the next level.
8. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Very simple my job I love it! I feel very fortunate to work in ethical travel as it is so rewarding. Work hard to ensure people have a wonderful experience of West Africa and at the same time make a real difference to people’s lives, their communities and the conservation of their environment.
9. What keeps you up at night?
On the very rare occasion we receive feedback that is not as positive as I would have liked. It motivates me to work harder and find solutions to ensure it does not happen again. Also the personal progression of my colleagues, our projects and community development and conservation initiatives.
10. What other CEOs do you look up to and why?
Throughout my experience as a traveler and tour operator, I found the local inhabitants who are the custodians of the sites and resources we visit as the real CEO’s of that sub-sector (eco-tourism) of the tourism industry. I have always studied the traditional ways of managing their natural resources and ways to adapt to current challenges being climate change and resource depletion. These are the people I look up to because they are the custodian of the underlying assets of the industry that attract travelers. And my company has always been supporting these real CEO’s in their preservation and conservation quest and livelihoods.
11. Where do you see the company in 5 years?
Maintaining and improving our high standard of service to our clients whilst opening up Ghana, Togo, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe to the wider global market offering more international tourists that ethically organised West African Trip of a lifetime.