Australia-based brother and sister duo Neville Jones and Evelyn Weskob of Experiential Travel are also expanding into the FIT market after the success of their tailor-made small group excursions in Africa. The company is launching scheduled departures in east and southern Africa: Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Ethiopia and Sudan will be next. Jones and Weskob come from opposite ends of the travel spectrum. Jones spent years as a corporate traveller in the IT sector – long hours flying for brief visits to cities to attend conferences and business meetings. ‘The hardship of travel was a badge of honour,’ he says. ‘But I enjoyed it nonethe-less – I enjoyed meeting people.’ Weskob, on the other hand, spent her travel management career ‘building journeys.’ This has included 23 years living in Botswana running air charter and safari companies, a travel agency, an inbound Africa DMC and community projects.
It wasn’t until Jones travelled to Botswana for (sadly) his brother-in-law’s funeral that he was ‘bitten’ by the Africa bug. ‘I was taken on a helicopter ride over the Okavango Delta and introduced to things that just happen in Africa,’ he says. ‘The helicopter malfunctioned and we had to put down in the middle of the delta. A safari vehicle appeared out of nowhere, took us to a camp, and then we continued the safari by boat. Some time later I put it to some friends to go on a safari in Botswana and seven people said yes. Evelyn organised it.’
The customised tours grew from there. ‘And this is what sets us apart,’ says Weskob. ‘Neville creates every single itinerary. I encourage agents to get in touch the minute they have an Africa enquiry. We’ll have a conversation and build a client profile before we build an itinerary. We produce a show,’ says Jones. ‘Travel is like theatre – there’s emotional tension. There’s an ebb and flow of experiences as a story unfolds. And at the end of the journey we leave people wanting more.’ Jones is careful with the word ‘authentic.’ ‘People want authentic travel,’ he says, ‘but the secret is, they don’t. It can get a bit gritty. We offer an alternative to camping under canvas with no running water – the fully equipped mobile, tented safari camp that you don’t see being built. We never show customers back of house. It all happens invisibly while they are on their game drive and sipping sundowners.’ www.experiential.travel
- Trish Freeman