‘The places that were popular (before Covid) are still popular – South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda – nothing has changed in that regard. However we are certainly seeing people stay longer; whereas a typical trip used to be 10 to 14 days, now we have people staying up to four weeks, incorporating multiple countries in the itinerary and doing special things.’
O’Callaghan’s comments coincide with a visit to New Zealand by Norman Harper, Australia / New Zealand sales representative for &Beyond. Harper, O’Callaghan and World Journeys sales director Davina Bennetto met agents in Levin and Palmerston North last week (with a breakfast in Palmerston North for trade and clients) and then hosted (along with other World Journeys personnel) an Africa Awaits function for agents and their customers at Rydges Auckland rooftop last Thursday.
Harper highlights a number of new properties and opportunities for New Zealand travellers, including Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia, which has been completely rebuilt and reopened in 2019 as a carbon zero lodge.
‘Namibia is a fantastic slow destination. There is amazing wildlife there but it is desert-adapted wildlife and can take a bit more effort to find. People go there for peace and quiet – it’s a different kind of African experience.’
Harper also points to the new Tengile River Lodge, an ‘ultra-luxury’ option in the Sabi Sands area of Kruger National Park and Ngala &Beyond private reserve with its new four-levelled tree house as recent additions to the company’s inventory.
Another option for agents to sell is Grumeti Serengeti River Lodge, previously Grumeti Serengeti Tented camp. ‘It has been transformed from a rustic camp to an elegant, sophisticated yet authentic safari lodge with private plunge pools,’ says Harper.
World Journeys’ O’Callaghan says enquiries to Africa have grown substantially month by month since March – April this year. ‘The majority are looking to travel in 2023 but it’s definitely coming back strong.’
City stays gain traction
While a safari is still clearly the number one motivator for a trip to Africa, visitors are often incorporating city content into their itineraries, says O’Callaghan.
‘Of course, in South Africa that’s normally Cape Town but we are finding that people are more open to spending a couple of nights in Johannesburg. There has been a lot of effort in gentrifying areas of the city, adding new attractions, restaurants, micro-breweries and the like.
‘The top two places for visitors there are Soweto and the Apartheid Museum – people often have those on their list.’
On the ground in Rwanda
From January next year, &Beyond will be operating full ground capabilities in Rwanda.
The company’s Australia / New Zealand sales representative, Roy Harper says that until now &Beyond has been using subcontracted DMCs (destination management companies) in the country.
‘We’ll have our own vehicles and guides in the destination. Our interest in Rwanda makes sense from a sustainability and conservation perspective – our efforts have seen us re-establish a lion population in Akagera and we moved 30 rhino from South Africa to Rwanda in one day using a 747.’