Guest post written by Hills of Africa Travel’s CEO, Amanda Evans
I’m fresh off the plane from my incredible trip to Cape Town, South Africa, representing Hills of Africa Travel at the first annual We Are Africa conference. Well, I probably shouldn’t say that I’m fresh. It was pretty exhausting! Over the course of three days I met with more than 45 different representatives of southern and East Africa’s best hotels, safari lodges, camps, and ground operators. The entire experience sort of felt like sprinting a marathon and speed dating, BUT it was absolutely one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended and what I took back for our clients is nothing short of incredible.
I was thrilled with the way the conference bonded every attendee, whether a safari lodge operator or booking agent (such as ourselves—many of us competitors!) as ambassadors of this incredible continent. Together, we are able to share Africa’s beauty, it’s people, and it’s ability to touch lives with as many people as possible. That is, after all, our mission here at Hills of Africa!
Below is a top 12 list of my best meetings and what I took away, but first a little about how it all worked . . .
Our meetings were set up similar to speed dating. About half of the companies I met with were the hotels, camps, and lodges we already have existing relationships with and the other half were brand new properties or were new to us. It’s super important to us that we are always on the cutting edge of what is happening in the industry: where are new lodges opening? What camp has created cool, new exclusive experiences? Which property is getting a facelift?
The more we know, the better we can serve our clients and that is our #1 priority. When we meet with groups we’ve worked with over the past 10 years, we fortify those strong relationships with people on the ground to ensure our clients get the absolute best care when they are in our hands and our partners’ hands—not to mention the absolute best rates so we are passing along every penny of savings possible to our clients! When we meet with the new kids on the block, we ensure they fully understand our levels of expectations in service and we monitor them in the industry over time to ensure they live up to that standard.
I was blown away by the quality of all the groups I had the opportunity to meet with; they represent the absolute best in the business and set the bar pretty high for the newcomers, which I also had the pleasure of meeting! However, I have to admit that selfishly, my favorite part of the experience was when I got to sit down with some of our old friends in the business and they would quietly lean over to me and whisper “we are so glad you are here, the Hills of Africa team is our absolute favorite to work with” – I’m not naming any names!
And I’m going to toot our own horn here a little, but we’ve become accustomed to hearing that sort of feedback, not just from our clients, but from our partners, as well. They want to work with us over and over again, not because we are a behemoth booking agency that just pushes tons of money through their doors, but because we send them the best clients—the most enthusiastic and well-prepared clients. We hold our partners to higher service standards than the rest and all in the spirit of sharing the best of our most favorite place on earth. We push them to be better and in turn they push us.
We are grateful to all of our partners on the ground in Africa that support our amazing clients.
Below is a list of highlights from my top 12 meetings while on my trip to Cape Town! Check it out:
Londolozi: Always on the cutting edge of providing not only the highest in luxury safari accommodation, but the coolest and latest services for their clients, Londolozi continues to be one of our favorite properties. Check out their new, full-service, on-site photography editing studio with full-time staff and the newest technology.
Image above of one of the many leopards found at Londolozi. Image taken from Londolozi website.
Victoria Falls Hotel: They are beyond excited to welcome our Give Movement Journey group for the 3rd time in March 2015 and will have newly renovated rooms and special upgrades and amenities ready for our group!
One to Watch: Anabezi Safari Lodge has just opened in April in Zambia in a very exclusive location along the Lower Zambezi River.
Eco Friendly: Bushtops Collection Camps is a opening zero footprint “roving camp” in January 2015 that will have access to the great migration six months out of the year in Tanzania!
Volcanoes Safari Lodges: They’re opening two new, beautiful bandas at their Virunga Lodge on June 20th. Their lodges are the best way to experience seeing the silverback mountain gorillas!
Kensington Place: Representing the small guesthouse accommodations in Cape Town, Kensington Place is a must-visit for honeymooners and couples exploring the city. I learned that it takes them three hours to clean every room! Why?! Because of their attention to detail. Your sheets are ironed every day for that crisp, clean, never-been-touched feel every time you come (as they call it) “home”.
The Hide: This Zimbabwe safari lodge, will be getting periodic updates over May, June, and July as they update the furniture and beddings in all their tents. Not to mention they now have two new hides with tunnel access and an underground wine cellar available for private, romantic dinners.
Image above of a bush bath from The Hide
Chiawa Camp & Old Mondoro: This camp has now equipped their safari vehicles with high-technology night vision equipment at Chiawa so you can get a good long look at that leopard in the tree.
Indigo Bay Resort Mozambique: This resort now offers even easier access post safari with weekly direct flights from Nelspruit to Vilanculos.
Tintswalo Safari Lodges and Tintswalo Atlantic: I had the pleasure of enjoying dinner with the owners of these exclusive camps. Tintswalo Safari Lodges will be adding five new suites.
Tintswalo Atlantic is right on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, almost colliding into it, away from the hubbub of Cape Town, yet still close enough to access it. It’s an oasis in the city.
Image above of one of the rooms at Tintswalo Atlantic
Off the beaten path: Wilderness Safaris is set to open it’s brand new camp at Hoanib Skeleton Coast in Namibia on August 1—a truly wild and unlike any other experience.
Great Plains Conservation’s Zeros for Rhinos: Great Plains Conservation is pioneering the movement to save rhino by transporting no less than 100 rhino from South Africa to safe havens in Botswana with their Zeros for Rhinos program.