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by Helen C. Broadus


Today's global travelers are better informed than ever before, whether traveling for business or leisure, they want the best possible service at the best possible price. When it comes to Africa, they also want to be reassured that they can travel to the Continent with the best possible safety and security measures in place. As a result of this added concern, they will undoubtedly turn to you, the trusted travel professional, to help them make the right choice for all of the right reasons. Consequently, in order to successfully market Africa to your clients, a travel professional or tour operator must be able to interpret, analyze and present news, trends, destinations and much more relevant information in a way that will not only satisfy the client's concerns about safety and security but ultimately convince them to buy the package from you!

Contrary to popular belief, the travel and tourism business to Africa has not been setback significantly by the recent political, humanitarian and environmental crises on the Continent, according to several U.S.-based travel agencies and wholesalers specializing in African tours. They credit keeping this market viable if not flourishing in a large degree to the level of sophistication of their clientele coupled with a renewed interest in visiting Africa. However, many travel professionals and tour operators have had to modify their travel and tourism itineraries to avoid certain "hot spots" on the Continent and media reports continue to come out of Africa and Europe indicating a serious decline in tourism visits to Africa.

This disturbing trend has occurred because of intense, negative-focused coverage in the media, for the most part as well as a lack of marketing savvy from the travel and tourism industry to put forward positive messages to counteract the overwhelming amount of negative messages. In my opinion, the travel and tourism industry must work together with the media to showcase the natural, cultural and historical tourism attractions of Africa rather than devote precious time to reacting to negative images about Africa. Perhaps, we need to enlist the expertise of a lobbying consultant in order to redefine our products and services much like what other travel and tourism industry groups have done in other regions which have proven to be successful. More importantly, travel and tourism professionals alike should become more educated about geography and current events in Africa. These factors when combined will enable travelers to Africa to trust their travel professional's recommendations, especially if we are perceived to have their best interest at heart.

Travel professionals who specialize in Africa will also find that their knowledge of the promoted destinations pays off in terms of building client confidence in their choice of a tour. When a travel professional can speak to his/her client with authority based on experience and expertise (due in a large part to actually visiting the African venues) the client will be more inclined to trust their judgment and recommendations. Likewise, when a travel professional has firmly established relationships with many African-based tour operators, the client will have their confidence reinforced. It should also be noted that the vast majority of popular venues in Africa are located far from areas where it would be deemed inappropriate or unsafe to send the client. What this basically means is that the tourist circuit is mainly unaffected and people should be encouraged to travel to Africa.

As a precaution, travel professionals should never send their clients anywhere that poses a real threat to their health, safety and peace of mind. Careful research and proven due diligence on the part of the travel professional should be the foundation of advising against travel to any destination in the world and not just to Africa! Another option should be to recommend modifications to the proposed travel and tourism itineraries &endash; by offering alternative destinations if the situation warrants. Travel professionals and tour operators can also consider waiving all penalties and/or maintaining this year's rates for its clients who choose to rebook for next year.

While all of the above strategies and suggestions will not guarantee one hundred percent satisfaction with your clients who are interested in traveling to Africa, it will demonstrate to them your commitment and awareness of the necessity to combine that adventure of a lifetime with appropriate safety and security safeguards. Africa in general is poised for a breakthrough and continues to offer great opportunities for growth in the travel and tourism industry. The infrastructure is being improved upon and the people are more tourism-oriented. In closing, if you adequately prepare yourself and your client for a safe and secure journey to Africa they will be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation with all of the excitement and adventure that they desire.

Helen C. Broadus is the President and co-owner of Venue International Professionals, Inc. (VIP) a full service travel and tourism consulting firm based in the Washington Metropolitan Area. To learn more about how to successfully market tourism destinations to the Continent of Africa to your clients please call 1-877-TO-VENUE or send an e-mail to vipinc@erols.com.