Recently, I remarked with some consternation: “35% increase, you must be joking!” Never before had the industry seen such a horrific increase in the cost of staying at safari lodges in one year, especially as it seemed to be across that particular country’s entire industry.
The actual increase was compounded not only by the usual ‘inflation’ increase but also that old industry favourite of converting from local currency to charge in US dollars, which at that time was considerably stronger than it is today.
The inevitable question was being asked. Is this country pricing itself out of the market? Is travel within the country reasonable value? Certainly the answers seemed negative but the truth is that the industry within that country is small, well managed, and offers the particularly “well-heeled” traveler an opportunity to escape the so-called “package tour” crowds. That in itself is of great value to some.
Africa is as diverse and as interesting as any other continent. Its value lies perhaps not in the price tags of some of the travel arrangements in some of the countries, but in the wealth of experiences it offers, even to the most ardent “Mediterranean beach bum”.
“Safari” – gone are the days when this hijacked phrase was used solely to describe a visit to the wilds to view the continent’s most famous resource, its weird and wonderful wildlife. The term these days is used more widely to describe any travel to the “Dark” (or as I prefer to call it, “awakening”) continent. The travel industry has, to my mind, been a little too liberal in taking the phrase and using it for the purpose of selling an exotic dream.
In this modern era, traveling abroad is as easy as going to the supermarket. It offers the traveler a real chance to experience different cultures, learn about new things, fulfill exotic dreams.
We all have our own view of “value”, and travel in Africa is as diverse. We all know that the continent is sometimes perceived as becoming expensive, over-crowded and poor value, but there is a product out there which will suit everyone.
The skill simply lies in finding it. You, the traveler, have become more sophisticated in the last decade or so and should easily be able to sort out which product is for you. For those who seek to “back-pack” and sleep under the stars, to those looking for the most luxurious hotels; for those who perceive that gaining knowledge is preferable to gaining a sun tan, Africa offers every traveler the chance to enact that dream. Once you have been to Africa, with its complexity, serenity, beauty and savagery, you will want to return again and again.
Is “value” to be determined simply by the actual monetary cost, or by the way it fulfills your soul?
Bill Adams is managing director of Safari Consultants Ltd, which has been in business since 1983.
This article was first published in Travel Africa edition one, September 1997.