From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. A summary of the ten steps between your idea and the sale.

In South Africa, we may have overplayed the notion that we are a country full of would-be entrepreneurs, all champing at the bit to build a thriving business. And whilst we are tempted to throw in a dig at the ministry of small business, that would be too easy, and obvious. What if we offered that there are simply not enough entrepreneurs with original ideas, and that from ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps is a giant leap in reality.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. The entrepreneur.

There is a vast amount of literature available on the web which is helpful in assisting you in determining just how much entrepreneur there is inside you, and yeah, we get how they all love to profile and box, and tell us how likely we are to succeed. Having said this, we have found two sources which are useful as a start point and they are; CNBC article Successful entrepreneurs are more likely to have these 2 crucial personality traits, and personality profiling on 16personalities.com.
But, there is probably no stopping you, and chances are, you are already far down the road of achieving your idea, and in true entrepreneur fashion you are doing everything yourself. Not all entrepreneurs are in it to sell it, but all should build it to sell it, it simply gives you the luxury of options.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller. And you are up and running.

We know from much experience that there is plenty of work before doors open, and everything is flying along beautifully. This euphoria is the drug that fuels entrepreneurs, and you have just started thinking that this is something you could do forever. If you are an accountant type, your systems are all functioning well, and you have a report for everything and anything at your fingertips. The peoples’ person is there to meet and greet and is revelling in frequent guest interactions, and that awesome feeling when feedback from your customers mentions you by name. During this honeymoon phase you find yourself everywhere, and your energy levels know no limit.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller. Slow progress.

Whilst we all tend to believe we can do everything, the short answer is you can’t. You do yourself no favours trying to be everywhere, and something has got to give, and generally it is the areas that you are not particularly partial to that give way for those in which you have natural interest.
There does not appear to be a pattern of anything, bookings come in fits and starts, staff are here today and gone tomorrow. Projecting revenue is like a game of darts. Mrs Jones is demanding a refund because she can no longer take up her booking. It is indeed two steps forward and one back.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller. The waiting game.

Patience, patience and yet more patience, this is what you keep telling yourself, and you would be right, and as hard as it is for an entrepreneur to be patient, time is critical for any new venture. This is time for your establishment to reach your market, time for your lodge or camp to learn what works and what doesn’t.
You may have noticed that we have not referred to your business as yet – and the answer is simply because you don’t have one, yet.

The honeymoon phase is nearing its end, and you may find yourself with questions you just can’t seem to get answers to, at least not answers that you understand or perhaps replenish your confidence levels, much like they were in the beginning.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller. The slippery slope of outsourcing.

It is often about now that we consider the merits of outsourcing the management of your establishment. Now there may well be exceptions and if there are, we don’t know of any and this is one quick way to reduce the fruit of your labour to a catalogue entry.
Having said this, there are certainly areas that are best left in the hands of experts, and to establish which areas not to outsource, ask one question, will this action bring me closer to my customer, move me further away, or have no effect. If the answer is ‘have no effect’, then look at it seriously. An obvious example of this would be in designing, developing and optimising your website, payroll etc.
In the area of sales and marketing, it is possible to achieve reasonable success with outsourcing, but only if you are a seasoned ecotourism practitioner, as this is often a bottomless pit in a rapidly evolving discipline. And remember that whilst they are doing a sales job on your market, they are also doing one on you.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller. The slide towards discounting.

It is inevitable that our impatience with occupancy growth will result in our desire to discount our rates, and truth be told, this does very little to improve occupancy, and is fraught with unintended negative consequences if not handled very carefully.
You will have no doubt have learnt just how difficult it is to determine what your rates should be, and this we will leave for another day.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. The first step toward building your business.

The moment you start asking yourself, what is my business worth? Is the time to step aside. That’s right remove yourself from your organogram, now ask yourself, do you have a business.
There are several business valuation matrixes, all of which are likely to attach a myriad of complicated data inputs, and then the small matter of parting with a bit of cash, hit the output button, and there you have it. What a load of nonsense, its easier and simpler than that; attach a value to your land and buildings, determine your operating profit, add a multiple to your profit, and you have the basis of a value.
Or, and far more realistic, your business is worth exactly what someone is prepared to pay for it.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. Building value.

You have the basis of a business valuation, and the ultimate accolade and recognition of your efforts is the moment a prospective buyer comes along. You know exactly how low you cannot go, but do you have any idea of how high you can go.
Your prospective buyer has imagined him or herself replacing you and no doubt has some great ideas on how to improve your bottom line, an arsenal of tactics which is a closely guarded secret.
Now, we have spoken about stepping aside, and now we really mean step aside. We have to repeat this because for an entrepreneur, it would be easier to pry a bone from the jaws of a pit bull.
Let’s use an analogy of an airline, your plane needs to fly with you sitting in the back row for now, not the cockpit. You can now also tell at a glance if your field guide is burnt out, just how much liquor is leaving the cellar and not getting to the bar etc.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. Building real value.

Continuing the analogy, this is the time when you disembark and allow the plane to carry on about its business without you. Don’t panic, you will still need to bring the plane home for it’s A, B, and C checks and you will need to guide decisions on which routes to operate etc.
You have now transforming your owner run establishment into a business. Sellable yes, but is this the right time? The process of stepping aside and replacing yourself with one or more people has improved the autonomy of the business, significantly expanding the number potential of buyers. Amongst them are the hospitality institutions.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. I’m not a seller.

Entrepreneurs often have the idea of selling in the dark recesses of their minds, and possibly already have another new idea quietly percolating. It is critical that thoughts of selling, remain just that.
It is inevitable that thoughts about selling lead to talks about selling, and the quickest way to demotivate your staff and service providers is to talk of selling, and don’t think for a moment that talks can be kept confidential.

From ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller in ten steps. You now have a business.

Whilst you have stuck to your knitting, going about your business, all the time tweaking and monitoring your guest experience and costs, you have been noticed. And everyone notices your successes, and thankfully very few see the scars of failures along the way.
It is when you least expect it that you are likely to be approached by a buyer. You now have a business.

For you it may not be a case of from ecotourism entrepreneur to business seller, but if you start with the end of time, a world of opportunities await you.

The corporate camp fire, fanning the flames of productivity.

Corporate Camp Fire, fanning the flames of productivity…

The Corporate Camp Fire, fanning the flames of productivity

The camp fire is as old as time, mother nature provided the ignition through a bolt of lightning, and those that weren’t destroyed in the scorched result, would seek warmth from it. Since those early times, fire was purely a producer of heat energy (joules) and its purposes were numerous. Camp fires drew people together, not because they necessarily felt like chatting, but because it offered protection. It did, however, avoid those awkward typo’s and innuendos, which lurk as we communicate on WhatsApp today.

Why do we find the camp fire so mesmerizing; a quick google search reveals everything from the bizarre to the ridiculous. Some explanations involved dispelling myths that staring into a fire slows the brain down, others venture quite practical reasons. These include; warmth, the ever-changing movement, and the quite brilliant colours which flash, alive just for a moment, only to disappear into thin air, pushed up and away by another flame.

It was the camp fire, which enabled much communication, both verbal and otherwise, provided the environment for; natural leaders to emerge, and early entrepreneurs to listen to the gripes of fellow clan members, and develop solutions for their frustrations. Nurtures would provide comfort to the distressed, whilst the brave would seek out fresh meat.

It all worked. And so a sense of tribal cohesion was fostered, something modern man has been trying to re-capture ever since. How we have complicated our lives, and now rely on clever corporate games (team building) to achieve what the camp fire did so long ago. Complicated personality profiling is used to identify a sales person from an admin person, a leader from a follower, the camp fire does all of that, and more.

One thing for sure however, is that fire draws us near, regardless of the ambient temperature. The camp fire calms the irritable, soothes the nervous, quietens the noisy, appeases the angry, and when we are all in that transient state, something quite magical seems to happen. We connect with our peers,  not always verbally, but there is a sharing which takes place, and one which we can all relate to, regardless of title. But perhaps it is not just the camp fire alone which achieves this, after all, one could mimic this effect in your backyard, but somehow it’s not the same. The camp fire ends a day which is completely different to most other company gatherings, when in a camp.

It is the real camp fire that can provide this unrivaled corporate result, one which can only really be created at a camp.

Consider the power of the camp fire when planning your next conference or meeting.

Baviaanskloof Accommodation

Baviaanskloof Accommodation

Baviaanskloof AccommodationBaviaanskloof accommodation is sparse and broad in its range of options, and is possibly sufficient to meet the demand for the most part. But, as this relatively unknown gem is gaining acclaim amongst adventure travellers from both within South Africa and abroad, new accommodation options are becoming available.

The Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve is the largest wilderness area in South Africa and spans an area of 500,000 hectares or 5000 km², and is part of World Heritage site known as the Cape Floral Kingdom. In fact, 7 of the 8 biomes which occur in South Africa, occur in the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. Baviaanskloof accommodation is largely restricted along the main route which runs west to east through the kloof. The rugged mountainous terrain has spared this vast wilderness area from development, owing largely to the logistics required to establish and operate accommodation other than in the kloof valley.

Tourism in the region is also seasonal, and this would probably be another reason why formal Baviaanskloof accommodation does not occur on a wider scale than it does. This is phenomenon is not unique to this area, and the entire country experiences significant seasonal peaks and troughs.

For the most part the kloof is accessible by normal sedan, it will however not be possible to traverse the entire route from east to west, or vice versa without a high clearance vehicle at least. Baviaanskloof accommodation is largely concentrated in the east and west, with a very modest camping options available in within the ECPTA managed section of the kloof. WARNING: think very carefully before deciding to set up camp at either of the two sites within the ECPTA managed section, rogue baboons are out of control, and will cause significant damage to your car, kit and equipment in search of something to eat. And one need not have anything edible concealed to tempt them to rip into tents and bags the moment you turn your back. The park authority suggests leaving your tents open to allow them to rummage through without destroying your kit and equipment in the process. In fact, a recent visit to one of these sites cost us in excess of R45,000 in damage.

Pop-Up Camps SA is excited at the prospect of operating a luxury tented camp within the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, adding some Baviaanskloof accommodation over the peak demand period from the 15th of December 2016 until the 15th of January 2017. The Baviaanskloof Tented Camp will accommodate a maximum of 20 guests in safari tents, each will accommodate two guests in ¾ beds between crisp linen. The tents include an attached chemical flush toilet and warm water shower. This unpretentious adventure camp will provide tasty home-styled fare, in a variety of locations as the weather permits. Rates are fully inclusive of dinner, bed, brunch, tea, and dinner, with the option of a picnic lunch for those wishing to spend the day exploring the kloof, either on foot or along one of the 4×4 trails.

The camp can be reached from either the west or the east and is;

  • 207km from Knysna, and
  • 184km from Port Elizabeth.

The recommended route is via Uniondale as this will save the lengthy journey through the most rugged parts of the kloof, and from Uniondale, the camp can be reached with a normal sedan.

The Best Family Adventure in South Africa

experiential travel

The best family adventure in South Africa

The best family adventure in South Africa would be quite a claim, and one would need to be able to defend such a claim, and highlight why it is just that.

I’m sure going to give it a try and am always more than happy to be brought straight back down to earth. And before we get into the details, lets establish a reference point; and head along to wikepedia for a definition;

 An adventure is an exciting or unusual experience. It may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome. Adventures may be activities with some potential for physical danger such as exploring, skydiving, mountain climbing, river rafting or participating in extreme sports…

I think in order to be the best adventure holiday in South Africa it would need to include;

  1. A wilderness area, far from crowds, lights and noise.
  2. Somewhere where there is no internet connection.
  3. A geographically diverse environment.
  4. Water, and lots of it, they type you can swim in.
  5. Wildlife.
  6. Activities, they type that get the adrenalin flowing a bit.
  7. Loads of fun for the whole family.
  8. Somewhere safe and clean to put your heads down for the night.
  9. Somewhere close to a major access point.

Having discovered the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, and after establishing a luxury mobile tented camp, set up for just a short time, it seemed to tick all the boxes;

  1. The largest wilderness area in the South Africa.
  2. No internet connection.
  3. 7 of South Africa’s 8 biomes occur here; Fynbos, Forest, Grassland, Succulent Karoo, Nama-Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Savanna.
  4. The crystal clear and very clean Groot Rivier runs through the heart of the kloof.
  5. 50 mammal, and over 300 bird species, and 18 plant species found nowhere else in the world.
  6. Swimming, game drives, hikes, kayaking, cycling, and just sitting in rock pools.
  7. Take away the internet, get the family active, and it is amazing how much fun is had by all.
  8. Hearty meals, hot showers, comfortable beds, what else could one want after long days in the sun.
  9. Just 90 minutes from Port Elizabeth and adjacent to the garden route, puts this adventure very close to a well-worn tourist highway.

I think we are fairly close to this being the best family adventure in South Africa.

The best family adventure in South Africa

 

 

Adventure Travel

adventure travel

Adventure Travel

In the past year my attention has been caught by the number of articles dedicated to adventure travel, and the rapid growth of this travel segment. I must concede, this may well be a case of ‘seeing what I want to see’, given that I am obsessed with adventure travel and exploring, and even more so when this obsession is shared with family and friends. Occasionally I come across a post which resonates with me, both professionally and personally, and none more so than a post which appeared on the Adventure Collection website and specifically an article written by Wendy Worral Redal.
Wendy discusses 5 trends shaping the future of adventure travel, and whilst they are all equally interesting, I found 3 of them which would apply specifically to South Africa;
Green is great, and ecotourism is growing. Grandparents, parents, and kids traveling together. Keeping it authentic, no ‘disneyfication’.

Wendy goes on to explain that her sources, including the World Tourism Organization, support her assertions that adventure travel grew 65% year on year from 2009 to 2013. This market is expected to grow from 1 billion travelers to 2 billion travelers in the next 15 years. The WTO predicts that 1,6 billion Eco-inspired trips will be taken between now and 2020. Travelers are seeking out experiences which are authentic, sustainable, responsible and beneficial, and failure to uphold these guiding principles will be ignored by this growing market.

It is often grandparents who are driving family adventure travel, often including 3 generations, with African safaris being a popular multi-generational option. Research is showing that there is a tendency towards authentic experiences away from the traditional ‘check list of hot spots’ approach. Travelers prefer to be guided by, or at least in the company of, someone who is native to the area, supporting their desire to explore nature, culture, and history. Feel free to read the whole article here.

Adventure Travel in South Africa

In my opinion adventure travel to South Africa is expanding at a rapid rate, and whilst this may not be the only reason inspiring visits to our country, it is certainly receiving an increasing share of holiday itineraries. Initially experiences are sought out which represent as little deviation as possible from the routes connecting hot spot to hot spot. As the profiles of these adventure experiences grow, travelers are likely to deviate further and further from the well-worn tourism highway.

Pioneering adventure travelers inevitably cut a trail for discerning travelers, and along with them, the opportunity to establish premium hospitality and activity solutions.
It is in my opinion that we are on the cusp of seeing the introduction of authentic, responsible, sustainable, and beneficial tourism products aimed at discerning travelers.

There is an interesting article Tourism Update, and well worth a read on this emerging travel trend, and variations of it.

You may also like to visit Adventure Travel Trade Association.

Is your brand evolving?

As can be expected, our views are relevant to the ecotourism sector in which we work.

For people who do not wish to read the entire post, we will summarize here;

The evolution of a brand is important to ensure that your identity remains relevant in terms of its design and message, and informs your audience that your product is evolving.

In our experience the topic of changing a logo is met with a wide berth, akin, if you like, to someone expecting you to change your surname. This attitude is understandable given the highly personalised nature of ecotourism products, as we have often alluded to in Wilderness Explorer’s posts and pages.

Now at first glance, surely this is a simple process; “business owner, you need to look at your logo as a marketing tool, not a member of your family. Take a step back, and encourage your brand to evolve”.

It seems that evolving ones brand is not the real issue here, in fact the real issue is that in many ecotourism businesses, the concept, design, and management, is generally the product of an individual, and those very close to him or her. And any changes to any aspect of their business is perhaps viewed as undermining their work. Sadly it is often when a business is in distress, that owners become flexible in making changes to their business. Ecotourism businesses are no different to any other business, and if Coca Cola, Toyota, Microsoft, and many, many others, regard brand evolution as an important business process, there is no reason why we should not.

Let’s take a look at what brand evolution enables;

1. Signals to your market that your business is vibrant and improving.
2. Provides you with a reason to communicate with your market.
3. Prompts your market to explore what other changes may have taken place.
4. A market exploring your brand is the first step to your market engaging with you.

Now let’s take a look at what a stagnant brand creates;

  1. Complacency in your market, an idea that nothing has changed, and therefore no need to waste any time taking another look at your business.
  2. When the look and feel of your brand has not changed in many years, your communication loses rank priority in the minds of your audience.
  3. When the look and feel of your brand has not changed in many years, your communication loses rank priority in the minds of your audience.
  4. Any reasons why your audience is not supporting you as much as they could are re-enforced.

In summary, it is critical that business owners detach themselves from their businesses from time to time, and just long enough for basic marketing principles to take root. Having said this, never lose sight of the importance of your passion, simply strive to find the balance. Is your brand evolving?

Below are two examples of an evolving brand.

Ecotourism brand evolution
ecotorism evolving logo
game lodge logos evolving
Brand evolution

Burnt Out Field Guide

Burnt Out Field Guide

Burnt Out Field Guide

Are you with a burnt out field guide? Ever wondered about just how much energy your guide is putting into your safari. Reading this, you may be an agent who has received an experience that is about as good as it’s gonna get. Your arrival at a private game lodge has been preceded by many inter office memo’s and yes even the chap in maintenance knows about you. And, in all probability, you have been allocated the best room, chef has enquired into your culinary preferences, housekeeping has prepared a range of pillows, and the obligatory welcome letter (hand written) is placed in your room. You have also been allocated the best field guide, or have you.
Ever stopped to wonder how the best field guide is selected, and wondered what makes the best field guide.
Your clients, our guests, have spent an enormous amount of hard earned money to venture to the tip of Africa, enticed by an endless list of superlatives, vivid images, and promises of life changing experiences. And we have a duty to deliver on our marketing message.
Let’s wind back a bit, and consider for a moment what makes a good field guide, and against what yardsticks we measure this. At what point has a field guide past his or her sell by date, what is the optimal life span of a field guide. I guess the short answer is, we can’t measure this in months or years, but only in behaviour and conduct.
We have an entire industry dedicated to the registering, training, and qualifying of field guides against a rather simple matrix, for example; to attain level 1 guide they must know 20 trees, 30 birds, 50 mammals etc. the guides must have logged x number of hours. And so it goes on. A good system designed to regulate and standardize the field guiding profession. But, a system which is churning out technically qualified candidates who are frankly not suited to field guiding – this is a people business.
What inspires the young aspirant field guide to consider this vocation?
In my experience, having asked this question several hundred times, a fairly predictable answer is offered; I love the bush and have a passion for conservation and wildlife. The first alarm bell goes off in my head.
I cannot recall ever hearing; ‘I love people, and want to interact with people all the time, and I’d love the opportunity to combine this with another one of my interests which is wildlife, conservation etc. If I had heard this response, I would have replied by saying; “thanks for your time and when can you start?” And if he or she through the word photography in, I would help them move.
I think you get where this is going; now let’s try and broadly identify some stereotypical behavioural patterns (my opinion of course) and work out what you could be insisting on for a field guide for your guests. At this point let me point out that there are very many field guides out there, who have an uncanny knack for delivering a superb experience almost all the time, and to those men and women, I salute you.
Your clients hard earned money comes down to this; this is what sets us apart from a hotel, this is what should set us apart from our competitors (sadly it is more often than not our price, food, and rooms that do). Your clients are on the back of a game viewer and ready to head out on safari, the value of their hard earned money (along with your professional reputation) is about to be defined.

And before we do, let’s take a look at the life cycle of a typical field guide, and for this exercise our guide is Tom. And naturally we assume he has overcome all the administrative hurdles to receiving his stripes or, should I say, stripe.

Burnt Out Field Guide – Stage 1

We have our crisply pressed, energized, and excited field guide, at this point his value to our organization is already close to its peak.
The pressure to deliver on the brochure promise is high, Tom validates his own performance on the number and frequency of big 5 sightings he can deliver. There is no place for Mother Nature here, Tom simply HAS to get his guests to the front row, as it were. He is absorbed by the radio chatter, eagerly awaiting confirmation of a sighting, any sighting will do, upon which he will respond with single minded determination. Tom’s white knuckled grip on the microphone, and interrogative chatter is a clear sign of his nervous energy and his focus is on reaching the sighting without delay, even if it means flying past a heard of zebra and, all the other lesser species (look out for the white knuckles of his tracker as he holds on). Tom arrives at the sighting, and the excited response from his guests begins to ease his insecurities. Tom imparts everything he knows about this pride of lions, almost without taking a breath, and then answers the questions with complete theoretical authority.
All the while his attention remains on the radio, poised, waiting for a sign of another sighting. At this stage even talk around a potential sighting is good enough to get Tom on the move again, and with a bit of luck he could arrive at the time when the animal is spotted, and yes he will be ready and waiting. And so the game drive continues along this course; often the customary sundowner stop will be sacrificed in pursuit of the big 5.
Tom’s arrival back in the car park is announced by the chattering of excited guests, wow what an experience! The collective chorus repeats itself long after the boma dinner drum calls. Tom feels great, he has delivered an awesome game drive, and hasn’t yet worked out that the guests are with him for another 3 or possibly 5 game drives. But with 3,4, or even all of the big 5 under his belt, he is going to just enjoy the moment.
Who knows what the morning drive will deliver, one thing for sure though, it is not likely to deliver the same guest response as last night did. And Tom will be searching even harder for validation, even more absorbed in the radio chatter, not participating, just listening. Tom’s guests have also worked out that their chances of sightings all depend upon the microphone (still enveloped in his left hand). “So, it was quiet this morning” says a guest upon their return – a little jab in Tom’s ribs.
The following afternoon, expectations are high, and Tom will return to the same sighting again if necessary, perhaps in an effort to recreate the first experience, and with a bit of luck the animal will be doing something different, or even doing anything would be good. And he will bide his time here until the radio crackles into life again, offering an anticipated life line. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, and Tom better learn quickly that a large part of his success will always lie in the hands of Mother Nature, or just a good dose of luck.
After all is said and done, Tom’s guests are happy, they’ve seen about as much as they were going to see, and Tom made every effort to make it happen, and he is rewarded with the golden handshake.

Burnt Out Field Guide – Stage 2

Tom is high on confidence, somewhat authoritative in demeanour, and just enjoying what he is doing; he goes about his business with careful precision, planning his safari, engaging with his guests, appraising them of what is going on, including them in the decisions he makes about what, when and where. He is part of a ranger tracker team and relies largely on their skills to find interesting sightings, he builds the experience and fills the gaps with interesting anecdotes about the dung beetle and buffalo thorn tree. Tom plans his sundowner stop carefully, normally at a secluded spot with an awesome view. His guests are getting the real deal; the game drives are building toward the complete safari. Tom has connected with his guests and they are completely captivated by his command of all they see. His guests depart, rewarding him handsomely for his efforts; and the organization with great social media praise.
Stage 3 Tom is now a highly experienced and senior field guide who has possibly advanced in his qualifications, through a second or even third stripe, and has adopted a rather routine approach to his game drives, a little bit like auto pilot, and the onus lies largely with his guests to extract information from him, a bit like a dentist and a stubborn tooth. Tom now spends a great deal of time chatting, but not with his guests, chatting with his tracker about anything; the irritation of the new guide rushing from big 5 sighting to big 5 sighting, life at home etc. And then a bit of radio banter with other senior guides to busy the airwaves.
Tom bids farewell to his guests anticipating the golden handshake, and looking over their shoulders at the next group of guests arriving, already slightly irritated at the dumb questions that are about dominate his next game drive. Already becoming red faced at the thought of the repetitive taps on his shoulder with commands to “stop! stop!” for the rock, which hundreds of guests before them have mistaken for a rhino.

Burnt Out Field Guide – Stage 3

The odd guest complaint starts to trickle in, and one is obliged to respond to this, and so we do what we always do, and that is to ask Tom. Why we ask Tom is a mystery to me, we could save ourselves the time, we already know the answer; “yes they were really difficult guests”. Now that was helpful, and exactly what are we going to do with that response.
Around about now Tom is not so happy with his salary, nor is he happy about the size of his room, and that new ranger is really irritating him, and housekeeping has misplaced every left sock. And he has been driving for 6 consecutive days, and needs a break. Tom is burnt out.
One quick way to confirm this is to ask; Tom do you think you are burnt out? And if the answer is an emphatic “NO, I still love the bush” you have your answer, and it is an equally emphatic YES.
What does Tom do now, probably considers going to another lodge, thinking that will reset his clock, so to speak. (I have often said we are all born with a certain number of game drives in us, and when they’re up, they’re up). But changing the stage doesn’t change the cast and only buys a few more game drive credits, this vocation is not about the stage, it’s about the cast and, they don’t change, they remain the very essence of our business.

Your clients deserve the best field guide, not this time, every time. We must develop the tools to ensure that our guests are getting the best field guide, and I don’t think we are there yet. It is much easier to check on the kitchen and, the chap in maintenance, than it is to appraise the work of a field guide. This is our challenge, and yours is to put pressure on us to do so.

So next time you are promised the best guide, simply ask what makes him or her the best field guide, and ask yourself are you with a burnt out field guide.

Incentive Options

incentive options

Incentive Options

Can we only sell at R14 to the whatever?

Eco Tourism Incentive options! Swear word to some, opportunity to others.
Call me cynical, and you could be right, it could be as result of many years of excavating the dark recesses of my mind in search of the file titled ‘REALLY EXCITING INCENTIVE OPTIONS’. It could also be my own boredom at the list of incentive options, which had become a bit like Magda in the movie, There’s something about Mary.
Now lets add to the stress of re-inventing the tried and tested (or known and done) by introducing agents to the mix, who maybe equally cynical, their desks cluttered with duplicates of the same list of incentive options (each with a different logo). These folk will certainly expose the soft under belly of our list of options, and who can blame them.
Our anxiety levels grow, we find ourselves challenging establishment managers to create something different for us to sell, only to be exposed ourselves, when changing hats. And donning our lodge director hats, and attempting to provide some direction for an equally frustrated general manager. Understandable frustrations? How many variations can there be to get a cow from the field and into your mouth. And then my personal favourite is the list of dinner venue options; boma dinner, dining room dinner, pool deck dinner, bush dinner, garden dinner, dinner on the airstrip, dinner in the cellar, dinner in the car park. We can only imagine how the conversations go; what do they think this is, Disney World; perhaps someone needs to remind them that this is a game lodge, not a function venue. And perhaps therein lies the conundrum, are we trying to be all things to all people – its amazing how quickly we can produce a list of honeymoon options as well.
In pursuit of the holy grail of ‘wow incentive options’ our agents trawl through lists of establishments, spurred on by that ominous yet expected, client brief:
“We’ve done everything, been everywhere, and so this year you have got to be really creative” Yeah right, like we have been messing with you for the past 10 years, and we were waiting until now to reveal our trump card… and wait for it, “and this year we have a very tight budget” And our agents think, yip and how is that different from any other year.

We feel your pressure and frustration, and so does the chap in maintenance, who can’t understand why it’s suddenly his problem we can’t come up with something different for a change.
I think the real problem is that perhaps there is an expectation that these options should be included in our nett rate (which is perpetually under threat). Speaking of which, each year we confidently reveal our new rates, and then wait for the litany of objections from our suppliers, and our response is generally well thought through, and goes something like this; well if you consider that the Rand has depreciated by 12% against the whatever, we have become 2% cheaper than we were last year, and this is really a fact. Thankfully the ever faithful Rand has yet to disappoint. Is our cynical mind-set sensitized to prefixes like ‘value-adds’? But that is a whole new story for another day.

The time may be right to think out the box for a moment, the rand is soft, climate good, entertainment provided by government, and undiscovered destinations, like the Eastern Cape for example. SA is the real deal when it comes to incentive options, perhaps a little more focus on product and little less on all the other problems will do the trick, or are we just a one trick pony, and can only sell at R14 to the whatever?

The Greatest Shoal on Earth

pop-up camps

The Sardine Run

The onset of winter in South Africa causes the cold Atlantic water to push up along the coastline made possible by the southbound warm benguela current losing some of its thrust towards the cape. And it is this cool water channel that nudges the warmer water further offshore and beyond the continental shelf, which will ultimately entice the greatest shoal on earth to make its way toward, what for many will be, a dead end.

During the summer month’s sardines live in deeper cooler water off the coastline, and in smaller shoals, making life more difficult for gannets, dolphins, sharks, whales and number of other predatory fish, which must cover vast distances in search of one of their favourite staples. It is believed that sardines will not move into water above 21 degrees celcius, and not a great deal is understood as to why they gather in the cape in huge numbers, a single shoal can easily number between 500 million and 1 billion individuals, and move in pulses northward along the Eastern Cape coast line.

It is believed that just under half the sardines will return to the cape in spring, and will do so in the cooler water further offshore, as the warm current pushes the cold Atlantic water south again. And at depths which make it nearly impossible to witness.

As we know, nothing in nature happens just by chance and every event has a benefit for something at some time, even if it is at the cost of something else. It is nature’s ability to maintain the balance and ensure the continuance that leaves conservationists and admirers in awe. Some of the beneficiaries of the run are gannets and dolphins, both of which require this abundance of food for their young. In the case of the gannet, the largest population, which number in excess of 200,000 birds live on Bird Island along the Eastern Cape coastline, and 3 months after birth, with enough fat reserves to last 10 days, must learn to fly and fish for themselves. Dolphin calves having suckled for 6 months must also now learn how to hunt for themselves, and unlike the gannets, they will enjoy some coaching from the adults in their pod.

Whilst the reasons for the run may be poorly understood, the result is clearly evident and extremely impressive and causes the greatest concentration of predators on the planet. A shoal or pulse can measure 7km long 3km wide and 30m deep, and in pursuit, dolphins numbering in excess of 20,000 and many thousand sharks, amongst others, feed on the sardines. The aerial assault from the gannets is made possible by the dolphins who work together to isolate splinter shoals, called bait balls, which they heard to the surface before feeding.

Pop-Up Camps SA has secured a magnificent site along the wild coast during the sardine run to provide accommodation for visitors wishing to witness this natural miracle.

Feel free to head on to the Pop-Up Camps page.