Planning a safari tour in Africa? For many travelers, it is a once in a lifetime experience as you’ll get to explore glorious landscapes, witness marvelous wildlife at close range, and enjoy the customs and cultures of another country. The first thing to keep in mind, however, is that there’s always a lot of planning involved on such trips, so the ultimate question usually is: Whom are you going to work with to ensure a seamless and cost-effective travel experience?
The most common options revolve around tour operators, travel agents, and destination management companies (DMCs). At times, there can be some confusion about the difference between these service providers and what roles they play in organizing your trip. This articles breaks each one down and provides helpful insight so you can make an informed decision for your African safari travels.
A tour operator is a professional company that is responsible for the outcome of your trip. They will take care of contracting, booking, and packaging the various components of your tour such as your accommodation, local transportation, specific tours, meals, guides, and sometimes even flight arrangements.
Niche tour operators tend to specialize in specific destinations, so the country you intend to visit in Africa will often decide the kind of tour operators that you can work with. These companies usually make their profit by negotiating net rates with suppliers and then adding their own margins to the travel package offered on a percentage or per passenger basis.
Local expertise – Tour operators have a great deal of information and knowledge about your destination, so they can provide you with helpful tips like weather conditions or the best way to get from one location to the next or what safari destinations to include in your itinerary. This essentially takes the worry out of your travel planning.
Upfront costs – Working with a tour operator means there are hardly any unexpected expenses that may creep up on you during your safari tour. This is because all charges and fees are included in the price of your tour package so you already know how much the trip will cost upfront.
Travel Agents are private retailers that provide travel related services on behalf of suppliers such as hotels, international flights, car rentals, and even travel packages from tour operators. They focus on the needs of their clients by putting together a package that best meets those needs. So for instance, if you’re looking to experience the Great Migration during the off-peak season, it is the duty of the travel agent to find what tour operators offer such a package and arrange it as part of your safari itinerary.
In essence, travel agents do not design or create the travel packages they sell, and they do not act as a principal either — a holiday package holiday is not purchased from the tour operator unless the client actually requests it. They make their commission by making the purchase from the suppliers at a discounted price and then selling the tour at a higher price.
Organized trip – You don’t have to besiege embassies and wait in long queues, as well as worry about buying tickets, booking hotels, and local transfers.
Great value deals and perks – You’ll have a choice of excursions that best suit your preferences and some travel agents can even enhance your trip with perks and surprises, thanks to their relationships with suppliers.
Relatively more expensive – Hiring a travel agent for your safari tour is not always cheap since you are essentially paying for their consultation hours, efforts, and knowledge. There really isn’t a set fee structure so you might end up exceeding your budget.
Language Barriers – This is an important factor since language. For instance, a Chinese national who isn’t fluent in English or doesn’t speak it at all will definitely want a Travel Agency in China to handle preps for him or her.
Destination Management Company (DMC)
A DMC is a professional third-party organization that coordinates events within an area using their technical expertise and local experience. These companies have made themselves indispensable in the tourism industry by accumulating in-depth knowledge of and contacts within their service area. This means they are the go-to experts when it comes to transport options, accommodation, tour operators, public permit requirements, best restaurants, and how each element applies to each client’s needs.
Think of them as a combination of the best of both tour operators and travel agents. They represent the goals and objectives you want to achieve from your safari trip and will work to ensure they are delivered as expected. In fact, DMCs and tour Operators often work closely to organize a hassle-free, memorable experience for travelers.
Flexible personalized services – Whether you’re looking forward to seeing a specific place or work with a particular itinerary in mind, a DMC is flexible enough to accommodate them. You can easily customize your trip and throw in some special requests to make your travel experience even more special.
Value for money – DMCs are intrinsically adaptable and create solutions to challenges posed by unique client financial situations. So whether you come with a loose wallet or on a shoestring budget, they can arrange appropriate tours without necessarily compromising the kind of adventure that you seek. They are also able to operate at lower costs thanks to their continued collaboration with the best local suppliers. The end result is usually a feeling of getting every cent’s worth from your safari tour.
Special events – DMCs are a one-stop shop for organizing weddings, honeymoons, private parties, and corporate events across Africa. They’ll handle every detail – depending on the scope of the event, and deliver a range of services so fellow your attendees can enjoy a first-rate experience. Most DMCs have their own facilities, such as their own fleet of vehicles and professional guides, so logistics concerns like missing a bus or getting late to your next destination are no issue.
There you have it! Each option has its unique features and benefits; tour operators offer complete responsibility for the outcome of your safari trip, travel agents put together packages that best meet your specific travel needs, and DMCs are more or less a combination of the two. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
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