TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based Africa Safari Planner, a platform for travelers to search, plan and reserve multi-day safari trips.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
The Africa Safari Planner (ASP) is a new, custom safari planning tool designed to change the way people approach travel planning to Africa.
Traditionally, safaris are created and packaged by agents or tour companies, allowing the traveller extremely limited choice in their routes and accommodation options.
The ASP provides travellers an interactive opportunity to choose-their-own-adventure, with heaps of detailed information on destinations, camps, wildlife, parks, and conservation initiatives.
We’re fairly certain that no such tool exists for any destination, and we believe that this more participatory and interactive model will push the practice of travel planning into a new realm.
The Africa Safari Planner was built by nature travel company, Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA).
We’ve been running African safaris for nearly 25 years, and we thought it was time that we changed the status quo. NHA is directed by entrepreneur, Ben Bressler, who has started and/or directed a number of small adventure travel companies.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Natural Habitat Adventures foot the bill for developing the Africa Safari Planner. While the ASP and our traditional trips may seem contradictory to each other, we’ve long attempted to broaden our custom travel product.
The ASP is our most recent effort in capturing this large component of the travel industry.
What problem are you trying to solve?
There is a severe lack of useful travel planning tools for independent travellers, particularly for Africa.
Sure, information can be found across dozens of websites and heaps of blogs, but no where can you learn, plan, share, and book travel in an interesting, fun, and interactive environment.
Describe the business, core products and services?
Our business is simple – get people excited about travel to Africa, plan your trip on the ASP, share it with your friends, and call us to finalize the details and purchase.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
People who prefer to do the majority of their travel planning independently, and who are also interested in a high quality product.
Our safari experiences are not for budget travellers, rather they appeal to travellers interested in off-the-beaten-path adventures that result in up-close encounters with the famed wildlife of Africa in a comfortable and classy setting.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
The idea was born out of an increase in customer requests for custom safaris, and while we didn’t ask them for their input along the way, it was our audience that pushed us to develop the product in the first place.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
The business model is to sell custom designed safaris AND our group trips. We purposefully did not allow for online booking on the ASP – it’s important that we get to know our customers and their needs through a personal conversation.
Custom safaris are more expensive for us to operate than our scheduled departures, so our strategy for profitability surrounds the ASP’s ability to get a broader audience excited about travel to Africa.
The tool is largely designed to expand our audience reach to new potential customers who may book a custom trip, or who may decide a group trip is more to their liking.
If nothing else, the ASP is a marketing tool to help us increase the interest in and travel to Africa.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- No comparable travel planning tools available on the marketplace, regardless of destination
- Depth of content
- Share-ability – ASP is designed to engage not only you, but your friends and family
- Certain choice constraints – cannot add additional days at a certain location
- Only covers Africa, not our entire catalogue of destinations
- Could use an “auto-complete” option as the planning process can take a while
- Expand the concept beyond Africa, or expand within other African countries
- Include multi-media coverage (360 views, videos) of camps and wildlife
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- The Africa travel market is very competitive, with many companies selling the same product. Differentiation is a challenge.
- Political, social instability in Africa is common, and tourism to this region is heavily reliant on peaceful relations. Should problems arise, it could damage our ability to sell travel in these locations
Customers and partners always thought the site was a great idea, but we were told we were crazy to try to amalgamate the quantity of quality information we needed to make this site a success.
The value of the ASP is the depth of detail on the destinations, camps, routes, countries, animals, etc, and pulling it all together from our partners in Africa and customizing it for our needs took us nearly a full year.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
A significant increase in our sales volume of custom and schedule safaris to Africa, generated primarily from using the Africa Safari Planner.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.