Tired of staring out the window? Book your 2022 African Safari Now

African Safari blog


News & Events

It has been a while since I last gave an update of how we are faring with the Covid 19 pandemic. It has been a most stressful, complicated and soul destroying thing that has occured since the inception of Destinations Africa 14 years ago.

We had grown in to a wonderful organisation with amazing staff, dedicated suppliers in Africa, truly close and supportive relationships with our many lodges and activity specialists and a very experienced and expert destination management company for all countries in which we operated. Our clients mostly became friends and we had a large percentage of repeat safari goers. We loved working with all the above people and focused on giving our clients experiences that would not be easily forgotten. The feedback received from you indicated very clearly that we had succeeded well beyond our expectations.

Then came the hammer blow!! Covid hit us and Australia closed its borders. International travel was wiped out in a single, catastrophic moment that destroyed all that we had worked for. My staff, and I have put our every effort into the business to give our clients all that they could wish for. We succeeded until Covid stopped us in our tracks.

We have had no income, other than small Government support in the shape of Job Keeper for a while (now no longer). This helped us keep going, although we had to lay off most of our extremely valuable and highly experienced staff in whom we had invested a considerable amount of time and money into training, educational trips and support over many years. These people cannot be replaced and they have had to move on with their lives and are now lost to us. Cathy Odgers is still with us albeit on a much reduced number of hours per week and is doing an amazing job. We count our blessings every day. She has moved all 2020 bookings to 2021 and then all those to 2022 and now she has to move them again because it appears that even 2022 will pose travel problems in the first half of the year at least. All work that required a huge amount of replanning, rebooking, negotiation and communication with Africa has been done for our clients at no cost to them. It has cost us a lot in terms of expense, salary, overheads and much more. We have haemorrhaged money for 18 months now and it has taken a massive toll on any reserve capital that we have.

How long can we or any other business keep going with no income? Obviously, there will come a time when it becomes unsustainable unless the Government gives us a clear roadway to opening up borders again. All we ask is for a definite pathway so that we can plan ahead. Covid is here to stay – it will never be totally eradicated – so we have to learn to manage and live with it without destroying ourselves in the process.

We have suggested the following scenario to enable Australians to travel again:

• Once fully vaccinated – ability to book flights and travel.
• Before flying, the passenger has to have a Covid negative test within 72 hours of departure.
• Masks to be worn on all flights
• On arrival in (say Joburg) you are temperature tested and then can proceed to your destination hotel or game lodge.
• Covid protocols are in place in all our destination countries to protect visitors.
• A Rapid Antigen test is carried out before you depart any country. Results can be obtained from 15 minutes to 2 hours in most cases. Most lodges and all airports can carry out these tests.
• When returning to Australia you must have a final Rapid Antigen negative result before departing.
• You fly back to Australia and are tested on arrival. If negative then you go home.
• You then must have a further Covid negative test, say, 5 days later.

This process does not place any Australians at risk of contracting Covid by returning travellers. This process must include the opening of our borders and remove any restriction on numbers returning home. Of course there will need to be careful scrutiny of this but we see no reason why this could not be implemented immediately. After all, vaccination will protect you from the worst of Covid and the test will ensure that you are Covid free on returning home.

If travel resumes then many thousands of people within the industry will be working again and many agencies and operators will survive instead of being forced to close their doors. It will also save the Government millions of dollars and contribute to the overall economic wellbeing of the country.

The below comments are worthy of careful consideration. We concur fully. If you can place any pressure on your local MP or other Government luminary please do so!

According to Australian Federation of Travel Agents chair Tom Manwaring, travel agents are in a worse position now than they were last year.

“Which ever way you dice it, Australia’s travel agents and businesses are doing it tough and it’s definitely tougher than this time last year when JobKeeper provided structural support in protecting jobs.”

With the constant start/stop of travel flow, travel agents are more in need than ever, and Manwaring is calling for “wider and ongoing government support to be able to support the massive effort being put in right around this country by our travel agents and businesses”.

Aussie travel agents have so far secured the travel of many clients by rearranging their bookings. This is time-consuming support which agents are providing with little to no income.

“Right now every agent is 18 months into near zero income and the lack of cash flow clashes with the ongoing business and payroll costs,” Manwaring said.

“We were the first hit and will be the last to recover and, without support, a tipping point on massive job losses is looming.

“JobKeeper provided a simple, equitable and meaningful solution to protect jobs.”

We at Destinations Africa are doing everything possible to ensure that our clients are taken care of but there is a limit as to what we can do. I know many of you understand and this note below from one of you shows this appreciation.

I really hope this finds you all well – or as well as you possibly can be.

Over the last couple of months it has been quite evident that our Feb 2021, deferred to Feb 2022, holiday is now by all accounts lost, and whatever deposits etc paid, have evaporated with that too. It was not from a lack of trying from your end and certainly influenced by so many, many factors. I am happy that it is a ‘casualty’ of the Covid and am quite fine with that.

The reason for my email is just to let you know that today of all days, I pondered your situation, and thought how much you have lost in this whole pandemic. It must have been soul destroying for you and the family and the working Team, here and in Africa, to witness nearly a lifetime of work and bone crushing endeavour float out to sea. I’m not sure I will fully comprehend, but I may have some idea.

What I did want to convey to you, and ask you to do, is reflect on what you did, and often!!!

In terms of a business, you built a highly efficient, coordinated, hospitable, energised and dynamic model that, in my opinion, can be held up as an example of how to conduct both business and customer service. The years of research and background work was extraordinary and the close to finished product should always be a source of great pride for you, no matter what the final Global influence has on it.

But more importantly I would love you to spend time to reflect on the way you and your business affected people!!! Your passion, compassion and enthusiasm to allow people to experience Africa in its finest, has long term effects. As by way of example the two trips I had taken with you with my boys Matt and Joe in 2012 and 2014 are still remembered with such warmth, love, joy and contentment. Those same ingredients are what millions of people seek and read self help books for right? The boys and I reminisce so often about those trips. Matt is now 20 and Joe 18 and those memories bring us together in the most wholesome way. Matt saw a photo of just the bush and the mighty Zambezi the other day and he said he found it hard not to drop some eye water. You didn’t create the Zambezi and bush but what you allowed us was to experience it in its glory. Scenery that makes you want to cry 6 years after, says much about what you facilitated and encouraged us all to experience.

You also would have made a huge impact on those you employed by creating your company. You gainfully employed so many Africans that as we know do it so tough over there. Yes its business, but the income, the dignity of work and the opportunities you gave others there should never be underestimated or under sold.

So John, know this. You, your skills, your Team, your dedication, your understanding, effected thousands of people. It continues to pull families together, it allows us space to go to our ‘happy places’ especially in these times, it allowed us to meet others from all over the world and long after the trips, we have the overriding emotion that the world in fact is a beautiful place – despite so many trying their damnedest to cripple it.

In short – you made a massive difference to many, many people lives in an everlasting way. So no matter the state of the business now, you created something special for us all and I have no doubt we are all very grateful to you for that – the Smiths anyway!!!
Sorry about the long email – just wanted to thank you, the family and the Team for some life impacting moments and times. Forever grateful to you mate!!

Take care
Chris Smith

And with that I will end this epistle. I look forward to the day when we can visit Africa again and experience the superb wild life.

Stay safe, take care of yourself and don’t let lockdown get on top of you.