Transfers have evolved to become a vital part of the travel experience, not just for the practical purpose of moving from A to B, such as airport to hotel or lodge, but as part of the complete experience. Mode of transport, experience during the transfer, level of service and facilities provided, all play a part in crafting the full transfer experience, which, in turn, feed into the full journey experience, leading to repeat visits (and repeat business for the service provider).
“The air transfer or private charter flight will certainly elevate the overall experience of the guest, as it is unique. The VIP element is unique, the aircraft is different, the views [across Africa] are amazing, and having the pilots being a part of the guests’ journey creates a link between the guests and the operator at all times, thus improving on the overall service to all,” says Nik Lloyd-Roberts, Commercial Manager of Federal Airlines.
Air transfers, in particular luxury transfers, are growing in popularity with tourists for their direct connection to a destination, and their ability to take tourists to places that are not always easily accessible due to their location, or due to seasonal accessibility – such as periods of heavy rainfall. “Charter flights are often necessary for accessing areas where access via road is limited to impossible,” says Simon Teede, General Manager of Bushtracks Africa Zimbabwe. “For example, parts of Zambia and Botswana are only accessible via air at certain times of the year, which makes chartered flights extremely popular with tourists wanting to visit these destinations during these periods. This was not the case until fairly recently, so charters were necessary.”
A variety of air transfers are available to tourists, such as helicopters, smaller aircraft, coaches and hire cars, but both Lloyd-Roberts and Teede agree that there has been a noticeable increase in the demand for charter flights. “We are seeing a major increase in the more high-end, luxurious form of air travel by way of private chartered planes. As more luxury lodges come on board, this seems to be an increasingly attractive method of air travel. Luxury helicopters are definitely used often in certain regions, but I find that six-seater charter aircraft are becoming still more popular. It helps that many of the high-end lodges have private airstrips, which makes traveling via chartered flight a far easier and more convenient option, regardless of road conditions in some cases.”
Group charter flights seeking a point-to-point service rather than connecting via regional hubs is also growing in popularity amongst operators, says Lloyd-Roberts. “Chartering a jet aircraft is also available for the discerning guest. As these aircraft have the ability to cover far greater distances in a much shorter time period, they allow guests the opportunity to combine more into an itinerary. What’s more, with the influence of the new SVJ (Super Versatile Jet) such as the new Pilatus PC24, dirt and unimproved runways will become an option for jet charters – perfect for the safari circuit.”
“Flying safaris – where the aircraft remains with the group from five to 10 days – are also becoming increasingly popular, as clients start to better understand the value proposition and the overall experience offered to the end user,” he adds.
Destination marketing platforms and tour operators are realising the importance of transfers in tourists’ overall experience of their travels, and are enhancing efforts to include them in the overall marketing of a destination or package, as well as building relationships with transfer service providers.