In regions as diverse as southern and East Africa, finding a DMC to partner with requires more than just searching via the Internet. Tourism Update rounds up some of the major players in the region.
Being a major DMC in the highly competitive southern and East African market means having a strong network of stakeholder relationships within the industry, offering up-to-date destination knowledge, understanding how the industry operates on a macro-economic level, having purchasing power to offer competitive pricing and, most importantly, having exceptional staff who are highly skilled and service oriented, says Martin Botha, Chief Operating Officer at Tourvest DMC.
Tourvest is considered a market innovator with a large African footprint, and these are the cornerstones the company invests in.
This global company has extensive in-depth knowledge of the region, making it an easy go-to option.
CEO, Sabine Blehle, says with the world of DMCs changing and moving into a more hybrid environment, static and dynamic are meeting at a crossroads. “It is now up to DMCs to revolutionise their approach, offering and philosophy to stay relevant in the long-term,” she says.
At the same time, DMCs must have the ability to understand the requirements of their agent, and transfer such into the procurement of the correct product and pricing to ensure the agent remains competitive and ahead of the market. “Each agent has their unique value proposition, and the DMC needs to understand the particular requirements. This needs to translate further into the reservation process and execution on the ground. A good DMC has the ability to connect the various dots within the distribution channel, to ensure that the message overseas is translated on ground-level delivery.”
Several factors play a role when partnering with a DMC, says Managing Director of Akilanga, Andre Laget. “It is not necessarily how big the company is, but rather what it can offer. Large outbound tour operators tend to look for larger DMCs with purchasing power that can offer the best rates, while more boutique travel companies will maybe opt for a smaller DMC with more tailor-made solutions and attention to detail.”
Whilst it is advised to not choose a DMC based on cost, Laget says there is no denying that price does factor in when decisions are made, as does reputation.
Founded in 2001, this DMC has earned a strong and respected reputation in Zimbabwe and southern Africa.
Director, Gavin Rennie, who partnered with founder, Beck Edwards, in 2018, says DMCs need to be innovative, continuously re-positioning themselves in the marketplace. “A renewed energy and vision to position the company as a leading DMC is ongoing,” explains Rennie.
He says focusing on specific market segments by increasing the capacity and specific skillsets to handle these segments is one way that a DMC can distinguish itself.
Pollman's Tours & Safaris
This regional DMC with offices in Kenya and Tanzania is considered one of East Africa’s most respected tour companies. With more than 200 late-model vehicles meeting the needs of a variety of group and individual clients and custom-designed for Kenya’s roads, its expertise in the safari sector is renowned.
Says Laget: “In the East African market a strong DMC selling point is having your own vehicles. Travelling is done mostly in 4x4s. Knowing the roads and having vehicles in this environment does make for a more competitive DMC.”
A long-standing business that owns its camps, lodges and vehicles in East Africa, Somak Safaris offers all the necessary requirements for a successful safari. The company says it is imperative to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach by designing bespoke safaris that ultimately deliver a life-changing, one-of-a kind experience to travellers.
Sense of Africa
Although a division of TDM, Sense of Africa still has its own individual and significant footprint in the region, with stand-alone offices in Namibia and Botswana, as well as a regional footprint in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, making it a full regional DMC operating across southern and East Africa.
Managing Director, Paul Brinkmann, says in southern Africa DMCs are operating in a dichotomy of both competing with disintermediators while at the same time striving to offer excellent service and travel advice.
“As a DMC, you need to make yourself invaluable within the distribution chain you service, always focusing on speed and availability of the products and services you wish to sell. What makes an outstanding DMC is the capacity to choose what you purport to sell – purely beds, or an African experience that is more than just transport and accommodation, and to do this in a manner that is sustainable over the long period, both with regard to the destination and environment, but that also includes financial sustainability.”
Brinkmann believes the ability to prepare and offer travel and tourism services in a destination such as East Africa seamlessly, professionally and efficiently is what makes a DMC outstanding.
“Service in East Africa versus southern Africa is slightly different,” says Brinkmann. “Southern Africa has progressed much further with transparent rates and online availability, and mainly because in East Africa one still needs an element of personal advice and control as self-drive does not significantly exist. That means it is difficult to bypass the DMC or inbounder [inbound tourist] completely.”
He warns against ignoring the value of a DMC and reducing it to a price game where the consumer or agent thinks they can contract directly better. “This ignores both the service the DMC delivers in respect of undertaking bookings, checking availability and making payments but, more importantly, the specialist advice in ensuring the right properties, locations and room types are recommended as well as itineraries prepared and documentation provided,” he says.
“So, from a booking perspective it may all appear similar, but from a travel or safari perspective it can be the difference between an unforgettable experience because all went wrong, or because an expert provided the attention to the significant factors that make a safari great.”