Will Rhino Africa Survive Covid-19?
I’ve been asked this question multiple times over the past few weeks. The short answer is YES – Absolutely – but the more interesting answer is WHY!
Having successfully navigated the acute phase of Covid-19 between March and May, the word currently on everyone’s lips is “liquidity.” Who will survive and how?
Everyone is concerned from guests who have existing bookings, to guests making new bookings, to the hotels, lodges logistical services and all the intermediaries in between, and rightfully so!
While this concern is hugely valid, it is certainly not unique to Rhino Africa, but there are several factors around our survival that are. In this article, I not only hope to lay bare these factors; factors that drive our survival confidence, but I also hope to provide some valuable insights for guests wishing to plan their African holiday during this time, and what they should look out for.
Or as I like to call it the distance between a guests’ money and the end product, be it a hotel, lodge or logistical service. As an online Tour Operator, that contracts directly with over 1500 products and logistical services – simply put we offer the shortest distance of any booking channel – when it comes to booking a tailor-made African itinerary. We connect guests directly to product and logistical services, interjected only by first-hand expert destination and product knowledge, as we curate the perfect African holiday itinerary to our guests exact requirements and needs.
Not much has changed in 16 years, when our journey began! Much to the disdain of the traditional travel channels, who rely on several intermediaries in order to facilitate a guests’ African travel itinerary. We at Rhino Africa continue to disrupt this traditional channel; off the back of excellent client service based on first-hand experience.
The Covid-19 reality is this: if the distance your money has to travel to secure you the end product or itinerary is more than one stop – then “liquidity” should be of great concern!
How do you know which channel you are in? Simply put, if you plan to book with an agent not based in Africa, or one that doesn’t specialise in Africa alone, chances are they don’t contract directly and they will require the services of one or more intermediaries, in order to secure your booking, and in doing so, increase your risk.
Another benefit of booking directly with an African based online Tour Operator like Rhino Africa, besides a tailor-made holiday designed off first-hand experience, is Price and Transparency! Contracting direct assures our guests always get the best available rates! Rhino Africa sells over 150 000 bed-nights a year, hosting over 16 000 international guests a year, which means we have the buying power to ensure our guests get the best price and we don’t have to “share” our commission across multiple intermediaries or channels.
Our Supply Partners
Our second pillar of confidence is found in our direct supplier relationships. Because we contract directly, through our 16 years of relationship building, we have a level of trust and understanding that we are able to lean on during this time to ensure our guests are fully protected. The good standing of these supplier relationships is mirrored by the strong relationship connection we have with our guests.
Our suppliers understand and support our calls to alter standard terms and conditions, including deposit requirements as we look to mitigate our guests’, and our own, risk during this time. We do this while continuing to work hard to preserve our “forward book” to help ensure our vital supply partners are able to recover as quickly as possible too.
Likewise, as we seek to alter our own terms and conditions to provide our guests with more certainty during this time, the direct nature of our business allows us to seamlessly align our altered terms and conditions with those of our product and logistical partners. We do this to best suit their needs and mitigate any potential risk to our guests as well.
Besides a strong balance sheet comprising healthy cash balances and a diverse range of property investments, our shareholders, who comprise vested members of our safari industry and a private equity fund based in London, are deeply committed and passionate about our business, our industry and our continued success.
Our shareholders share our belief that tourism is the game changing force that uplifts communities and protects Africa’s wildlife. They are committed to ensuring we are able to redouble our efforts in order that we can play our role in rebuilding our industry as we do what we can to maintain decades of conservation and livelihoods built off the back of bringing guests to African soil.
They say Africa is the last continent any international visitor visits because it is “the culmination of a life-long dream”, but it also boasts the highest repeat and referral rate of any continent!
This is something we at Rhino Africa can certainly attest too, as after 16 years our guest repeat and referral rate exceeds 40%. With over 150 000 past guests the direct, client-centric relationship based nature of our business means despite the evaporation of new client requests since early March, we continue to make new bookings for repeat and referral guests, who continue to support us beyond our wildest dreams!
Our repeat and referral guests know that while now is not the time to travel, now is the perfect time to plan their African holiday for when they can. Africa’s traditional seasonality and long lead times, given the boutique nature and low density of our hotels and lodges, means now is the perfect time to plan their next African holiday. Travel will return and when it does, we will be reunited and it will be epic!
We have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of our Rhino Guests, who continue to ensure we are able to keep our home fires burning, and as many of our Rhinos employed as possible, as we continue to plan and book their next African vacation.
Our Rhino Crash
Perhaps the most powerful weapon in our survival arsenal is the people and culture of Rhino Africa. Like many of our peers we have had to face the difficult reality of temporarily reducing operational capacity during this time, but our remaining team of 80 plus Rhinos have certainly stepped up to the challenge!
It’s hard to compete against Culture! Our Rhino culture is one of belief in our purpose, commitment and dedication to our guests and partners and an understanding that failure is simply not an option. When our guests, our industry, our communities, our wildlife and our country is depending on us, we simply cannot fail!
70% of Rhino Africa’s operating expenses are attributable to salary costs, and each and every Rhino has made personal sacrifices that will not only ensure we can weather this storm, however long it may last, but ensure we can prosper through it too.
A good friend once told me, “don’t let a good crisis go to waste” and as we recalibrate our business, our teams are not working to survive, they are working to thrive. We are using this opportunity to advance the client-centric operations we are renowned for, continuing to roll out high tech solutions to match the high-touch relationship-centric business we are.
While there are many naysayers out there, and no doubt many businesses in the traditional travel channel are unlikely to survive the prolonged effects of Covid-19, Rhino Africa is built on the most solid of all foundations – Relationships! Relationships with our guests – Relationships with our supply partners – Relationships between our Rhino family!
Building off these foundations, given the direct nature of our business, a highly competent leadership team, coupled with our shareholder support is why Rhino Africa will not fail! We will not only survive – we will prosper, because we know the disruptive and innovative nature of our businesses is designed to meet the inevitable changing nature and requirements of the post Covid-19 guest.
Why you should book your 2021 holiday now
Now is the perfect time to plan your 2021 African Holiday, and if you are looking to book your “once in lifetime” African Holiday during this time, consider the following points, when making your holiday Investment:
How many intermediaries are involved in building your African Holiday?
Are you getting the best travel planning advice and price?
Are you being offered comprehensive Travel Insurance?
Are you booking with a long standing reputable Tour Operator or Agency? (Check their affiliations)
Do your own online reference checks – Tripadvisor/Trustpilot
More than ever our planet and Africa is in need of the type of Travel that gives back! As we are witnessing, the established indirect and direct connection between tourism and poverty alleviation, education and wildlife preservation, continue to be strong motivators for our guests to come back to Africa in support of these amazing causes. The reality is, as destinations and source markets reopen, guests will have a plethora of options available for travel, but we know that few destinations have the impact story so closely linked to why travel to Africa continues to be at the top of the list of those guests with a consciousness to give back.
With the World Wide Web offering a multitude of different companies offering travel to Africa, Rhino Africa will still be here, continuing to serve our guests, because we take pride in treating guests exactly as we would our friends or family. We love developing down to earth, honest relationships! Booking with Rhino Africa makes you a guest not a client, it’s ‘your holiday’ not your ‘file’, and your name rather than your reservation number.
More About Rhino Africa
Rhino Africa’s journey is the culmination of a promising idea at a kitchen table in 2004 to the pioneering company we are today. The idea that was sparked all those years ago and the path Rhino Africa subsequently took was forged by founder and CEO, David Ryan. His story and Rhino Africa’s journey from kitchen table to industry leader are inextricably linked. It’s a story of brave decisions, savvy business thinking and an unabashed passion for Africa.
Over 16 years, Rhino Africa has blossomed into what it is today, Africa’s leading travel company. David will be the first to tell you that it’s the people here – the Rhino Crash – who have driven the success of the company and who form the heart and soul of our business.
Today, Rhino Africa advertises in more than 30 markets and operates in five different languages around the world. Each year, working with over 1 500 direct partners and suppliers across Africa, we tailor-make luxury safari holidays for more than 16,000 clients and fill upwards of 150,000 bednights by ensuring that our guests experience the best that this continent has to offer.
At our headquarters in Cape Town, we house our very own internal web development agency and a multimedia production team of videographers, photographers and writers whose aim is to create inspiring content worthy of Africa. In 2010, we opened our own award-winning boutique hotel, MannaBay, named “South Africa’s Leading Design Hotel” at the 2016 and 2017 World Travel Awards. Extending into the Kruger National Park with Silvan Safari, and Camissa House in Cape Town, we now own three exclusive and luxurious properties in two of Africa’s key destinations, becoming involved in one more step of our clients’ experiences.
Our passion extends to several important community and conservation projects and we even run our own annual fundraising cycling event, Challenge4ACause. All of this enables us to move closer to our ultimate goal, which is to be the Authority on African Travel. We’re well on our way to getting there: we’ve been crowned “Africa’s Leading Safari Company” by the World Travel Awards five times! We invite you to join us on this amazing journey, as we build a lasting legacy on the continent we all call home!
Original Source: blog.rhinoafrica.com
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