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Hello to everyone on HUBB,
I am in the process of setting up a tour company which guides people with their own 4x4 to destinations in the Sahara and other parts of Africa. We are working to be a sustainable company only taking 3-6 cars at a time to reduce the impact of our visits. I want to know what people on here have to think about this idea. It is the plan to vist more "off the beaten track" places like Waw En Namus- Kufra, Libya, the Gilf Kebir, The Tenere and Air in Niger and Chad along with places such as Eritrea, Congo, Mozambique.
I want to hear what you have to think:
a. What would you pay at tops for such a service, knowing that you are with a group and experienced people when venturing to unusual places like those previously mentioned?
b. What would you expect to be included in such a tour?
c. For how long would you want such a trip to last if you were on it?
I think that this is a good idea, especially for people who don't have a great deal of desert experience to get to places such as Kufra and the Gilf Kebir.
A swiss friend of mine went on such a tour (with an Austrian company I believe) and paid around 3.900 EURO for a 3 week tour of East Libya. He did another tour with the same guys to the Gilf and paid (in the region of) 5.800 EURO for a 5 week tour. This included ferry to Tunis and back and the guide services. I think visas, entry fees and border fees were to be paid at the time out of your own pocket. He was very pleased with the service and would reccomend it.
Not sure if it's my cuppa tea though, good luck though!
I understand that many people prefer to do it alone, others, not so much so. We plan to include ferry costs, guide services, lead vehicle, any required guides/escorts and campsite costs (some tours will incl. a night in a hotel). As like the firm you described, the individual will pay border fees and visas.
I used to work for the same company as the guys who have now set up AFRICA EXPEDITIONS SUPPORT.
They had a few teething problems, but seem to be doing quite well now.
They would be an invaluable source of information with regards setting up.
On a personal level, I couldnt stand the thought of somebody else driving one of my vehicles knowing that it could be written off anytime (sorry, very negative comment, but that's a personal thing!)
I'm sure there is a huge demand for this, esp if you goto the (relatively speaking) more "off the beaten track" destinations (as you seem to want to). The key would be to keep the groups quite small, I feel that the kind of people this will attract will prefer smaller groups and not to be part of a mini rally.
I say good luck with it. The die-hard independants might frown upon it (no offence intended) but I think it's a positive thing if you can get small groups of tourists into these areas, many of which will benefit from you using the Campements and restaurants. I remember being in Chinguetti and Terjit just after the French tourists were killed and the Israeli embassy attacked and the locals were really down on life, no travellers = lower income for many.
Does anyone think that there is much of a market in the UK/Eire for the tour travel I am proposing? Would it be more feasable to target say the German/Austrian/Swiss and possible Italian market instead??
Your plans look very ambitious. Sorry to be a bit blunt, but the fact that you are asking all these questions demontrates that you are absolutely new to this type of organised travel.
I personaly do not think there are many people in Europe who would feel comfortable with the idea of paying real money to someone without any track record /experience to travel to places such as Gilf Kebir or Air.
I consider that the market for serious Sahara tours is pretty saturated and small now. Interest dropped considerably (about -80%) after 2003 ( in particular in German speaking contries! ). Many of the smaller tour operators ceased business and the bigger ones reduced the number of tours and had to diversify. To find enough customers for higher priced tours requires very strong USP and references to be competetive. Then more and more people ( also unexperienced ones) book directly with the local tour operators.
The instability of the related countries makes business unpredictable.
To earn my living I would not start this kind of business any more ( I did 2001-2003).
* Gilf tours recovered well after 2003, even had a boom, same for Morrocco
Yves, thanks for the response. I understand that after 2003 tourism has been on a low in thr Sahara. I undertand this fully and it is my intention to do other tours in Africa and West Asia/Middle East as well as the Sahara.
Thanks for you opinion. I don't wish to sound arrogant at all but actually I have had over 30 years of Sahara experience. I first went there to Algeria and Niger in '79 and have been back at least every year. I have totally, done some 60 trips to the area. Including at least half a dozen to the Gilf Kebir. Additionally, I have drive down the East Coast of Africa and up the central/west coast as well as from the UK to Singapore via China. A few years ago I did an extended trip to South/Central America for 3 years.
I belive that I am quite qualified to operate 4x4 tours, I have been travelling with them for a long time now, also, over the years, I have been on about a dozen myself so I am familiar with the set up.
Sorry I jumped to this conslusion. I was not sure why someone having been involved in Sahara travel for 30 years, who must have seen it all, and more, asks for advice about something that leads to a rather obvious conclusion: there's no serious desert travel market in the UK. As Yves said, European markets are saturated with local operators, and I don't suppose you would succeed in atracting many French to join your trip :-)
For a new player, the entry level segment is the best bet. More experienced travellers prefer local tour operators who offer border-to-border service at a price you would not be able to beat. 4-6 car groups are costly to run and beginners do not pay big money for travel arrangements, after spending first a small fortune on kit. Also, I'd think hard before signing up a first timer in a tricked up landrover on a self-drive trip deep into the Sahara.
You may get a better picture of the current scene if you come to Bad Kissingen in a month's time and meet the people who could be your potential customers.
Like Roman, your initial post did not give the impression that you are a seasoned campaigner. However......
If I were you, work out what you 'need' to charge to break even on a relatively easy trip like Morocco. Make a website using your previous trip photos to show your experience, and put the cost of the trip on the website and see what reaction you get.
Do not be disappointed if you are out of pocket on your first guided trip, as you will get just as much as the clients out of it.
I personally would not pay for a guided tour, as I prefer to organise things myself.
I think your saharan background sounds very good indeed. However, I am not too sure on if people will actually pay for the tours. On the other hand, organising a trip to, say, Chad or Sudan can be quite challenging (I know, I am currently planning a trans saharan trip). So on that basis, it may be "convenient" for people to go on an organised tour, especially if the group is small (6 or so as a max). In fact, for countries like Mauritania and Chad, as far as I know, have no good local tour operators (I know of Tschad Evasion, but from what I gather, they leave something yet to be desired).
I think everyone is right in saying that the market in the UK is negilable. I reckon targeting Europeans esp, German and French would be FAR better.
On balance, maybe tours of the rest of Africa may be better, there is more demand for this. If you want any info on the Congo then PM me, I have had a lot of travel experience there (ex. Zaire).
What does anyone else think about tours to the "rest of Africa" rather than the Sahara? I know a few companies already do this.
thamks trans-african. I will be running tours to other locations in africa such as Cairo to Dar es salaam and Gibraltar to Dakar etc. I do feel though that there would be some interest in organised tours to more unusual and "difficult" places.
I don't have much to give for this conversation except to say that I will be looking for a tour operator for Sahara travels in a couple of years when I get my truck done and other things sorted. The prices mentioned earlier seem pretty OK to me especially if the destinations are more off the beaten track or uncommon.
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