How Our Travel Agents Become Africa Experts

How Our Travel Agents Become Africa Experts

“So, let’s see a show of hands—how many of you have been to Africa?”

Arms shoot up across the room. Brittney (our social media specialist) and I remain still, exchanging a glance. Looks like we have a lot to learn.

Today we’re sitting in on an travel counsellor training session hosted by Goway, AMA Travel partner and one of North America’s longest-running African tour operators.

We’re here to get a greater understanding of the skills and knowledge travel counsellors attain when it comes to destinations worldwide. The session hasn’t started yet, and already we feel like total rookies.

Counsellor Specialization

So you want to go to Africa. Chances are you’ve already inspired yourself by watching documentaries and listening to Toto on repeat.

But Africa is a massive continent. And when it comes to booking the right flights, accommodations, and tours—well, that’s a big job.

This is where it helps to meet with a travel counsellor. At AMA, all travel counsellors specialize in a style of travel or destination which they’re especially passionate about, like cruising, Disney, New Zealand, or Kenya.

Here’s what it takes to become a South Africa Specialist, for example:

Personal experience

Naturally, a South Africa Specialist is expected to have visited South Africa. That know-how is crucial to understanding the country and being able to personally recommend what to see and do.

Training, training, training

A South Africa Specialist must complete a series of online courses, developed by South Africa Tourism. I took a quick peak into these modules. They’re very comprehensive.

Supplier relationships

Lastly, a South Africa Specialist maintains a close association with tour companies, such as Goway. Specialists attend supplier learning events (like this one) and trade shows in order to stay up-to-date on the best tours for all kinds of travellers.

Passion and Perspective

During a break, I had a quick chat with Kim—a counsellor from St. Albert. I asked about her travels in Africa. Though her last visit to Kenya was several years ago, her eyes light up as she recounts driving past Mount Kilimanjaro, watching the sun set on the Kenyan Plains, meeting Masai children, and of course, going on safari. Say what you will about “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” but this session (and thanks to meeting folks like Kim) comes pretty close to demonstrating that ideal.

Globetrotting with Goway

The day’s learnings are divided into morning and afternoon components for East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia) and South Africa, respectively.

My main takeaway from this session (aside from that I really, really want to go to Africa now) is the sheer breadth of experiences available across the continent:

  • Amazing beaches rivalling the Caribbean’s best
  • Luxury game lodges
  • Camping under the stars
  • Group safaris to see the Big Five: lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros
  • Guided gorilla excursions
  • Romantic rail journeys
  • Family-friendly tours

Goway also made sure to explain that travel counsellors can pick and choose tours and excursions in order to craft custom African trips for travellers with particular interests and needs.

10 Africa Travel Tips from the Pros

  1. Want to take the train AND go on safari? Land-cruise journeys ride the rails by night and offer 4X4 excursions by day.
  2. Wheelchair-accessible tours are available in Botswana.
  3. A visa is needed to enter most African countries, some attainable on arrival and some in advance depending on the country.
  4. East Africa is best suited for first-time African travellers looking to get up close with wildlife.
  5. The cheapest time to visit East Africa is in the spring or fall.
  6. South Africa has the widest array of sights and experiences in one country: bustling cities, great beaches, and safaris.
  7. $US is the currency recommended for tourists.
  8. Save money by booking group tours with at least 3 other travellers.
  9. Don’t hesitate to snag that unique souvenir, because you might not find one like it again.
  10. Leave the binoculars at home. Your safari tour will have plenty for everyone to borrow.