“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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.