Teresa Sullivan, Safari Pros board member and co-founder of Mango African Safaris // © 2017 Teresa Sullivan
Feature image (above): The Safari Pros network is made up of Africa specialists. // © 2017 Getty Images
Africa is an enigmatic melange of exceedingly diverse countries, cultures, customs and landscapes, and giving any of its destinations a mere glossary overview would be a mistake.
Though primed for travelers looking to dig deeper and test boundaries, Africa’s landscape must also be preserved and protected. Keeping that spirit in mind, Safari Pros burst onto the scene four years ago, combining the already great Africa experts in the industry under one umbrella to create a network of Africa specialists with a combined 5,000 days on the continent. Each Safari Pros member is committed to providing ethical, high-end travel experiences for clients.
We sat down with Teresa Sullivan, a board member of Safari Pros and co-founder of travel company Mango African Safaris, to learn more about the project.
Tell us about how Safari Pros was formed.
We are 30 companies of travel professionals who specialize in Africa. We range from specialty travel agents to full-service, wholesale- and retail-capable tour operators. We all provide expert, customized itinerary planning services, and some of our members also provide airline ticketing, travel insurance and more.
Four years ago, our founding board members joined together to investigate some threats to the industry. In the process, we realized just how much our respective companies had in common — we had a drive to protect our business interests, a shared love of Africa, strong relationships with “best in practice” supplier partners and a commitment to the local communities we visit. By sharing our information and knowledge, we can offer clients even better expertise as we plan their journeys to Africa.
How are members selected, and what is the vetting process for them?
We came together and created a set of strict membership criteria through which all applicants are reviewed. Prospective members must submit an application, along with a fee, and all current members are encouraged to give input about their acceptance. The application is highly specific and ensures that the agent or company is established; a true Africa expert; and regularly travels to the continent to visit properties and stay current on its offerings. Applicants must be nominated or referred by a requisite number of current members and suppliers.
How do members qualify their clients, and how are clients matched to an itinerary?
We have a smart and interactive online tool that matches a consumer’s interests with a member who specializes in those experiences and regions. Then, when combined with our guidance and suggestions, we make the safari the best trip they have ever had. When clients work with a Safari Pros member company, they are speaking to experts in the field.