Set to launch in September this year, work on the 2016 brochure is well underway, with Bench general manger Martin Edwards flagging the release of a new five-star itinerary which uses the operator’s own aircraft to cover Africa over two weeks.
Discussing price in more detail, Edwards said the devaluation of the Australian dollar had proven to be a challenge when pulling the brochure together, with most African product priced in US dollars. However he insisted that the operator had been “pro-actively” reducing rates where possible.
“There will be a bit of a price increase in tours next year, but we’re talking a maximum of 10% compared to the 30% devaluation of the Australian dollar, and we’re happy with that,” he said.
Edwards also stressed that Africa was not the only destination to be affected by currency fluctuations, with Europe also suffering the same effect as the Australian dollar weakens against the Euro.
While the Rand is currently more favourable against the Australian dollar – making South Africa more modestly priced for Australians – Edwards said East Africa also offers good value because tours and lodges offer all inclusive options.
“Kenya and Tanzania tend to cover everything including game drives, meals and accommodation whereas some itineraries in southern Africa tend to require flights to different areas,” he said.
Edwards also claimed there were lingering misconceptions about Africa in terms of cost and safety, but remained confident that perceptions were changing as Australian travellers become more confident in venturing off the beaten track. Bench hopes to host 100 consultants on famils by the end of the year, with over 50 places still up for grabs. Agents are encouraged to complete the Safari School training program to be in the running.