THE recent launch of Trafalgar’s first African tour program is the culmination of a long-standing family ambition for the brand’s chief executive officer Gavin Tollman.

South African-born and raised, Tollman had always known “the rhythm of Africa, and the sounds of Africa” would one day offer an enormous potential for Trafalgar.

“Africa will change you forever,” he says. “It just changes your entire perspective.”

Yet until this year, the continent had been missing from Trafalgar’s offering, other than limited programs in Egypt and Morocco. “We always wanted to go to Africa, but I wanted to make sure we could control every element of the experience delivery ourselves,” Tollman told travelBulletin.

“You cannot just plug and play. Trafalgar travellers today have real expectation of what they need to get when they travel with us and so that consistency in what we do is vital.”

Tollman had decided Trafalgar would not enter the African market unless it had the opportunity to deploy its own ground operations or purchase a significant partner. That opportunity arose in March when Trafalgar’s parent, the Travel Corporation, purchased South African-based Cullinan Holdings and its Thompsons Africa destination management company, after several years as a major shareholder.

“That enabled me to really get under the hood of Thompsons and really give very firm direction as to what I wanted them to deliver for the Trafalgar brand,” Tollman said.

The result is a choice of 10 guided holidays in nine countries, ranging from “mini stays” of four or five days up to “country explorer” and “regional explorer” options of up to 15 days.

The program is on sale now, with discounts of up to 10% for tours paid in full by 1 November.

A symbolic inclusion in the Africa program is The Oyster Box five-star hotel in Durban, where The Travel Corporation chairman (and Gavin’s uncle) Stanley Tollman took his now wife Beatrice on their first date. Legend has it the ambitious Stanley decided on that night he would one day own The Oyster Box, a goal since fulfilled by The Travel Corporation.

Gavin Tollman said the company aimed to establish its Africa presence rapidly and that he expected take-up from the Australian market to rival that of its Asia program.

“I’m hoping to meet our Asian numbers in year one, and I believe that is our opportunity,” Tollman said.

He also noted the serendipitous timing of Trafalgar’s Africa launch, coinciding with commemorations marking the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.

“How poetic that it’s the same year,” Tollman said. “All the stars are aligned.”

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