I’ve recently returned from fall tours in Europe for Rick Steves. After an absence of 5 years I did a Best of Italy tour. I was so pleased to return to places not visited in a half decade like Lake Como, the Dolomites, Siena, Assisi, and Verona. The weather was great, I had a good group, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We’ve added some new wrinkles like dinner in a Contrade in Sienna and local guides in the Dolomites, Verona, and Assisi – all of which enhanced the tour. But now I’m back in the office and ready to give my attention to the January Thailand tour and the long term planning of our southern Africa adventure, scheduled for April, 2014. With the Thailand tour now only three months away, I’m very excited to be returning to my favorite travel destination. Thailand has it all with a rich cultural heritage, fascinating architecture and archeological sites, a welcoming Buddhist society, stunning natural wonders, pristine beaches, great culinary traditions, and great value for western travelers. I’ll be blogging about the highlights of Thailand between now and January. (There are currently two seats available on the Thailand tour) This Southeast Asian gem has been much on my mind this year as I’ve been working hard with Tom Saknit of Sigma Media on developing a series of “Sightcasts” for this exotic destination. These sightcasts are webcasts devoted to specific travel sights and destinations - basically my take on the ins and outs, dos and don’ts of travel to various Imprint destinations. We have about 15 installments in the pipe and the first three are very close to being finished. We’re applying the final “polish” this week and hope to have them online very soon. They will be launched through the website and you will all get an email notice with link so you can tune in to see what we’ve done. I would love to hear any feedback you’d like to offer.
The developing plans for Africa are very exciting and I realize I’ve been remiss in keeping everyone up to date. Southern Africa as an Imprint destination ranked very high in our January poll and there is a lot of interest. I started looking for partners to work with early this year and was introduced to safari agents here in the Pacific Northwest. I was impressed with their enthusiasm, knowledge, and authenticity and started working with them. My vision for a southern Africa tour had been Cape Town and classic game viewing safaris with an optional excursion to Victoria Falls and the outside hope of somehow including the Okavango Delta in Botswana. As plans evolved it became quickly obvious that Okavango would not be possible and Victoria Falls would be an expensive addition. But the proposals for South Africa were very exciting, including rather luxurious safari accommodations, private game reserves, and an Indian Ocean coastal component. The one drawback was cost – considerably higher than hoped for. There was no doubt the experience being offered was going to be excellent and good value for money, just more expensive than I was comfortable with. I fought for lower costs and we were able to get them reduced by choosing different safari camps and rerouting to reduce travel and flight costs – but they were still very high. I felt the higher cost of the tour might be justified by the added luxury, though I wasn’t completely comfortable. Plans were moving along when we came to another, eventually insurmountable, stumbling block regarding deposits. While trying to resolve the impasse with my new partners I did some inquiry to find out about the industry standard for deposits. In the process several other safari companies pursued me and, in the end, I decided to change outfitters.
Immediately everything began to fall into place. For those of you who’ve been reading my blogs this past year, you know I’ve increasingly embraced the idea of synchronicity. I’m seeing its effects once again. As soon as I started working with the new safari company, all of the difficulties, large and small, that had been making me uncomfortable simply fell away. I’m now working directly with the safari outfitter, not an agent. Therefore, the safari portions are much less expensive. During six of our safari nights we’ll sleep in permanent tents – complete with beds, mosquito nets, and ensuite bathrooms; dine al fresco under a pavilion; and forego the swimming pools. This level of mid-range comfort was my original goal and, in my mind, better fits the authentic safari experience and Imprint travel values. I am still in the process of negotiating details so I don’t yet have final costs. But it is already clear I am going to be able to offer this tour for at least $1000 less than I’d previously thought. I couldn’t be more excited to offer a quality African experience for a great value!
Furthermore, a better price is only a part of the “synchronous” upgrade. Once I let go trying to make the initial plan work, it allowed me to rethink everything. The result is a vastly superior tour. I surrendered the attempt to make the tour fit into South Africa. I realized trying to create our game-viewing experiences in South Africa was a significantly limiting factor that also added a big layer of expense. I further realized, based on research, all I really care about in that country is Cape Town. With some quick inquiry, I learned we can fly from Cape Town to Botswana for a reasonable price, allowing me to revamp the itinerary completely. So now I’m working with my new partners on creating a tour that includes a few nights in Cape Town and then continues with our safari experience in the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana, and concludes at Victoria Falls. I’m getting the tour and safari experiences I really wanted, including Okavango and Victoria Falls, while saving everyone a sizable chunk of cash. Win – win – win. I plan to blog about the specific stops of the tour itinerary in the coming weeks. If you are interested in Africa for April 2014, please send me an email (email@example.com) so you can be added to the dedicated mailing list.
Imprint’s “Future File” includes China in 2016 and Egypt as soon as it is once again stable. I’m also considering repeating tours to India and Bali sometime in the next two years. Also, there is a growing “buzz” about a trip to Peru and Machu Picchu – I could see combining this with the Galapagos. Give me your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org