“Many international travellers come out to Africa for a once in a lifetime safari holiday, and use this time to go to more than one safari destination,” Carol Guy, a partner at Africa-Air Charter, an independent private jet aviation broker specialising in safari flying, told CNBC Africa online in an exclusive interview.
(READ MORE: African tourism continues to grow)
WHAT IS SAFARI FLYING?
By definition, safari flying refers to the fact that you access a safari area by aircraft. Once finished with your expedition, you fly out again.
This means that you spend very little time shuttling between destinations, making it convenient for tourists to visit a number of destinations in a short amount of time.
Travellers also get the benefit of viewing some of the most unique regions of Africa from an aerial perspective.
Guy added that the first step would be for the traveller to research which safari destinations they would like to visit.
“Research what you are looking for and where you want to go. Then contact a reliable operator who knows Africa and knows the destinations,” said Guy.
A broker such as Africa Air Charter can put travellers in touch with various operators that can book them a private aircraft to use for their holiday.
The aircrafts used by operators usually adhere to stringent safety regulations and servicing while the bush pilots are some of the most skilled aviators in the world.
MOST POPULAR AFRICAN SAFARI DESTINATIONS
According to Guy, the most visited safari spots are the Lowveld and Madikwe areas in South Africa, the Okavango Delta, Chobe, Savuti and the Tuli Block in Botswana, the Lower Zambezi, Livingstone and the Victoria Falls in Zambia as well as Victoria falls and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.
“A second very popular destination is East Africa. Tanzania (the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater) and Kenya (Masai Mara),” she added.
More recently, countries like Rwanda and Congo-Brazzaville have been gaining popularity due to their gorilla wildlife.
CONVENIENCE COMES AT A COST
While safari flying may prove to be a time efficient and luxurious option, it definitely comes at a cost that only middle to high income travellers can afford.
“Traditionally this would have been mainly mature guests but the income demographics have shifted. We now see younger people who are in the exceptionally high income bracket, who also enjoy these experiences,” added Guy.
She also stated that safari flying has attracted enormous interest from the adventure market, people interested in outdoor activity related holidays, and operators now combine adventure trips with a safari experience for these individuals.
CURRENT ECONOMIC STATE OF SAFARI FLYING MARKET
Since the safari flying space mostly attracts international travellers from Europe and America, it is very dependent on the state of the global economy.
“These are high end safaris and most of our travellers use investment funds to pay for this type of holiday. When return on investment is down, bookings go down [and] people travel closer to home,” explained Guy.
“South Africa is a long way from America and Europe and it’s a fairly expensive destination, even given the positive exchange rates. When the returns are good, more people travel.”
She added that for the past three years, safari flying operators have been going through a quiet period. However based on global indicators; the market is beginning to improve.
According to the Economicwatch.com, world gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 is at 77,805.10 billion US dollars, which represents a 4.04 per cent growth over 2013.
With Guy’s optimism, could safari flying potentially become a strong economic driver in Africa’s tourism industry?