Dear Advisor Partners,
I feel like Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, giving you the latest report on a tropical storm. Though this isn’t quite as dramatic, it’s just as powerful. This is the second dispatch entailing the adventures of our team member Gisela Polo in Bolivia, after crossing in from Argentina, forging a new way to combine Argentina and Bolivia. This her story, however, it’s also the story of our team member, Tatiana Johnston, who just got back from her visit to Uganda. We always talk about travel transforming lives, so this week I share Tatiana’s thoughts written on her first day in Uganda. I thought they were powerful and captured the very reason we all believe in adventure.
I am sitting here in the dining room of the hotel during my first stop of this adventure. I am listening to thousands of cicadas, the sun is slowly setting in Entebbe, the sky is turning into a teal blue, birds chirping different tones, the hot and humid air is enveloping my body… and I feel happy. I am surrounded by a dense vegetation of giant mango trees, different sizes and different shapes of palms, and I just feel this joy in my heart. My heart is back to being a whole. Throughout the years, I had left a piece of my heart in Africa and now I understand what I have been missing all these years. I am finally back in Africa! Just north of the Equator, where my birthplace is, but only on the other side of the planet. Everyone around me is tourists, some of them are finishing their adventure and others are starting it. Our tables are lit with gas lamps as a reminder for me of the coming days in the forest. I am sure, however, all of us will have the same thing on our minds tonight, “the gorillas”, either remembering our recent experiences or looking forward to what is coming.
A very early start today, it’s still dark outside but my heart is jumping with joy. I took a small 11-seater plane with two pilots to Kahihi. I still feel jetlagged, and the soft hum of the plane invites me to take a nap, but I don’t want to close my eyes. I don’t want to miss any second of this countryside. We flew over the giant Victoria Lake. You can see many fishermen in their boats, countless islets, and islands, some inhabited, others not. It is the rainy season, so wherever my eyes can see, it is green. We arrive at Kahihi on a dirt runway and there it was… my own 4×4 vehicle, waiting for me. The road was very good for about 30 minutes. We drove through many little towns and then the road became a dirt road with scattered rocks and patches. You could see how the rain has damaged the roads, but my expert driver was able to manage all of them with an easy ability that you can only get after having driven here for many years. Since it was Sunday, there were so many people dressed to the nines going to church. Many kids waved at me, and they were screaming Muzungu (white person). How interesting, I never considered myself a white person. We drove through coffee and tea plantations, and it made me think of Karen Blixen and her tea plantations in Kenya. The soil here is very red and the houses are built with bricks and dirt. So many little goats running, and jumping, happy and playful. There were many men carrying water in yellow tanks on their heads or back. And finally, I could see the mountains bordering the Congo and I knew we were getting closer.
And so, I am here, eating my lunch in front of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the lush, green vegetation sprawling in front of me. That is where the gorillas are. That is where I will be tomorrow. That is where the gorillas are waiting for me, waiting to see another Muzungus…
This was only from the first two days. If you want to see how she felt on the final day or her flight home, I encourage those of you who know Tatiana to ask her yourself. You won’t be disappointed with the answer. Stay tuned for our 3rd and final dispatch next week featuring Gisela’s ongoing adventures in Bolivia. For now, she found a little-known winery shortly after crossing into Bolivia. Those of you who know Gisela, know that she is completely in her element. Enjoy this week’s video, Part Two of our three-part dispatch.
Dear Advisor Partners,
I love telling people about traveling to the far corners of the world, and the stories that come with it. Every time I tell these stories, I imagine what it could be like if I had a clone that allowed simultaneous visits to different parts of the Earth. Before you ask, yes, I do daydream, a lot.
Well, this week, the vision came true, as two of my colleagues were in Argentina and Uganda on inspection trips at the same time. Now before I go into the coolness of this happening, let me tell you about these two colleagues. Gisela Polo, originally from Peru, visits Argentina and the neighboring regions in addition to her home, Peru regularly. This trip takes her from Buenos Aires up through Salta, ending up on a road to the Bolivian Salt Flats, traversing a new path we are exploring. Her findings will lead to a new program that redefines how we combine Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Tatiana Johnston, originally from Ecuador, has a passion for climbing peaks, which where she finds herself regularly. She is in Uganda, gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest, which is a place always gravitate to during my visits. Of course, she makes it home to Ecuador to visit and explore new options each year as well.
So here we are, Gisela’s on her way to Cafayate, and Tatiana’s completing a successful gorilla trek. This is the first part of the dispatch we put together of their experience, with more to share next week. Please enjoy the video and ask yourself, which corner are you searching for?
Dear Advisor Partners,
Every year around this time, the procrastinators begin to appear…you know who I’m talking about, and it is definitely ok to laugh, maybe even shake your head. Truth is, when planning our own holiday trips, those of us in this industry may be the worst of the last-minute bunch. Well, much like the Budweiser Superbowl commercials, this blog is for you, the “wait until the last-minute person.”
Kidding aside, we know things come up and not everyone can plan for the festive season as far in advance as we would like. You can try to force these clients to book early through tactics like raising prices or incentivizing early booking. Or you can diligently prepare for when those clients do finally start planning, after all we are not talking about a widget here, we are talking about an investment. This is especially true for clients who are willing to get off the beaten track to where the masses don’t know about. When you get remote, the properties are smaller, meaning they fill up faster, so planning ahead is usually essential. However, right around this time, if you have just a little flexibility, the miracle occurs, and space clears up in a certain order. Now it doesn’t happen everywhere, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a miracle. We are currently assisting guests that had their advisor check a few months back with no luck, now trying again, and we are getting in some cases, a different outcome.
This could be in Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, South Africa, Tanzania, or Kenya. It may not be for places that we know are full, but where we can’t get our A-Team guides as that is equally important, and we will let you know where that is. One of the places that illustrates this best is India. The Golden Triangle circuit and the traditional Rajasthan route is quite busy. However Big Five has, for years, talked about getting beyond that circuit to the real India like the Nagarhole Forest or the northeast. It’s the main reason we chose this video for the week, to showcase a part of India few truly know about. For those late planners, perhaps the best experience is awaiting.
With 62 days before the festive travel season officially kicks off, let us know if you need a miracle or two. You never know what could happen. Be sure to check airfare first as well, because even miracles have to deal with seat availability. So come on, let’s help “last-minute Sally” and “living-on-the-edge Larry” find the needle in the haystack holiday space. Enjoy this weeks video.
Dear Advisor Partners,
One of my favorite questions on our trip feedback form, is the question, “What would you like to see adventure companies do, as a whole, that they don’t do now?” I love this question because it can teach us so much. Those of you that know me, know that I am a disrupter at heart, some would even say arsonist when it comes to status quo business philosophy. This question is actually quite difficult to answer when you really think about it, and when it comes to clients, the answers are far ranging. Getting a trend in this answer is forever a work in progress, and often, the clients had such a great time, they really can’t think of anything to put down, which is what we hear the most. When it comes to advisors, the answer is loud and clear, a unified platform that speaks to all document creation software, from Axus to Travefy to Wetu, and “one place where clients and I can find everything we need.” There was also a resounding request for suppliers to not market direct to their advisors’ clients (which we never do). All of this was put into something I call the bad idea filter, essentially using the “Journey Curve” model Jay Golden, author of the amazing book “Retellable”, created. While Jay used it for storytelling, he loved it when I showed him how I use it to process ideas to help filter out bad ones and gravitate to the good ones. It was by chance then, that one of the team, Volker from the Africa team introduced me to the Safari Portal platform. Well, an ensuing series of conversations and demos with Sarah and Rachel from Safari Portal led us to realize that their platform was actually not the document platform others see. Rather we looked at the construction of the software and saw something more.
As we began to deconstruct the flow of that platform, we started seeing that this was so much more, it was an ecosystem, if we just changed the functionality. Portal Five was born, a unified communication hub that allows travel advisors, and their clients to access everything trip related before, during and especially after their adventure. Sounds a bit complicated with tech words, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, we have a really cool demo video to show you how it all works. Of all the features, I am excited about three parts that answer the points we heard form advisors. First, Portal Five is about you, not us, and the branding reflects that as does the Just for You section, exclusively designed for our advisors. Here, we can upload personal videos from you to your clients on a page exclusively branded just for you. The second feature is the Captured Moments page. Those of you who work with us know that we are always sharing photos and videos, where possible, that we took of your clients throughout their journey. Now this is shared in Portal Five for you and your clients to download. The last section, Hello Again, is the one I am most proud of. It takes an average of three years for a Big Five guest to repeat with us due to the nature of our experiences. Portal Five was designed with this in mind first, before we planned anything else. This isn’t about marketing for the next trip. This is about keeping the conversation going from the life changing journey that just happened, because skirting past that is one of the biggest mistakes you and I can collectively make. Your client’s journey and the impact it had on them and on the people and places they were visiting cannot be understated.
I find it ironic that I am currently enrolled in a graduate course on industry disruption, at the same time we launch Portal Five. Are you ready to be a disruptor?
Enjoy the video.