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NOMAD ADveNTUre TOUrS

FEATuRE


15 years NOMAD:

ON THe

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Nomad Adventure Tours Focus TrAvel

If you are thinking of taking an African adventure there is only one choice says Alex rutherford, founder and director, Nomad Adventure Tours. By Ian Armitage

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omad Adventure Tours, which celebrates its 15th birthday in 2012, is specialised in creating unforgettable African Safaris. Its tours are a popular way for tourists to explore Africa and get “as close to the wild” as possible. South Africa Magazine (SA Mag) caught up with Nomad’s founder Alex Rutherford (AR) and asked him to tell us more about his epic adventures and just how he has helped grow a business from one truck, two employees and one departure a month, to an enterprise that is one of the world’s most renowned African overland operators. SA Mag: Alex, great to speak to you again (see SA Mag Issue 12). How are you? AR: I’m well thanks. It’s good to talk to you again. SA Mag: Super, thanks Alex. So, tell us… how did it all start? AR: We started Nomad Adventure Tours in 1997 and consider ourselves to be a leading example of how to run adventure holidays and experiences. We remain a force in this sector, but, and this is why we are so strong, have retained the magic – the personal touch that saw us grow so successfully originally. The company was founded on old fashioned hard work and started from almost nothing. We’ve learnt a lot over the years but have never forgotten the lessons learned in the early days. Personally, I learnt a lot, especially in terms of people management. We deliver high quality tours and receive on average 4,000 positive feedback forms annually. Why are we a success? I think it is down to a number of things. First and foremost it is because this is Africa. Africa conjures up images of discovery, magic and adventure. People are really drawn to the continent. Africa www.southafricamag.com

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has it all: interesting culture, warm and welcoming people, awe inspiring places, unique animals, dramatic landscapes and epic adventure. Africa has it all in abundance, it is a land of surprises and contrasts. We always keep a promise. SA Mag: Nomad is obviously 15 now. It is a fantastic achievement. How will you celebrate? Any special events lined up? AR: It is a fantastic achievement and we are going to celebrate with all of our favourite operators, agents, guides, staff and travellers who are in the area. Any excuse for a party is a good one! Being in business for 15 years and being part of the steady and exciting growth of this company is a really good excuse to get everyone together to share their memories and experiences with Nomad.

The team ensures that each individual’s tour is the experience of a lifetime!

SA Mag: That’s super. Hopefully we can come out and celebrate with you… we love a party! But seriously, 15 years now… why should someone choose you? Why shouldn’t they miss out on experiencing Africa with Nomad? AR:Having been in the industry for 15 years, Nomad remains a market leader and is responsible for a lot of industry firsts ensuring that we do have the best tours on the market. Nomad Adventure Tours was one of the first operators to introduce things like fully operational freezers on trucks for food storage, glass windows for the trucks, seatbelts in all of our vehicles, a green seats 4

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programme to offset carbon emissions, PA systems, and a programme to uplift the local community and protect the magnificent places we visit. Lastly, and most importantly, we have local qualified guides who are immensely passionate and proud about their home and heritage.

SA Mag: We’ve talked a lot about Nomad’s heritage and past, but what about the present - how is Nomad performing? AR: Thanks to the loyal support of our agents and travellers, we have continued to perform well in a time where the majority of our target market is recovering from a global recession. Tour bookings have not been quite as seasonal as they have been in the past and we’ve noticed that the period of peak travel has extended much later into the year and has even crept into the


Nomad Adventure Tours Focus TrAvel

15 REAsoNs WHY NoMAD Is coNsIDERED THE BEsT LocAL oVERLAND oPERAToR Nomad Adventure Tours is the first African Adventure Company to offer a programme where guests can neutralise their carbon footprint by supporting the planting of endemic trees – this is called the “Green Seats” option and can be purchased on any tour. In 2008, it introduced the Nomad African Trust which is a registered non-profit organisation assisting to protect and uplift the people, places and animals of Africa. Nomad offers its tours in either fully camping or fully accommodated options. All of tours can be sold in sections or can be linked together to extend a tour. Tours operate in both a North and South direction. Nomad has tours that depart with Spanish and German translators. It has a groups department which is capable of tailoring a tour of any nature in any language.

beginning of the new year. February and March 2012 saw us achieve our highest booking numbers in Nomad history and two of our greatest achievements for our 2012 tours have been the introduction of an Activity Package and our new Small Group Tours, both unique to Nomad. The Activity Package consists only of activities and park entry fees, all of the prices are listed for complete transparency, it is offered in ZAR and it is now optional which allows the more budget conscious to travel without overextending themselves. On top of that, the Nomad African Trust has had a brilliant year. Shannon Fletcher, the custodian of the trust, has accomplished some amazing feats including paying out R99,896.83 to it’s beneficiaries by the end of the financial year in Feb 2012 – but none of this would have been possible without the support of our sponsors and donors.

Nomad has the widest product choice in our range and operates more dates than any of its competitors. The introduction of single currency pricing makes prices more stable and easier to package. All guides are encouraged to further their qualifications and are incentivised accordingly. They are individually coached and mentored at the beginning and end of each tour to give praise where due and to continually improve standards where required. A detailed feedback system provides constant feedback about all the components of a good tour. Nomad monitors and charts performance as well as tour results and incorporates this in its briefings and product development.

SOUTH LUANGWA, ZAMBIA

All trucks are SABS approved and locally registered which makes them the safest on the road as they are tested by the authorities every six months and have to adhere to the highest safety standards. Nomad’s state of the art workshop in Somerset West lovingly maintains its fleet of vehicles. Its workshop builds, maintains and repairs the fleet. All trucks have seatbelts, charging facilities for cameras, PA systems, iPod jacks, long range fuel tanks, and most have individual lockers. A four person Operations and Workshop team has worked for Nomad for six years on average and have a collective experience of over 30 years.

An affordable front-row seat to one of Africa’s greatest National Parks Full-board Packages • Self Catering Chalets • Stunning Campsite info@wildlifezambia.com www.wildlifecamp-zambia.com Tel: +260 216 246026


SA Mag: What do you think is the secret to your success? AR: There are many factors that contribute to Nomad’s success but I believe that the most important factor is that every person in every team at Nomad works together to ensure that we offer an outstanding experience for our guests and agents. From the inception until our travellers are safely home and dreaming of their next African tour, the team ensures that each individual’s tour is the experience of a lifetime! There are always excellent opportunities to improve performance across the board and the best place to start would be by looking at the tour feedback that we collect from all of our guests at the end of every tour. Off the back of this we will be building six new passenger compartments and will introduce over 60 new tents in the course of the year, ensuring that we continue to offer a quality service and product. Nomad holds a strong position in the marketplace as a local African specialist. We are owner operated and enjoy the privilege of being one of the only registered SABS approved truck building facilities in the industry. We’re large enough to count on and small enough to care!

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SA Mag: How would you like to see the business develop in the future? Will it be another 15 successful years? AR: People travel with Nomad because they want to see and experience something new, they want to be away from civilisation and want to experience personal growth by slipping out of their daily routine. Africa has always been the perfect destination for this as it has been difficult to access due to the lack of infrastructure. Now, with the vast developments in infrastructure in Southern and East Africa, all industry has become more commercialised. From the outset Nomad has offered authentic overland adventures at excellent value and we will strive to ensure that we continue to offer these unique experiences. We want to push the boundaries of travel outside of being a bus tour operator and balance the demand for tours where the individual can connect with the destination and the people and animals that they will experience on their journey. We never want to lose the magic that Africa offers to her visitor


Nomad Adventure Tours Focus travel

The future for the people of Africa is tourism. It is the fastest growing sector and the only way to uplift the people of Africa

and we want to focus on ensuring that we can put this across to our travellers in a tour that is a once in a lifetime experience at an affordable price. We are currently doing a big push on our East Africa routes. We are offering more of them in an accommodated option, we’re offering shorter versions on longer legs and we’re putting together more combinations so that guests have the flexibility to join the tour at more points. This way we can ensure strong numbers which will in turn allow us to keep our prices low. We have also reworked our Southern African Dive Tour and will now offer two shorter legs of the 13 Day tour. One of the shorter legs will encompass diving in Mozambique with the world’s only permanent population of whale shark and a manta cleaning station, and the other will be diving in South Africa with our large toothy friends! Internally, we continue to ensure service

excellence through training, development, research and strategy development and we continually keep our eyes on the horizon for good opportunities. We continue to ensure that the product is seamless and are currently building more truck bodies, sewing new tents, and continually upgrading all of our equipment. The trucks retain their strict maintenance schedule; we have one of the most experienced workshop teams to ensure that the fleet is the safest on the road. The future for the people of Africa is tourism. It is the fastest growing sector and the only way to uplift the people of Africa while ensuring the long time survival of the very things that make tourism to Africa unique – life changing cultural experience and wildlife that is unmatched anywhere and under severe threat. END To learn more visit www.nomadtours.co.za. www.southafricamag.com

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SA MAG 25 NOMAD FEATURE

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