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TourSafe Africa—safe travel amid the COVID-19 coronavirus...and beyond

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TourSafe Africa

The coronavirus outbreak earlier this year turned the travel industry upside down. With borders slowly opening, safari properties and tour operators are moving swiftly to adhere to new protocols and standards. One tour operator took matters into her own hands. TourSafe Africa was created in 2020 by Alana Hayden, owner of Born Free Safaris & Tours. Ever since she was approached by Joy Adamson of the Elsa Wildlife Foundation and Born Free novel and move 47 years ago, Alana has been involved in the safari industry. She also founded APTA—The Association for Promotion of Tourism to Africa—a non-profit, volunteer, B2B association of travel professionals on a mission to promote Africa as tourist destinations to the retail travel agents and tour operators in the United States.

Your African Safaris interviewed Alana to learn more about TourSafe and what it means for consumers and for the safari travel industry.

African safari with leopard

What was the genesis of TourSafe Africa?

TourSafe Africa was created on what I felt was a need as a tour operator to assure clients that protocols were being followed by properties, other than just my word. I wanted a resource that I could refer potential travelers so they could see what properties were doing to provide them a safe and healthy journey. I contacted several tour operators and asked them what they felt would help them secure bookings and they felt that the TourSafe Africa initiative would assist them as well. 

There are other initiatives that are coming up, but ours is geared to be an easy-to-use consumer resource that promotes safe travels to Africa.

Can you list the steps they have pledged to take? How do companies take this pledge? Are they required to pay a fee?

TourSafe Africa’s mission is to provide a guideline for travelers of reputable accommodations and tour operators that have pledged to take steps to ensure proper practices for safe travels, not only in today’s current pandemic crisis but in the future as well.

Safari vehicle pride of lions

TourSafe Africa does not set the procedures and protocols and recommends the WTTC and CDC guidelines for organizations to follow. For accommodations, there are modest fees dependent on location and number of properties. This just about pays for the set-up and administration of the organization. Any profit realized is donated to Cottars Wildlife Conservation Trust. Membership for nominated and approved tour operators is free. All trusted travel partners must be nominated and approved by an executive committee prior to membership. 

In criteria it states that companies must have been promoting Africa for at least ten years. That is a long time to be in business. How can reputable companies who have been in business less than ten years be involved?

It is a massive undertaking for an organization to do site inspections at each partner location, so our challenge was how to trust that protocols would be followed. The 10 years in business criteria is meant as a guideline, but any reputable company can be nominated for membership by our executive committee, all of whom are experienced tour operators creating trips to Africa themselves for over 10 years and have a working knowledge of the quality of service their clients expect. An extension application must be filled out. 

Tour operators and accommodations that meet the criteria are able to display a banner, such as the one below, on their websites. To download a copy of the application form, please click on the banner. 

Application form for TourSafe Africa

What are your targets for the next year in terms of number of tour operators and lodges? Are you looking to get at least one representative from each country on the advisory council?

Will are always looking to add property partners as those who have adapted international safety protocols are nominated by our committee. We are also expanding tour operator membership, which is free. Our only requirement is that they put the TourSafe Africa logo on their website. We want the logo to become a sign of safe travel like that of the ‘Automobile Club’ if you look at that in a broad spectrum. 

We are not necessarily looking for a local representative from each country but not objecting to it either. The most important thing is to have someone whom we can trust that will be unbiased and that is not that easy. We rely on the International Council if there are questions on a particular property or if a problem should present itself. 

In the future, beyond COVID, we hope to be able to continue to be a safe travel resource, expanding our focus to the solo traveler, women, limited ability and special needs traveler

Expansion—our goal is first addressing the Coronavirus situation, but we will continue with providing a safe travel resource for the solo traveler, women, limited ability and special needs travelers, LGBTQ and more. 

About Alana Hayden 

Alana Hayden

Favorite park or game reserve: 

Masai Mara Game Reserve

Park you’d like to visit but haven’t, yet:

Selous Game Reserve

Best time of day for a game drive:

Generally early morning, when the sun is gold on the plains.

Favorite animal:

Giraffes, for their eyelashes

Favorite bird:

Secretary bird, because it seems to have a good sense of humor.

Favorite animal noise:

Any of the ones you hear at night.

Sundowner of choice:

Margaritas or anything with passion fruit juice.

 

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TourSafe Africa—safe travel amid the COVID-19 coronavirus...and beyond

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