Attn: Kavey, Rocco, Liz, et al

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Mar 29th, 2003, 07:25 AM
  #1
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Attn: Kavey, Rocco, Liz, et al

Message: Looking for some input from those of you who peruse Africa-travel related websites on a frequent basis. Many of you are beyond the tour operator stage, meaning you plan and book your own trips. However ... go back to the time when you first started looking at tour operator websites. What was it about a website that drew your attention? Photos? Use of graphics? Name of the tour company? I am looking for feedback for a project I may be doing. What, in your opinions, do any tour operator websites lack? Thanks for any and all assistance.
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Mar 29th, 2003, 07:39 AM
  #2
 
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This is off top of my head so pretty obvious and in no order.

Has to be easy to navigate - and not just by relying on my Back button. Should be clear links back to HOME page and to other important sections - and these should be easy to find - I don't want to scroll huge distances up and down to find them.

Don't use frames - if you do I can't bookmark specific pages within your site - this bit is coming from me in my IT Consultant hat (it's what I do for work).

I like clean sites - I don't like adverts everywhere. I hate hate hate flashing pictures or text. I find animated or still cartoons tacky.

I like inspirational photos.

I like a lot of information on accommodation and I prefer lots of photos. You want them to be small file size for quick loading but not so small as to make the quality look poor - when I see poor quality photos I assume a site has scanned them in from someone's printed brochure rather than obtained a decent quality digital copy from the owner of the property. Looks bad.

Personally I hate sites where the only way I can contact the owners is via a web form - give me a straightforward email link too. Sometimes I don't want to enter fields upon fields about my name address blah blah blah just to ask a quick query. I'll go to another operator instead. So by all means have that form but give me an email link too.

If I think of more later I'll come back.

So what are you creating Susan and if you need Beta testers to test the site, let me know.

Kavey

[email protected]

PS I still use an operator to book my trips - I don't go for package tours but for private itineraries but I like having a bonded agent responsible for the whole thing and I doubt I could match price or save much if I did it myself.

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Mar 29th, 2003, 10:05 AM
  #3
LizFrazier
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SusanLynne-
I don't use tour operators websites as such. I research with a specific camp or area in mind with no intention of using that tour operator. After I assemble what places I want to visit, I can either contact a tour operator, or book it myself.
When I started going to Africa people didn't have PCs, only travel agents did. I picked agents by using travel brochures and pretty pictures. No more!
Now I contact websites by email using the 'contact us' button and get pages of emails answering my questions in endless detail directly from the camps, or local-Africa places where I find the information. I see no reason to use travel agents from the US when I can get the exact information directly from the horse's mouth, so to speak. One exception to this and the only one I see, is Wilderness Safaris camps. I can go around that by using very fine camps in the same general areas and they are easier to deal with on specials. Wilderness doesn't really post their prices and you don't know what you pay for each place. I don't think I am comfortable with that any more.
The websites with the most pictures and camp details are the ones I use. It still doesn't influence me in the slightest to use that agent or operator to plan my trip. You don't really have anyone to fall back on. Not when you are in Africa and they are over here. You can book your own air on the internet directly with the carriers, or a discounter, pay by credit card, and you can fill in the gaps by purchasing specials or even book each individual camp yourself. That is a bit trickier because local bush hops are almost impossible to book from the US.
But I do peruse many, many sites each day by using search engines for a specific camp.
I can't imagine what your project is, but for me, websites do not equal business for an operator, just a visit to a camp. If it is their camp, then it works. Hope that helped you. Liz
 
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Mar 29th, 2003, 10:52 AM
  #4
 
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Susan,

In a website I appreciate a lot of quality photos that don't just show me the outside or inside of a hotel or lodge.

I also like a website if it shows me who operates the place, has a map of its precise location and gives me info directly on their website about the pricing (instead of having to wait for a quote from a travel agent or by an email from the hotel).

One of the things that led me to Kafunta in South Luangwa is that they really personalized their website. They are competing with some very experienced and esteemed places in the South Luangwa and its not like they could sell you on their ten years experience when others like Robin Pope Safaris and Norman Carr Safaris has triple the experience or more.

Kafunta basically gave me the whole history of the lodge. It was basically started by two young travellers who basically fell in love with the area, worked at another area lodge and then fulfilled their dream of opening their own lodge.

Also, Kafunta was very explicit about their prices listed clearly on their website and offered substantial discounts for those staying a minimum of five nights.

Overall, I thought that their website was better than any other lodge in the area and by listing the comments of past guests, I was able to contact a couple past guestss by email who were still in a nice haze from their stays at Kafunta.

The Kafunta website is www.luangwa.com

The other places I chose on this trip were the Michelangelo Hotel in Joburg, the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Cape Town and I am choosing between Tsala Treetop Lodge and Phantom Forest Eco Lodge near Knysa on the Garden Route. Honestly, although it is a 5* hotel in a great area, I would have never chosen the Twelve Apostles if not for buying it at a bargain price (more than 50% off) on an internet auction site. I may or may not have chosen the Michelangelo Hotel.

Both the Tsala Treetop Lodge and the Phanton Forest Eco Lodge have great looking websites:

www.tsala.com
www.phantomforest.com

I do prefer the website of Phantom Forest because they seem to offer more details about area attractions, while Tsala is simply selling people on their incredible looking accomodations.

I always prefer a place that returns my email within a day rather than a place that takes many days. Sorry, but by then I have likely moved on to a more responsive hotel/lodge.

I do trust places that are part of a recognized group, whether it is Relais & Chateaux, Wilderness Safaris, or others. However, it is not essential. Often all this does is add to the bottom lined price of the trip.

To answer your final question, I think that many tour operator websites lack enough photos and enough feedback from past guests. Had I not seen all the photos of Kafunta and not tracked down past guests to get their direct feedback, I may have chosen Robin Pope Safaris or the Bushcamp Company.

I do think that Fodors has been essential to my African travel planning. No amount of advertising could replace the recommendations from people that I think I can trust on this board. If somebody on here that seemed credible told me that Kafunta was horrible, I would drop it in a second.

My original travel planning this year was going to feature the Sabi Sand Reserve in South Africa for a second year in a row. However, the more research I did and the more I hung around this board, the more that I began to see that the Sabi Sand was like Safari 101, or safari for beginners. The thoughts of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia seemed so outlandish to me at the beginning but now I would not consider anywhere else for the safari portion of my trip.

Hope this helps some.
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Mar 29th, 2003, 02:02 PM
  #5
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Thanks Kavey, Liz and Rocco. Anyone else who wants to offer input is welcome as well. If it comes to fruition, Kavey, I would be thrilled to have you as a Beta tester!!
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Mar 30th, 2003, 10:21 AM
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Just email me.
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Mar 30th, 2003, 07:29 PM
  #7
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If it happens, it won't be for a while yet. But, again, I appreciate your offer!
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