Most people book safari tours or experiences through their local travel agent before getting to traveling to their destination. The safari tour is, in this case, packaged along with flights and accommodation (and sometimes meals) so you don't get to see how much of what you are paying goes to the local safari tour operator.
This is definitely true for most tourists coming to various Afrikan countries from Asia, Europe, and North America. Here is the problem though, the local safari tour operators in Afrika typically, in most cases, get a small cut of the money the traveler pays with the agent taking a bigger cut for literally pushing paper. Travel agents do this by adding a significant markup on safari tours their clients' book but this money doesn't filter down to tour operators in Afrika. Indirectly, this hampers the tour operators' growth.
There's a platform, Safarisource, trying to solve this problem and empower tour operators in Afrika by connecting them directly with international travelers.
Safarisource's Loserian Laizer (Head of East Africa Division) and Jessika Nilsson (Founder and CEO).
The story of Safarisource starts in Ngorongoro, Tanzania.
"While working on my PhD in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania I discovered that both tourists and tour operators were dissatisfied with how safaris had been booked. Travelers complained about the lack of transparency and the difficulty to book tours. They often did not know what they were getting themselves into and relied on 'travel experts' who knew little of the safari itself," explained Jessika Nilsson, Founder, and CEO at Safarisource, when speaking to iAfrikan.
Nilsson further explained that tour operators also complained about being at the mercy of international travel agents taking extremely high cuts without any involvement in the actual tour. That's not the only problem though, the first time the local tour operator speaks to a tourist and discovers their preferences would be on their arrival.
The team behind Safarisource is quite diverse with Nilsson, who grew up in Tanzania, as the Founder and CEO, Loserian Laizer, a Maasai elder and naturalist, runs the East Africa division, Max Nilsson, who is responsible for sales and marketing, and they also have an all female programming team.
How Nilsson came about with the idea for Safarisource was quite a coincidence as she explains that it wasn't until when she went to Europe to complete her doctorate that she thought of a solution.
Jessika Nilsson, Founder and CEO at Safarisource.com
"At the time (2013) I became an Airbnb host to help finance my studies. Then I realized that applying the technology of the sharing economy to the safari industry was the answer. As I completed my degree in 2016 I immediately began working on Safarisource, Loserian, who was my research assistant in Ngorongoro, came on board and then at INDABA trade fair in May 2017 we launched," said Nilsson.
Although I say it is a coincidence how she came about with the idea for Safarisource, I suspect the fact that she holds a PhD in anthropology and that she did her field research on technology in nomadic societies in Tanzania somehow, indirectly, influenced her decision to work on Safarisource.
Nilsson concurs that one of the biggest problems with the way this specific sector of the tourism industry is structured is that a lot of the tourism revenue never gets to Afrika, it mostly stays in the West with travel agents. Afrikan tour operators, especially the smaller ones, can be completely dependent on a Western agent or wholesaler for their livelihood.
"We find this troubling and wish to empower local Afrikan businesses and keep tourism income within Afrika. Secondly, we lead the traveler straight to the source for a more personalized safari experience and the opportunity to support the local economy. The traveler can only benefit from engaging directly with the ground handler," said Nilsson.
Safarisource.com's landing page for travelers is intuitive and it is where you can start searching for available tours from. Once you have searched, you will be presented with a listing of available tours and from there you can further narrow done your preferences.
You can search based on different criteria such as activities, budget, and rating to name some of the available options.
Once you have decided on the tour you want, you click on and you get all the specifications of that tour, upgrades, and extras that can be booked, and the opportunity to either contact the tour operator to discuss or send a booking request directly.
"Communication between tour operator and traveler is very important to us. The communication and booking process should be one smooth flow," said Nilsson.
How Safarisource monetizes is by taking 9% commission and a 3% banking fee.
Safarisource.com Tour Operator Sign-up page.
The registration process for tour operators is simple and more importantly, free.
Currently, the platform is available in East and Southern Afrika with already 150 tour operators signed up in total since launching in May 2017.
Nilsson concludes by highlighting how the platform is growing "We also just signed our first West African (Ghana) operator,".