Episode: 439 |
Craig Beal:
Craig Beal on the Travel Business:


Craig Beal

Craig Beal on the Travel Business

Show Notes

Craig Beal grew up in the safari planning business. His parents were the owners/operators of Travel Beyond, a company that planned luxury safaris in Africa.  After attending the US Naval Academy and serving as a US Navy Submarine Officer, Craig and his wife Kay purchased Travel Beyond in 2005. In this episode, he talks about getting into the travel business. To learn more about Craig’s business, visit travelbeyond.com

Key points include:

  • 05:12: What the upscale Safari tour operator offers
  • 09:36: His business and marketing approach
  • 24:25: The $50,000 clients
  • 25:50: What people do on a nine-day safari


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  1. Craig Beal on the Travel Industry


Will Bachman 00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Greg Beale, who is the owner of travel beyond firm that helps organize trips to Africa. Greg, welcome to the show.


Craig Beal 00:21

Thanks a lot. Well.


Will Bachman 00:22

So Craig, I, and I’ll tell listeners here. Well, you and I met at the retirement ceremony of a mutual friend of ours, who is retiring after 40 years in the Navy. You and I spent considerably less time than that. You got out of the Navy to to acquire this business. Right. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the travel business.


Craig Beal 00:46

Yeah, well, I grew up traveling to Africa. So my my dad’s from here in Minnesota, he grew up in a town called a Dinah, which is a suburb of Minneapolis, and he still lives there in a retirement community. Now, along with a house in Florida. My mom grew up on a farm in South Africa about halfway between Cape Town and Johannesburg by road, so about a six hour drive from both cities. And my family had been in Africa since about them in South Africa since about the mid 1800s. And in fact, my sister is now the fourth generation owner of that family farm where she lives in South Africa. So I grew up, you know, my, my dad was more of a corporate travel agent, and also had an interest in the safari business. But there was a business when I was a child called travel ways and my family owned, and they had started travel beyond is kind of a safari brand underneath that umbrella. So I grew up traveling to Africa, mostly Southern Africa, and my family would back in those days, remember, it was a pre apartheid or during apartheid, sorry. And, you know, also travel with different people would go in big groups back then. So every few years, my parents would organize a large group. And often we would go with 30 or 40 people traveling to Africa, and sometimes dragging us along as kids. And also, when I were ever we’d visit relatives in Africa. My dad had sisters here in the US, but none of them had kids. And my mom had five brothers and sisters. So I have 11 first cousins in South Africa, and we’d visit them all the time and also go on safari during those times. So I really grew up traveling in the business traveling to Africa. And then after I graduated from high school, I went to the Naval Academy, and like you served on submarines, and I ended up doing a 10 year 10 years served on two different submarines. During that time, I was only able to travel to Africa twice. It was was a busy time in my life. And my wife and I had children. At a very young age. I got married right after I graduated from Annapolis and started having kids about a year later. So despite my youthful appearance at age 15, my daughters are 25 and 23. Now, anyway, so we you know, Facebook, finishing up my second tour on my second submarine, I was faced with a decision of what to do stay in the Navy for 10 more years and retire. Or there was like a couple different opportunities that interested me in the in outside the Navy. After looking at graduate school and a few different other job openings. I decided to actually buy the family business. My my dad had retired in 1995 sold the corporate travel agency and the business was really focused on leisure travel with about half of that being safaris to Africa. But the business was winding down, my brother had partner with my mom, and he had decided to leave the industry in 2003. My mom was looking for a buyer for the company, and unbeknownst to her was not well actually. And so the opportunity sort of presented itself over dinner in Seattle where I was on my submarine and ended up leaving the Navy in late June of 2005. And showed up at travel beyond a week later and started running the business it was down smaller than it had been in many years, the company had four full time employees left. So it was a nice place to nice place to start with a smaller business and take it from there. But I know I’ve talked so long, I can’t remember if I’ve answered your original question will but that’s how I got into the business. It was a family business originally. And then my wife and I bought it from the rest of the rest of my family.


Will Bachman 04:27

So give listeners a sense of the type of tours that you organize today. Like sort of what what’s maybe the typical, what’s the range of maybe the number of people and and the duration and maybe just sort of a range of the sort of the price so people can just get a sense and then and then just for listeners, if anybody’s wondering why we will doing this episode. Craig has some really fascinating points around business development and how he’s built this business. That I was really interested to hear and wanted to share. So, but before we dive into that just just give us a little sense of kind of the, your positioning the market and the type of product that you offer.


Craig Beal 05:12

Yeah, so we are what I would call an upscale Safari tour operator. And a tour operator simply means that we’re packaging everything together, and actually collecting the client payment ourselves and then dispersing it to all the various suppliers. And so far, we could have anywhere from you know, 10 to 30 different suppliers involved depending on its complexity and length, and how many countries and all that kind of stuff. And travel agents are 40% of our customers. So a travel agent, a pure travel agent, by most people’s definition, would not handle a client’s money, they would get the credit card, pass it on to some other party, whether it’s a tour operator, a cruise line, or, you know, an all inclusive resort, whatever that might be. So they’re not, they’re not a middleman for the money. They are an expert in in the client relationship. So our typical typically 2019, we sent about 3000 customers to Africa, the vast majority of those were just individuals, families and couples, our average booking is 2.3 people. So the best way to go on an upscale Safari, in my opinion, and typically the most cost effective way is to actually travel by yourself. And that seems to always confuse people a little bit, they think you have to go in a group tour to get numbers and things like that. But the upscale industry is really designed for the individual traveler, the individual couple traveling alone. So that’s our that’s our, our sweet spot. And this year, obviously business off quite a bit with COVID. Even though all the countries in Africa are opening and welcoming Americans, we sent about 500 people so far this year. Typically, you know what a typical trip with us, we don’t accept business, if it doesn’t include at least six nights on safari at two different lodges or more, we typically recommend for a first time trip to Africa, or even a second or third, eight or nine nights out in the bushes is perfect. That’s the the four times I’ve taken my own kids on safari, we go to three different lodges for three nights each. If you end up with a you know, a larger family traveling together, or a few couples that are friends, and we arranged at a 10 or 11 Night Safari, usually somebody comes back and says they slept in on the 10th morning. And even though you know so in the moment, they’re kind of done, when they get home, they they want to be right back in Africa. But in the moment, about nine or 10 nights is perfect. And on the other side of that if people go on a safari and don’t take our advice, and they end up going for five nights, they sort of wish they had more time with the animals given all the time and resources they’d invested in their Safari. So yeah, Nine Nights Safari average price point, I would say the least expensive Safari lodge we work with would be a place like mashatu Safari lodge in Botswana, their tented camp or maybe kambaku River sands in South Africa, around five or $600 per person per night. And then the most expensive Safari lodges in Africa, all fiber in Botswana are all six. And those are going to be in the range of 3500 per person per night plus or minus. So that’s your price range for peak season, safaris. And I’d say our average company average price point is around 14,000 per person all inclusive once the client arrives in Africa, so not including the international flights. As you noted, during our initial meeting, I do end up planning lots of safaris myself, where I am the sole point of contact with the company for the customer. And my average price point is around $20,000 per person for a safari, I tilt a little bit toward more towards the business that includes Safari lodges with high levels of hotel luxury, if that makes sense. So yeah, about 14,000 a person, little over $1,000 per person per night for the Safari.


Will Bachman 08:53

Alright, fantastic for so I want to well, eventually we’ll want to get back to some kind of Safari advice towards the end of our conversation for people that are either planning to book their own or try to explore to do that part. But let’s talk about how you’ve built your business. I was really interested in some of the approaches that you’ve followed of, for example, you know, hosting some parties for people when they get back and you some, some other gifts and so forth. Could you tell us a little bit about just what is your business development slash marketing approach?


Craig Beal 09:36

Yeah, I for one, you know, we just don’t, we don’t advertise that’s, you know, Google AdWords or however, you know, you might think of advertising we don’t do that in travel magazines, anything like that. We don’t have what I would call a traditional marketing and PR department. The person that is most responsible for our brands and fonts and websites and newsletters is called our brand manager and you There’s two people that work in that area at the company and they also manage our social media, all that kind of stuff. The vast majority of our business is really just repeat and referral clients. We also get a strong intake of customers from PR. just happy to say that. Just last week, we found out that Travel and Leisure magazine ranked us the number five Safari tour operator in the world for 2021. So we were happy to see that amazing congratulations. That’s awesome. Thank you. Yeah, so I think you know that that’s what I would call PR which is when you get publicity without paying for it. And we do work a lot with a lot with the in the magazines. You know, Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure helping them with content. And, you know, I mentioned Travel and Leisure but with Conde Nast, we’re the only company in travel that has five of our advisors are on their travel specialists list every year, they come up with a list of about 350 travel advisors in the world that that they recommend to their readers, and we’re the only company with five people on that list. So we do work closely with you know, the magazines, but I’m not an advertising sense. But really, our you know, our bread and butter, like I said is the repeat and referral client. And we are unfortunately, we’re not where I want to be with our customer lifetime value metric that is a long term dream or goal of mine to be able to know who are at all times who our best customers are geographically and through various aspects. But at the moment, you know, a lot of our we know who our key customers are the ones that refer business to us, the ones that are most enthusiastic about our brand, the ones that engage with us on social media, right, you know, very glowing trip reports and go on multiple trips with us. And so we really try to stay in close contact with those customers. We do a lot of entertaining in our, you know, in our clients, usually in their homes, or at least in their hometown. So, you know, this year I’ve been out to in Charleston, South Carolina, where I took three different customers out to lunch and dinner and drinks. And one of those clients have invited us back to host a party in their home in November. So they’re just gonna invite their friends and we bring in a caterer and a bartender and serve some nice food and drinks and just give a short 15 minute Safari one on one presentation, and then usually show some of their photos from their trip, and just get to know their friends. You know, we don’t ask anyone to do business with us. We think that’s a not a not a good formula for long term success. So we just you know, people let people opt in to our services. Other things we do you know, we we do spend a lot of time on on social media and what I would tell them not social media, but forums. So if you look at TripAdvisor feautres flyer talk, there’s various travel forums where I think it’s interesting because people can test drive your knowledge on a forum, they can, if you go to the Botswana forum on TripAdvisor, you can ask anonymously through a handle, you can ask a question, and then the community responds. And if you like the way that the responder writes, and that responder happens to be in the travel industry, you could book a safari with them. So like, for example, on TripAdvisor, I’m the only destination expert in the world for Botswana. And that’s a designation you get from TripAdvisor. So I can go on the forum. And someone might be asking a question about a nice Safari, and I can answer it, because I’ve usually been to every luxury lodge in the past five years. And if that person likes the way I write, and my tone and my knowledge, they can contact, it’s very easy for them to click on my profile, see where I work, and then contact me to plan their Safari. So travel forums are nice in that regard. And we have that, you know, work that relationship with various companies. And I’m also on the reko platform with TripAdvisor, which is a matchmaking service for people looking for to work with a travel expert not to book online. So those are some of the things we do, I would say. Obviously, the most successful is just staying engaged with our best clients. Next week, I plan on going out to Billings, Montana and Seattle to entertain some clients that just got back from Safari, and ones that were also highly engaged. The family in Seattle was extremely active on Facebook and talking about our brand while they were traveling, which was nice.


Will Bachman 14:11

That’s very cool. So do you send any beyond going and actually meeting people and entertaining them? Do you send out any kind of periodic communications and newsletter annual mailing anything?


Craig Beal 14:29

We do? We usually have about a about monthly we send out an electronic newsletter to a list of people that are opted into it. And I think that database is about 4000 people out of the approximate 25,000 email addresses we have. We try to keep it to a you know, no more than every four weeks and then we know like for the September issue, we knew that we were holding back we had two possible newsletters ready. One was to announce this Travel and Leisure award where we were voted number five Safari operator in the world and Otherwise, if we didn’t make that list, and so we sent that that was our September newsletter was just an announcement about that award, and just reminding people that Africa is open for business and has been since last August. So that’s monthly. We do. You know, we were quite active on Facebook and Instagram, with our social media accounts. And those are almost daily, we’ve had a lot of our staff have been traveling to Africa for the past year, we actually have one of our senior Africa staff is on her honeymoon right now in Kenya. And so we’re constantly feeding those reports and daily reports, sometimes through Facebook, to the audience that wants to see that, that answer that question, or whatever, you asked what else we also do, I would say, one thing that we find pretty successful too, is, you know, our clients that are our staff that have a personal relationship with clients, I’ve actually met them face to face, that often send out, you know, some holiday communications. And that’s always nice, you know, it’s not nothing we do is going to be impersonal or, you know, electricity, you know, seeming personal like that the outreach will be an individual message and not, you know, the entire email they send or the entire letter would be, would be personal to that client.


Will Bachman 16:15

One thing I thought was interesting that you told me was that, while you’re the owner of the firm, you haven’t put yourself in the position where you’re serving as kind of the overall kind of chief manager of the business, but you’ve kept yourself from your more in a client facing, you could call it a sales role, and hired other people to be kind of the managers of the business. Tell me a little bit about that.


Craig Beal 16:44

Yeah, I think, you know, there’s, there’s a couple things that I think about, and these aren’t, I have lots of inspirations and lots of people and processes and things I’ve observed over the past 25 years go into my management or leadership style, so to speak. You know, but one book I read that I really liked a simple almost pamphlet is called selling the invisible. You have that and then you have a saying that. I remember when I was at Quantico, trying to decide if I wanted to be a Submariner or a Marine Corps officer. They always talk about every Marine, every marine is a rifleman, first. So even if you’re a lawyer in the Marine Corps, you’re you’re a trained rifleman, and could be in the infantry if you needed to. So I always thought I wanted to be really sharp and be the best at our primary product. And that’s Africa, 90% of our business. And I wanted to lead from the front in that regard and be a top person in sales. I didn’t have the tech, the administrative sales skills. When I got here. I did, I had the knowledge, and I’ve been crafting that ever since. But, yeah, just just wanting, you know, I think what I’ve observed over the last 16 years is people with incredible product knowledge, incredible knowledge on the actual core product of the upscale travel industry, or the safari industry, get very bogged down in the in the details, you get constantly invited to advisory boards and actual boards and trade shows and speaker engagements and all kinds of things that quickly can gobble up a 40 Hour Workweek, which is actually more as you can imagine a 60 or 70 Hour Work Week. So I really, really work hard to not do that. And to be client facing where, you know, I this is where the I mentioned, the book selling the invisible comes in, I think, you know, it is some people spend a lot of money on their safaris, I mentioned the average price points earlier about company average about 14,000 on the ground for per person and my personal average around 20,000. But we still have people that spend, you know, four or 500,000 on their safaris as well. And if you’ve never been to Africa, you don’t exactly know what you’re going to get until you arrive. And you don’t want that to be a disappointment. So you really need to trust the person you’re working with. And that’s really why, you know, that’s one reason I really stay involved in sales, because I can be that person for clients that might not actually work with us otherwise, unless they were extremely confident that their investment was going to pay off. They’re almost an investment in their life, so to speak, was going to pay off. So yeah, that’s one of my philosophies. Plus, I just want to be, you know, this is a sales driven business, and I want to be really knowledgeable on the core product. So I know what our team’s up to, and I can help them at any time. And, and also, you know, chime in and where necessary when they’re trying to design trips for their clients. I want to be the I want to compete. I also you know, at age 50 I’m not winning a lot of sports contests, and I’ll be honest, I still do get that dopamine high every time I ring the cash register with a new deposit. So I enjoy selling and it’s something that I guess I’m a competitive person. So I enjoy that. That gives me a lot of a lot of pleasure to be involved in that process and can just convincing somebody to work with me. is always fun as well. So there’s lots of things I enjoy about selling, there’s where there are many people that actually enjoy managing and training and administering the business. In fact, you know, we have salespeople that sometimes want to revert back to more of an administrative role in the company, which is totally fine as well, because we need plenty of that support. So, yeah, I hope that answers the question, I think, I think, you know, you want to put your best foot forward. And we always say that here at travel beyond, we always say, put your best foot forward with the customers. And sometimes, you know, that involves me being out front. But with that said, I also, you know, you want to, there’s nothing more for a young salesperson that’s been really working hard and learning their product to make a big sale. And I certainly don’t like to crowd them out and gobble up all the best customers. So our philosophy here is that I’ll just work with clients that really just asked for me, and what will I accept nothing less than working with the owner of the business. And this person they might have read about on TripAdvisor or seen on, you know, top travel advisor lists in the major travel magazines, all that kind of stuff?


Will Bachman 21:06

I got to ask, What does someone get if they spend half a million dollars on a safari to Africa, tell me a little bit what that Safari would be like what they’re going to do?



Well, that’s going to be a big group, most likely, I mean, I mentioned the most expensive Safari lodge in Africa, for this year. 2021 is mombo. camp in Botswana, it’s about 3900 per person per night. So if you spent your entire Safari there, you’re going to be, you know, 10 nights there, you’d be at $40,000 plus a little bit of airfare. So you really beyond that you have to have, you know, photographic professional guides involved possibly, or a hosted trip. And I think for some of those bigger trips, we send travel the on staff along with to help help the group socially host sometimes, you know, it’s a grandmother with paying or grandparents paying for their kids and all their grandkids to go with, and the families, you know, live apart. And it’s good for them to have some hosts along to make those make everything go smoother. Definitely you would it be including private aviation, that those price points where you’d be able to put together in otherwise impossible Safari due to logistics, distances and things like that, with private planes. And, you know, keep in mind, you know, Cape Town to Nairobi is, I think, a 15 minute flight shy of Miami, Seattle. So Africa is a really big place. And people don’t realize that when they look at a map just because of as you know, what’s it called? Well, them or the Mercator projection or know the how the globe distorts things that are very quick.


Will Bachman 22:36

Yeah, the Mercator projection. Yeah. All right. The Greenland is like bigger than you know. And all North America, right?


Craig Beal 22:45

Exactly. So Africa, you know, Nairobi’s on the equator. So it’s a bit looks a bit smaller on the map than it really is. And so yeah, when you’re, when you’re spending that kind of money, you are often you know, you have you have private planes, often you’re buying out services as well, sometimes, you know, our customers are people that can’t be seen, they don’t want anyone to see them and recognize them. And so they need to buy out lots of empty inventory around them, maybe the floor of a hotel, maybe, you know, maybe even at a tourist attraction, like a museum or something in the in the middle of their trip, they need to have complete privacy. So you’d have to buy out and make sure that that, you know, whatever, wherever you’re at the restaurant, the museum doesn’t take any more customers during that time period.


Will Bachman 23:28

And why are these because they’re like celebrities, or what sort of people can’t be seen?



Um, I would say, Yeah, they’re not going to be necessarily celebrities, we don’t actually end up with a lot of celebrity business, but still recognizable people from the business world, mostly, I would say. And, you know, we’ve had a few politicians over the years usually retired, but, you know, I would say just people that there are people that we have traveled with us every year that you would, that almost anybody would recognize that they saw them on the street.


Will Bachman 23:57

Gotcha. Tell me a little bit more about that. I mean, obviously, I don’t want to have any names, but what are the types of people that might spend, you know, half a million dollars on a safari or even, you know, 4040 or 40 or 50 grand for a couple is, is, is is an interesting number. So, are these typically, like, you know, investment bankers or or business owners who sold a business or what types of clientele?


Craig Beal 24:25

Yeah, I would say the, the average person in that category is, you know, are at our top spend those people typically, you know, if we develop the relationship and figure out what they did for a living, most of them sold businesses, either they, you know, they sold businesses to and a lot of times they’ve sold their business to a publicly traded company, and you can look that up and see, see what happened. So, yeah, I think more that probably are much more likely to be a client of ours and then a celebrity or, you know, I always feel like Celebrities sometimes respond more to that they’re looking for. They have their own travel planners, they don’t really get involved in the process themselves, where, you know, we’re dealing with the person that actually writes the check, so to speak, at travel beyond


Will Bachman 25:17

interesting. And what that let’s dive a little bit into what natural Safari is. So, you know, I mean, I have a few images in my mind, just from, like TV or movies or something, what it might be like, but just give me a little bit more color on what you’d actually do, what you typically see you riding around in a, you know, in a kind of a Jeep or Land Rover, talk to me about, you know, what I would be doing if I was on a, on a safari for six to nine days.


Craig Beal 25:50

Yeah, let’s pretend you’re on a nine Night Safari. So we’re gonna have three different Safari lodges chosen for you, they’re going to be far apart geographically. So you’re going to get diversity and landscape and flora and fauna and things like that. Sometimes that geographic diversity can happen over short distances. For example, in northern Botswana, you can move 10 miles from one camp to another and have a totally different environment, and different experience with activities and even what the landscape looks like, and all that kind of stuff. So three different lodges, three nights each, and then you know, which really try to mix in one place to have heavy hitting animal viewing, so high density animal viewing, and this could either be with diversity of species, or biomass of species or both. So what I mean by that, if you look at diversity, you take wangye National Park in Zimbabwe, and it has the highest mammal diversity and Africa guide that works there for a year sees over 100 different mammals. That doesn’t mean you’re going to as a guest, but you know, there’s a lot of animal different variety of mammals there. But, you know, in place like the Kruger National Park, Private Game reserves in South Africa is a place we can nearly guarantee clients to see the big five which would be elephant, Rhino Buffalo, leopard, and lion. And, you know, so for a five days, a three day stay there. Seeing the big five is nearly guaranteed if you’re on private property, and you can off road and night drive and you know, have full access to the land and the water features to find those animals. So one, you know, one of those three nights, safaris will be a really high density area. And if you want to talk about biomass, just seeing a ton of animals to me that that means either elephants in northern Botswana, or will to be zebras and other migratory animals up in the Masai Mara in Kenya, in Kenya or the Serengeti in Tanzania. And keep in mind, the Masai Mara and the Serengeti are the same place. There’s just an imaginary political border that transects that that’s not visible to the animals or the tourists. So, yeah, so either, you know, you’re going to get a lot of big biomass of animals or a big diversity of animals, and then landscape changing as well. So, you know, usually you said, you’ve been thinking about Africa, and you mentioned you wanted to go someday. You know, I think when, when you get to Kenya, and you get to the Masai Mara, or the northern Serengeti, that’s the place that most looks like your childhood storybook photos of Africa, and images you might see on TV. To me, that’s one of the two most beautiful landscapes in Africa, and the other one being the Okavango Delta, which I’m talking about places where if you blindfolded me and knocked me out, and I woke up, and you took the blindfold off, I’d know exactly where I was, if that was in the Okavango Delta, or if it was in the Masai Mara, or northern Serengeti. Not the same for some other places in Africa, I think some areas in Kwanghee can look like some areas and Terran Gary, which is a park in Tanzania could even look like places in the Kruger National Park. So they’re places that are a bit more homogenous from a landscape or, you know, point of view. But, you know, that also have very strong attributes to pair with one of those other places. And then sometimes that third location can be a place that might be a little bit lighter, quote, unquote, lighter on the animal viewing but more activity rich, and maybe it’s a place where you can do a walking dangerous animal walking Safari, so you’re out for the whole morning with two armed Rangers, and you’re walking, you know, three to five miles, not at any fast pace. But you know, seeing animals along the way, looking at score, which is done looking at footprints of animals and kind of learning about things on the ground without that diesel engine from the Land Rover running in your ear. And I really have come to enjoy walking safaris over the years. Or maybe that third location is the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. It could be a cultural experience up in northern Kenya. So there’s lots of things you can do to tie that in to the with the other two properties.


Will Bachman 29:56

So it sounds like you know what, you’re actually actual day might be spent walking. I didn’t even know that was kind of a thing or riding around in Landrover. Are there other ways to some people? You know, is there any places where you might be on a boat or maybe on a helicopter or with sort of, like, how do you actually spend your day?


Craig Beal 30:19

Yeah, so the, you know, if you did a nine Night Safari, and let’s say you just it was your first time trip to Africa, and all you really wanted to do was stay in the enclosure of a vehicle or boat, then typically, you’d have 18, morning and afternoon animal viewing activities. And so animals are usually active. Your big mammals are usually active from sunrise till about 10 in the morning, and then again from 330 or four in the afternoon until sunset, a lot of those animals become very difficult to find during the dark and other Nocturnal Animals take over. So typically, I would say on an on a nine Night Safari, and I’m making up the percent here, but I’d say 90% of our customers will spend 90% of their days viewing animals from a Land Rover, if you’re in the Okavango Delta or if you’re on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe or Zambia. There’s or on the salu in the solu Game Reserve, which has a new name, which I can’t pronounce. In Tanzania, you definitely will have boating activities on offer. Often the boating activities are in the afternoon, and that turns into a sunset cruise back into the property. And when you’re on when you’re on the water, you often see hippos, crocodiles, lots of other animals that you might not necessarily see so well from land. If you’re on safari in especially Southern Tanzania, Zambia, parts of Zimbabwe and Kenya, you can do walking safaris, and those can be short bushwalks from your you know, with your land rover insight, or like I mentioned longer, walking safaris where you spend the entire morning out and that is in lieu of being on the Land Rover for that morning. So typically where that happens, I would say the best place in Africa for that is Zambia. and South Luangwa, you can, you can go from six to 10 every morning at some camps and a few properties don’t even have Landrover game drives on offer in the morning you have to walk. So not necessarily the best place for a first time Safari goer that doesn’t know if they’re going to feel comfortable on foot yet, but um, you know, lots of repeat clients would go back to a place like that. And if you look at the time and tide lodge chain, you can even do two Safari lodges within South Luangwa National Park and your transfer between them as a five mile five mile walk with two armed Rangers. your luggage goes into trucks separately. So definitely the walking safaris, a lot of very common in northern Serengeti and Masai Mara to do a balloon Safari in lieu of a morning activity. You can also do those in Zambia, and Namibia. So people will do a balloon basket size 16 to 32. People, you could also do want to drive the cost up to half a million like we were talking about earlier, you can take out your own balloons and do that privately. Definitely, you know, other safaris from air. And you mentioned earlier, how do you get the price tag up to half a million? Well also helicopters you know, if you have a nice Eurocopter, just the motor hours on that it’s about you know, $3,500 per hour for that engine to be turned on. So if you’re doing a comprehensive Safari and let’s say you were a fashion designer looking for inspiration from various tribes in the safari areas of Africa, you might fly around and have 20 motor hours on your helicopter that can drive your price point up pretty quickly as well. But you can also do scenic flights, on buy planes or helicopters from various Safari lodges. There’s scenic flights over Victoria Falls on offer as a shared experience. A lot of our clients if they’re on a time compact trip to Cape Town, they’ll use a Robinson 44 helicopter to fly around the Cape Peninsula and hit the highlights in a short period of time. Yeah, in Botswana, the Okavango Delta. And again, the Zambezi River you can do canoeing safaris. It’s a real canoe on the Zambezi River in Botswana. You’re typically on a on a fiberglass McMorrow, which is designed to look like a dugout log canoe. And that’s your mode of transport around the Okavango Delta, usually for a morning activity with a professional guy from the local community at pulling you through the Okavango Delta, and it’s absolutely silent. And you’re just looking at the small things and looking at, you know, just looking at nature, at the at eye level, because you’re sitting down in a canoe and your head’s about two feet above the water.


Will Bachman 34:32

I imagine that a lot of people, you kind of the inclination is to maybe buy some high end camera equipment if they don’t already own it and to spend their time you’re trying to take pictures. What’s your advice? If someone really was asking you advice on this? you recommend people just kind of take it all in and say, oh, there’s lots of pictures out there of elephants and lions. Just just sort of watch and leave your camera at home or What advice do you give on that? or just general the safari advice that you have for people about how to get the most out of it?


Craig Beal 35:07

Yeah, I mean, I think first of all, go Don’t go on safari with people you don’t like, it’s not going to be very fun. So, you know, go, go with your family, go with your front, your good friends, and do enjoy. Just do enjoy the experience. Don’t don’t spend your time hiding behind a camera. But if you do want to, you know, there are obviously many avid photographers, and we that we get to work with every year. And a lot of them have their own equipment, and they’re very knowledgeable, and we help set them up, make sure they get the right guides at the properties or sometimes it’s an expert photographic guide that knows how to position the vehicle for them. A lot of times we’ll have specific experiences worked in like for example, in a place called mashatu. And in Botswana and a place called saluti camp in Botswana, you have shipping container hives, which are shipping containers buried in the ground, in front of about four feet into the ground, not all the way and they have slits, cut out the sides, and kind of like barstools that you can sit at right in front of a water feature where animals will come all day in the dry season. There’s a nice video, a time lapse video on our Facebook pro page. Right now I have some clients that did that mission to a few months ago, and just hundreds of elephants coming through all morning. Other places in Zimbabwe, like little maka, Lolo, or up in Kenya, like all donia will have a log pile hide, which just protects the tourists or the guests from the elephants. The elephants don’t get too curious. But that’s also going to be in front of a water feature. And you can sit there all morning instead of being on a Land Rover and photograph the animals. Now, if you don’t have your own equipment, there’s equipment rental we have, you can rent your equipment here in the US, which is what I recommend. So you can actually test it out beforehand. Or we can have equipment delivered to you in Africa or you can pick up equipment in Africa at various places. So you don’t have to invest the 10 or $20,000 in really expensive camera gear. There’s also some Safari lodge chains, specifically Great Plains conservation at their all their camps, all their premium camps. So Duba plains and sarafa. And so Linda and Mara plains and all donyo they will rent out cannon with 300 millimeter lens cameras to every guest or not rent out, I’m sorry, they it’s included, Every room has one camera in it and one pair of Swarovski binoculars. And they their management team will download all your photographs to a flash drive when you leave, and you can take it home with you. So you can go to their camps and not travel with all that gear. We do you know with we have clients leaving tonight from Chicago and they’re going on a on a photographic trip, they’re bringing 160 pounds of photographic gear with them. And so they have paid for an extra human that isn’t actually traveling, they paid for an extra person on all the flights they’re flying on to bring all that gear. So you have to keep into account or take into account the expense of all the extra weight you’re traveling with as well.


Will Bachman 37:59

It makes sense. What are these places? Typically, are these national parks? Are these private property? Like these places where you go on safari? What what are they?


Craig Beal 38:12

So the places in South Africa is one of the really is the only place that has an extensive amount of private properties. And so the land that borders the Kruger National Park in South Africa, almost all of that especially the Sabi Sands is private property where you have a landowner that has a title to the property. And it’s been owned by that family, maybe in some cases for 100 years. But it’s adjacent to the Kruger National Park, no fences between it, the animals can come and go as they please. But when you’re on that private land, you can off road and night drive and do all those things you’re not allowed to do in the park, or you have to stay on the road network and drive during the day only. So you can get really up close and personal with the animals there. In other most other countries in Africa. And I’m generalizing a little bit the land that our clients are on safari on private property, but it’s just a it’s usually a private concession that the property owner is leased from the government or the local community, which is really nice in Botswana, you know, the the community is then involved in the actual tourism project. You know, then a lot of the employees will come from that community, but you’re on private land. So you’re only dealing with you’re not dealing with any crowds that are that are, you know, going to have multiple vehicles that your animal sightings. It’s just a few guests on that property, maybe three or four Land Rovers, maybe you know, 100 square miles, and you hardly see anybody when you’re there. That would be the big exception to that would be in the Serengeti itself or the Ngorongoro Crater or Karen Gary in northern Tanzania, South the language National Park in Zambia, and also the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Those are places we send clients deliberately where they might run into a little more vehicle traffic and you’re in an actual National Park. That would allow self-drive tourism and, you know, people that and larger groups of people to come in. Typically we have ways of mitigating those crowds, like, for example, in the Serengeti or sell the wangui, our clients end up in the outer reaches of the National Park where a self drive tourist could never get to during the day. And where there are no budget accommodations, just due to logistics, your budget traveler would not attempt to go there. So there are ways even if you’re international Park, where you can have a very exclusive Safari. But again, the vast majority of our customers end up on on private land and and in Kenya, if you know I mentioned this Masai Mara a few times, which is the same place as the Serengeti. The Serengeti, is 2 million acres of public park, the Masai Mara is 300,000. But surrounding the Masai Mara, you have 300,000 acres of private Conservancy, and that that’s where the vast majority of our customers end up staying. And even in Kenya, you have areas around sorry, in Tanzania, you have that 2 million acres Serengeti, you also directly attached to that with no fence you have 300,000 acre private grumeti reserves. You have the 130,000 acre private land, I think it’s owned by the freakin family down in Texas are there the lease holder and they operate a property they’re called mwiba. So you have these extensions to the public ecosystem that are private land and the animals don’t know the difference.


Will Bachman 41:21

Fantastic. Well, Craig, if people wanted to follow up and check out your your firm and reach out to you what can you share a link or how people can get in touch?


Craig Beal 41:34

Yeah, they just go to our website, travel beyond.com. So the two words smash together with no spaces, travel beyond comm or email me Craig be CRA IGB at travel beyond calm. That also works. And yeah, we’re just call the general line 952-475-9975. And, you know, we have a big team of Safari consultants. And you know, although, although people see my name on some of these lists, I was actually trained to sell safaris by Jenny Michaelson, our Vice President, who’s our all time leader in Safari sales here and Kota tabuchi, our Africa director, he competes head to head with me every year to try to be the top salesperson and travel beyond. So we have some very, we have a deep bench of other you know, people I think of Rose, who has been doing this for 20 years, over 20 years, I think 22 years. Kayla and Katie and Rachel and Mel all joined right out of college at age 22. And they’ve been doing nothing but this for a long time. And I and I fear I’m forgetting somebody that on our Africa only team, but I know you know, Bob’s been around here since right after I was in high school. He’s been traveled beyond. So we have a lot of staff here. And even our you know, Diana, and Jennifer, our product managers for other areas. They they are very familiar with our Safari product as well. Fantastic. Well, Craig,


Will Bachman 42:58

thank you so much for joining today and giving some advice about how to travel to Africa and also helping give us a sense of you know, how you run your firm.


Craig Beal 43:10

Yeah, well, thanks for having me. Well, it was it was a it was a pleasure and a pleasure to meet you at our Gary’s retirement on the Navy Yard a few few weeks ago.


Will Bachman 43:18

And yeah, great speaking with you.

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