Interview with a Southern Africa Tour Consultant

Today I am pleased to bring you another interview in my “Women at Work” series. Today’s feature is an Interview with a Southern Africa Tour Consultant – Niki Duncan.

What is your current job?

I am a senior tour consultant / safari expert at Rhino Africa Safaris based in Cape Town. I tailor-make upmarket and luxury holidays for inbound clientele mainly from Canada, US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and some Asian or European markets too. I specialize in selling countries in Southern Africa and in East Africa, including the Indian Ocean Islands. I also assist in training / managing other consultants to assist my sales manager.

How did you end up in your current position?

During my second year of studying, I did a practical for 6 months where I got a job as a junior FIT/Incentive group consultant and so I stayed on in the same company working part-time who trained me in basic tour operating. My jobs over the last 11 years have been in Incentive Groups / FIT (foreign individual travel) / Golf Tours / Pre and Pos Conference tours and finally online-based tour operating. In 2005 I decided to take a new challenge in online consulting and joined Rhino Africa as a senior safari expert. Just over a year ago I started to assist with training staff too.

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When did you know this is what you wanted to do?

At the time I was studying, the avenues in tourism were quite broad and my choices were endless – I really could’ve done anything eg. tour guiding, agent at the airport for airlines, travel agent booking flights etc. But during my first job in my practical, I was introduced to a different kind of travel job and the appeal of co-ordinating group tours or specialized vacations for people who had never been to Africa really appealed to me. At the time I got to practise German (which I’d learnt in school) and learnt French as well. I also got to travel, so that was also attractive to me!!

What did you study – was it in this field or something different?

I studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and completed by degree in Tourism Management. It is a Management degree so I enjoyed the fact that I got to do Marketing and Management subjects like entrepreneurship etc. but with it all focused on tourism.

What’s the best part of your job? And the worst/ most challenging part?

The best part is traveling and discovering beautiful places in Africa that I wouldn’t be able to see or afford personally! The other side is really making clients happy and thrilled that I’ve made their dream vacation come through. The commission can also sometimes be the highlight of my job…!
The worst / most challenging part is the sales side – reaching targets and working under extreme pressure or stress that comes with working in a sales environment. You have to be extremely organized and be able to communicate with everyone in your team so working with difficult colleagues can also be challenging. On the odd occasion I also have to deal with really difficult clients and problem solve.

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Who would be your “dream” job, or are you doing it? What do you still want to achieve in this position or another?

Anything to do with travel and not sales would be great – I wouldn’t mind traveling to exotic places and writing reviews (ie. travel journalist) – now that’s a dream job!!

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What is your typical day?

The company is online based so we get all our business via our website. My typical day starts with corresponding via email or phone to potential clients, or ongoing clients, answering questions, re-quoting and dealing with suppliers (hotels / lodges / airlines / transport and car companies etc). I have to handle the complete process of a booking including the financial side of a quote as well, to when the clients travel, to booking and paying suppliers, to closing the sale, following up or reconciling a booking. If I am doing training, I have to be on-hand all the time for questions, problem-solving etc. I have to often multi-task and handle crises on a daily basis (eg. client has missed their flight or is delayed, suppliers haven’t been paid, cancellation of bookings and refunds). Sometimes if my clients are in Cape Town, I am able to meet up with them and that’s usually a pleasant thing! My job also involves traveling to various destinations that I sell to educate / familiarise myself. This is usually during the low season and trips can be from 4 days up to 10 days depending on the destination.

If you want to get to see more of my travels, read my Niki Travels blog or follow me on twitter @nikitravels

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Thank you so much Niki for taking part in this series and giving us a bit more insight into your life as a tour consultant for this beautiful part of the world – Southern Africa! You’ve definitely sold me on the idea of becoming a tour consultant – all that travel for work!! Yes please!

The aim of this series is to introduce women to a variety of interesting careers. This is in order to inspire women of all ages to aspire to a career (either full or part time) which they LOVE, especially teens, university leavers and moms who have been raising kids and have been out of the job world for a while!!

If you, or a woman you know, has an interesting job and would be happy to be an interviewee please do contact me.

images: Niki Duncan

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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