Goway showcases Africa and Middle East programs
Goway showcases Africa and Middle East programs

Goway Travel proudly notes that it’s covering the Middle East and Africa from A(mman) to Z(ambia). The tour operator recently held a Toronto event that saw Goway suppliers from both parts of the world updating travel agents on what they offer. “How many of you want to have breakfast with a giraffe? We have those types of experiences,” Goway’s Ian Smyth told the crowd. The tour operator provides what Smyth labelled “customized and curated” experiences.

The company also used the event to introduce its newest destination of Saudi Arabia, which Goway’s Moira Smith described as a particularly suitable destination “for people who want to explore” a lesser-known part of the world, with Saudi Arabia only deciding to begin welcoming tourists in 2019. A country that long adhered to a strict interpretation of Islam has been easing some of its tenets recently, including dress codes for women, with tourism officials saying female visitors no longer need cover their hair or wear long sleeves in areas that aren’t of great religious significance.

Goway is citing a combination of Saudi history, culture and landscapes to promote its Saudi program. The company’s Brittany Banks recently visited the country and labelled it “very untouched” as it hasn’t seen many tourists, and added she found the Saudis very friendly, frequently giving her welcoming gifts, with one restaurant providing her with free baklava. (Current fighting between Israel and Hamas has prompted Goway to suspend its Israel program.)

The event also saw exhibitors familiarize attending travel agents on what is available for their clients, with, for instance, Paul Brinkmann of Sense of Africa — which has Namibia tours — saying Africa’s reputation as a spectacular showcase for wildlife is well deserved. “Africa is wildlife and wildlife is Africa,” he said. Namibia tends to be associated with towering sand dunes and desert terrain but Brinkmann showed a video that featured the likes of Namibian lions, giraffes, leopards and elephants. Namibia also has “forlorn ghost towns” that began life during a diamond boom but were eventually abandoned, he continued.

Ken Hill of South Africa-based Drifters — which offers Southern and East Africa — said that firm offers “adventure safari trucks” that can reach out-of-the-way spots, encountering “a bit of sand and rough road” en route. The “very comfortable” trucks can carry 16 passengers and have stainless steel kitchens. Itineraries feature walking, “but as long as you can climb in the truck youre okay to join,” Hill continued.

James Haigh of Lemala Camps and Adrift — which invite people to explore Tanzania and Uganda — cited the famed Serengeti migration as thrilling for wildlife enthusiasts. “This is where paws, jaws and claws really kick in,’ he said. Tented camps are available and are “where safaris kick in 24 hours a day,” he added.

Debbie Addison of Wild Frontiers — which offers Rwanda and Uganda tours — noted many associate those countries with gorilla treks but added the countries are “much more” than opportunities to view those large primates. “Chimp treks” are among other options, she reported.

Africa Albida’s Wendy Bourne noted that her company’s clients can choose from different Zimbabwean lodges at dramatic Victoria Falls — shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe — with one of the options being the Victoria Falls Safari Spa, which has a spa featuring treatment rooms, splash pool,  and manicure and pedicure stations.

Another option is the Victoria Falls Safari Club, which has an on-site waterhole that attracts different wildlife, including bushbucks, warthogs, crocodiles and many bird species. The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge also has an onsite waterhole that attracts the likes of elephants, buffalo, kudu, waterbuck, impalas and different birds.

Azzeddine Benouna of Marrakech- based Cynad in turn put in a plug for Moroccan cuisine. “Every time we say Morocco people think of the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara and Casablanca but they never talk about the food in Morocco,” said Benouna, who is also a chef. His company can host tourists at Moroccan cooking classes in Marrakech. Benouna also compared Moroccan wine to that found in Portugal or Spain.

This fall’s earthquake battered parts of Marrakech but Benouna said damage to the famed old quarter was quickly restored and tourists would now be hard-pressed to find any sign of the quake there, with that part of the city remaining “very beautiful.”

Karim El Minabawy of Cairo’s Emeco Travel praised the new Cairo-area New Civilization Museum. “It’s a museum that shows the history of Egypt, not only from the Pharaohs but even before.” He also labelled Luxor an “open-air museum” that has “the most beautiful destinations.”

Carly Charteris of Qatar Airways said that that airline has an “amazing” stopover program, enabling people to experience 97 shopping malls, a long coast, “amazing dining,” and outdoor activities such as kayaking. She also praised Qatar as a particularly safe destination. “I’ve never felt safer than in my crime-free destination,” she said.

Meanwhile, Shirley Rourke of Groups Only by Goway said that Goway division is very accommodating. “We completely customize your groups according to what your clients want,” she said. “We excel at tailor-made primate groups.”

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