Yvette De Vries grew up and studied in Stellenbosch, South Africa. She spent the first 10 years of her career in public relations in the local wine industry before moving to the United States and settling in Connecticut. As the senior consultant at African Portfolio since 2001, Yvette’s extensive travels throughout the continent and years of first-hand experience has been of great value to hundreds of travelers for whom she has tailor-made unique and memorable adventures in East- and Southern Africa, Morocco, Egypt, the Seychelles and Mauritius. She is President of the Association for Promotion of Tourism to Africa, or APTA.
TRO: What made you interested in becoming part of the travel industry?
Yvette: When I first came to the US on a vacation, I quickly realised that Cape Town was not nearly the “world renowned city” that I had thought. After explaining where it is to a very friendly lady on a train, she mumbled that seeing as she was a geography teacher, she probably should have known that…
I realised right then & there, that I had my work cut out for me here.
TRO: What is the appeal of a safari vacation for a consumer?
Yvette: You have to ask? No, seriously, I have explained this to my friends and colleagues in South Africa repeatedly: Encountering such an abundance of wildlife in a truly natural environment, without manipulation or exploitation, is one of very few leisure experiences that simply cannot be equaled anywhere in North America. These consumers can otherwise choose from practically any conceivable form of recreation, without paying thousand of dollars for a long-haul flight to begin with. So the safari will always be the primary motivator for them to make that effort and investment.
TRO: What are some misconceptions or misunderstandings consumers and agents might have about travel to Africa?
Yvette: Some people seem to think of it as one big desert; others apparently picture an enormous jungle… I think what most people lose sight of, is the tremendous variety of landscapes, climates, and cultures over the span of more than 50 countries. They are frequently stunned to learn that the continent is more than three times the size of the USA.
TRO: Is there an “up-and-coming” tourist destination in Africa where you anticipate a dramatic rise in tourism in the next few years?
Yvette: It remains to be seen, but my guess would be would be either Zimbabwe or Mozambique – hopefully both.
TRO: As recently inducted President of APTA, what about the position are you most looking forward to?
Yvette: APTA is already the most highly regarded trade association in our field, thanks to the work of so many people who have been a part of it before me. We are now ready to grow awareness beyond our existing membership, and reach more retail agents who are not already selling Africa, but might be in a position to do so, given the right resources and a little more confidence.
TRO: APTA is an all-volunteer trade-association: how would you say this affects the environment and attitudes of the association?
Yvette: Things may sometimes take a little longer to get done when you are relying on busy professionals’ spare time, but the upside is that these are people with a passion for the business, who generously share their time and expertise, so you never have to deal with anyone who is “just doing it for the money”.
TRO: Why is it beneficial for Travel Agents who sell or are interested in selling Africa as a tourist destination to be familiar with APTA?
Yvette: As in any business environment, it is still the personal relationships that matter, and that make the difference. We provide the platform for suppliers and agents to meet, learn from each other and foster the relationships that ultimately enable those of us who sell Africa, to seriously “wow” our clients with exceptional experiences, and the little extras that make a trip special. That is how we distinguish ourselves in this competitive marketplace.
TRO: Are there any upcoming trade events you’d like people to know about?
Yvette:We will be hosting the Focus on Africa trade seminar at the New York Times Travel Show on January 18th. We will be announcing other developments here on the TRO website and in the daily Travelgrams as they unfold, so “Watch This Space”.