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.
Travel Research Online: What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
YVD: I guess I was just born to root for the “home team” one way or another. Growing up in Stellenbosch, South Africa, I segued naturally into working in our wine industry, representing my home town with pride. In those days we were seeing relatively few tourist from the USA, so when I had the opportunity about 10 years later to consider a new career here, I could think of nothing I would rather do than to share my enthusiasm for the entire country. In the course of another decade, this “habit” evolved into promoting all of Africa and her islands through APTA.
TRO: What is your personal favorite African destination?
YVD: The back seat on any game vehicle. I don’t mind the bumping, because I can see further from there. Other than that, I cannot point to one safari destination that I like more than another. I do love visiting the Victoria Falls – any side, any month of the year. It’s a different spectacle and experience for me each time.
TRO: What is your role with APTA? What kind of responsibilities to you handle?
YVD: I believe my primary responsibility is to channel the resources at our disposal to the offer the best value to our members, so I try to harness and allocate the fantastic set of skills and aptitudes of our all-volunteer national board, and integrate them with those of the multitude of amazing volunteer board members of our chapters across the country.
TRO: APTA is a remarkable resource; can you give a little background on the services APTA provides?
YVD: We create the tools and opportunities for travel agents to get in touch and stay up to date with the African travel trade, and vice versa. Our chapters stage events that offer suppliers the opportunity to showcase their products and services, and network with the most motivated buyers in the US. Our website tells members what happens where, who is who, and what is new. Our print newsletters and membership directory are an invaluable resource to agents looking to stay current with this niche, or specialize in Africa.
TRO: What do you think is the most valuable aspect of APTA?
YVD: Our most valuable assets are undoubtedly the dedicated members of national board and regional chapters who facilitate regular events for agents and vendors to mingle, to learn from each other and develop invaluable business relationships and alliances. All the technology of this century does not come close to the value of such personal interaction and direct connections.
TRO: Let’s say I’m an agent with a customer that wants to travel to Africa. Why should I be in contact with APTA?
YVD: Africa is the ultimate experiential travel destination, and by being involved with APTA you reach the outbound and/or inbound specialists, as well as the key personnel at tourist boards, airlines, game lodges and hotels that will work with you to create the kind of astounding experiences that give your clients the confidence and motivation to work with you again and again.
TRO: Do you have any advice to agents who may have a hard time selling Africa to their clients?
YVD: Nobody needs to have a hard time selling Africa! There are few destinations that deliver so much so effortlessly. Reach out to anyone in the APTA community for help.
TRO: Any Upcoming events?
YVD: Yes, APTA will again be hosting the Focus on Africa Trade Seminar at the New York Times Travel Show on 28 February 2014, and some of our corporate members will be exhibiting in the APTA Pavilion for the rest of the week-end. Until then, we are promoting our annual membership drive during which one new-, and one renewing member stands the chance to win a trip to INDABA 2014, the ultimate trade show and largest gathering in our industry, which takes place in Durban, South Africa. Winners will be announced at the Focus on Africa Seminar. See our website for details: www.apta.biz.