Moira joined Goway in 2007. She moved from South Africa to head up the Africa and Middle East Division. During the last ten years, the Africa division has gone from strength to strength, and now features 22 countries in the portfolio. A veteran in the industry, Moira’s previous roles in South Africa were that of Managing Director, and Marketing and Sales Manager, of two of the largest outbound tour operators in South Africa. Her passion runs to all things African, and her mission is to convince everyone that they need to travel to Africa at least once in their life!
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, Moira. How’s your new year going so far?
Moira Smith (MS): So far, so great. I’m very optimistic for this decade.
TRO: Being born and raised in South Africa around the time of the Apartheid made for some interesting visa requirements. Yet, you still travelled quite a bit. What was the catalyst for you to push through those barriers and travel the world?
MS: I had always read voraciously and my books introduced me to worlds I wanted to visit. Worlds that were very different from Apartheid South Africa. In those days, pretty much any country that was open to South Africans required a visa; so I collected a lot of passport stamps!
TRO: After working in the South African travel industry for a while, you decided to join up with Goway Travel and head up their Africa and Middle East Division in 2007. How did this change your outlook on travel?
MS: I found it to be a pretty seamless transition. Goway was a home away from home for me. Having worked in one of the largest family run outbound tour operators in South Africa, I found the ethos, culture and character of Goway to be very compatible with what I enjoyed in a company. My values aligned with theirs. The big change was focusing on just Africa and the Middle East, as opposed to promoting the world. Since Africa is my passion, it was all for the good!
TRO: Safaris are a much sought-after adventure. Are these popular with Goway’s clients, and can you tell us a bit about how they operate according to Goway?
MS: Pretty much any of our clients going to Eastern and/or Southern Africa will include one or multiple safaris. What Goway does so well is to match the safari to the client. Whether it’s a simple tented camp where they can be fully immersed in the bush, or a much more opulent experience – or a combination of both – our destination experts tailor make the experience to suit the customer’s time, interests and budget.
TRO: Parts of the Middle East region can be turbulent at times, particularly with the current “talks” with Iran. What would you say to the agents and advisors that are worried about sending their clients to the area?
MS: We have exceptional partners in the areas we sell within the Middle East, namely Israel, Jordan, Egypt, UAE and Oman. The primary concern of Goway is to ensure the health, safety and security of our travelers in destination. With that said, our teams in destinations, as well as our team here in North America, are staffed 24/7/365 should there be a concern of any kind while our clients are travelling.
TRO: You have a true passion for Africa, particularly the parks and reserves. How do you think your view of the world was shaped by the diverse cultures and landscapes of this continent?
MS: Africa is a challenging, wonderful, frustrating continent, but I’m always inspired by the ‘can-do’ attitude of most Africans. I love to see the success stories in places like Kenya and Tanzania, where communities live in harmony with the wildlife they used to hunt. It’s impressive to see how conservation has contributed to mountain gorilla numbers in Rwanda and Uganda rising – and that’s in large part due to tourism. I’m motivated by organizations such as Project Rhino, who do such immense good in the fight against poaching by not just using traditional methods, but getting children in both Africa and Asia to be part of the struggle. There’s always something to be thankful for in Africa!
TRO: Goway has been around since 1970, which is quite a long time in any category of business to thrive. In your opinion, what core values have contributed to this legacy?
MS: Yes, we are very proud to be one of the oldest travel companies in North America! Many years ago, our founder Bruce created the ‘Goway Ways’ – values and business principles that have guided the company. These have since developed into our “five O’s” – which represent Our people, Our customers, One best way, Ownership and Openness.
So, first and foremost, it is people who make a company successful and we have some amazing employees here at Goway. Some have been with us for 30+ years. We wouldn’t be in business today without a strong focus on our customers and doing what is best for them at all times, especially as today’s travellers have so much choice in where to book. One best way means we strive to simplify processes until someone can come up with a better way; ownership means that everyone is responsible for our results – whether you’re in sales, support, marketing or IT. And, lastly, we are a company that values openness, honesty, and fairness. There is very much an ‘open door policy’; if you want to share an idea with the COO, he will welcome it.
TRO: Agents, and advisors, are always looking for the next hotspot to send their travelers. Which of the cities, regions, or countries in Africa or the Middle East seem to be on the rise?
MS: Egypt is huge at the moment. We’ve seen exponential growth for travel to Egypt over the last two years. Morocco is a close second in terms of the growth to Middle East and North Africa. For the rest, Kenya has seen the most growth.
TRO: Does Goway have any big news or announcements that you would like our readers to know about?
MS: 2020 is Goway’s 50th Anniversary and we have huge plans to celebrate. We’ve actually kicked off the year with our Golden Sale with some spectacular offers. We’re giving away 14 (1 ounce valued at US$1500 each) gold bars to 14 lucky travel agents. PLUS, we’re giving away 50 trips. We’ve got two roadshows planned, one in March and one in September – so we’re going all out to celebrate. We also plan on expanding our team of destination specialists by 20 to 30 percent to match the growth we are experiencing.
TRO: Moira, thank you for your time. We wish the best on all of your future adventures.
MS: Thank you so much.