Fam report: Southern Africa Travel Academy with Ecco Tours

Fam report: Southern Africa Travel Academy with Ecco Tours

There’s no shortage of selling points for South Africa. From riding the Blue Train to seeing the big five on a world-class safari and exploring Cape Town and the Winelands, its big-draw attractions tick a lot of boxes.

However, when it comes to finding compelling reasons to sell South Africa, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as a group of agents found out back in May on an educational run by ground handler Ecco Tours and supported by Emirates.

The agents were taking part in Ecco’s sixth Southern Africa Travel Academy. The 10-day educational, aimed at improving agents’ destination and product knowledge, marked the culmination of a series of joint Ecco and Emirates trade workshops that took place across the UK earlier in the year.

Ecco, which has offices in Cape Town, London and Prague, targets the event at agents from its client companies who have never been to South Africa before.
This year’s group comprised 20 agents from Trailfinders, four from Travelbag, four from Travel 2, three from Tui/Hayes & Jarvis, one from Bridge the World, three from STA Travel, and 10 from Flight Centre, in addition to seven agents from Russia and South Africa.

Managing director Norma Meyer says a key driver behind setting up the Travel Academy was the realisation that selling South Africa with confidence requires expert, first-hand knowledge.

“We initiated the Academy to provide a platform for the exceptional variety of products available, to assist frontline sellers to match products correctly with their clients’ requirements and exceed expectations,” she says.

“It has also become a social arena for like-minded people to interact and form lifelong friendships. In fact, we have already celebrated two marriages, with another couple of weddings on the horizon.”

What they did

Having flown business class with Emirates to Cape Town, the agents transferred to the Spier Hotel in the Cape Winelands, which was their home for the first few days before they moved to Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel and then on to a number of Village & Life properties.

Days were typically split into two halves, with classroom-based training sessions in the mornings and afternoons, followed by sightseeing in the evening to the Winelands, Cape Town, Table Mountain, and Hermanus and Boulders Beach.

Site inspections and hosted dinners provided the agents with additional opportunities to improve their knowledge. The group also visited two local schools with local charity Bobs for Good Foundation to help distribute shoes to the pupils.

Agents help distribute shoes at a South African school with the Bobs for Good Foundation

Seventy suppliers signed up to present their products to the agents at this year’s event, which was also supported by South African Tourism, Western Cape Tourism and KwaZulu-Natal Tourism.

Regular exams and competitions checked agents’ progress. Nine star performers and three overall top scorers won a holiday to South Africa, while the winners of each day’s evening quiz were treated to a Harley Davidson ride along the coast.

The Academy sessions culminated in a gala dinner in Cape Town where the top-scoring agents were rewarded with the holiday prizes. Now all that was left to do was to divide the agents up into six groups and send them on different fam trips after the Academy, including one to neighbouring Botswana.

This is the third Academy that Emirates has supported. Fiona Passant, Emirates senior sales executive – south, says that South Africa has become a key destination for the airline since it began flying there in 1995.

“The 2011 Ecco Academy was a great success,” she says. “With 42 weekly flights to South Africa, a third new daily service to Cape Town, and the Airbus A380 to Johannesburg from October, it was a perfect way of showcasing our product to our top UK agents.”

Post-academy fam trips


  • Safari in the Eastern Cape: eight delegates headed off to Bayethe in the Shamwari Game Reserve for two nights
  • Safari in the Eastern Cape: 10 delegates were taken to the Pumba Private Game Reserve & Spa for two nights
  • KwaZulu-Natal – Midlands: eight delegates spent two nights at the Granny Mouse Country House Hotel & Spa
  • KwaZulu-Natal – Safari: seven delegates were hosted at Thanda Private Game Reserve for two nights
  • Kruger National Park: nine delegates went on safari for two nights at Jock Safari Lodge
  • Botswana and Zimbabwe: nine delegates went across the border to the Victoria Falls Hotel for one night and Chobe Safari Lodge for two nights

What the agents thought

“I have always wanted to visit South Africa but never had the time or the opportunity. As well as meeting some amazing people and making new friends, I have learnt so much about a fantastically diverse destination that is very understated. I will shout very loudly about what South Africa has to offer and look forward to seeing my sales grow.”

Karen Milward, Travel 2, Glasgow

“A terrific, hard-core educational. It was emotional, superb, hardworking, relaxing, life-changing, mind-blowing – I cannot find enough words to describe how amazing the trip was. I learnt so much and made lots of friends. The Ecco guys are amazing. Thank you so much for the trip of my life. My heart is now the shape of South Africa.”

James Edgar, Travel 2, Glasgow

“The Academy was the most informative trip I have ever done. My confidence in booking South Africa has increased beyond what I expected and I find myself butting into other consultations to chat about my experiences. I feel that the different experiences will allow me to sell South Africa to a wide range of customers with different needs and ages.”

Laura Pattison, Flight Centre, Leeds

“Amazing. South Africa was one of my weakest points – probably because I had never been there – and I didn’t know much about it at all. I am now a true convert and feel much better equipped to get customers interested in going.”

Alex Brossler, STA Travel, Clapham


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