Andy Higgs, Managing Director of The Grown-up Travel Company, may be based in Norway but his heart is in Africa. Andy tells how he met his Norwegian wife in Ghana, after backpacking around the north and west of the country in 1992.
Andy now shares this passion for Africa, or the “world’s most exciting continent” as he calls it, by arranging unique trips for clients who want something more exciting than simply a fortnight on a beach in Greece. Andy describes himself as a ‘complete Africa addict’ and is always on the lookout for something different and has carved a niche for himself, creating imaginative itineraries for the adventurous “grown-up traveller.”
How did you fall in love with travelling or start working within the industry as a career?
Travel has been a part of my life longer than I can remember, but things really fell into place professionally when I started a travel blog. I realised that I could be selling trips rather than just writing about them. That’s when I launched my company. Africa has always been special to me and I love to help others fall for her too. In fact, I only arrange tours to Africa – who needs any other destination?
What kind of traveller are you?
I began as a broke backpacker but now I crave luxury – the luxury of a unique experience! As long as I have a reasonable level of comfort, the rest of my budget is going on the adventure, not the gold taps and finest bed linen.
Tell us about one of your most memorable trips/travel moments. Where and why?
Too many to mention but I’ll pick one. Don’t even ask but in the early 1990s a friend and I bought an old truck and we drove from Europe through the Sahara. In Algeria, we were literally in the middle of the desert following a faint path that was supposed to be the “road” south when we came across a tiny hut and a barrier across the track – a piece of string between two beer bottles. We stopped and a policeman appeared, wanting to check a few things. He couldn’t find much wrong so went for the coup de grace: did we have a warning triangle? We did. Okay, so that’s one to put behind the vehicle if you break down, but what about the front? Believe it or not, we were wise to this and did have two. He then asked where the ones were for each side. We had to admit that he had us there, so he asked us to come into the hut. It turned out that he was unsurprisingly lonely as hell stuck out there and just wanted to talk to someone! We spent about three hours talking about anything and everything over sweet Algerian tea. Africa will always surprise you!
What lessons have you learnt from your experience during COVID – both personally and in your business?
Personally, that you should never take anything for granted. It’s basically, the same for my business too – but also that we are in this together. There are a number of Facebook groups that continue to be a great help in keeping our chins up.
How confident are you that the travel and tourism industry in Africa (especially South Africa) will survive & prosper over the next 2-3 years?
100% confident. I have absolutely no doubt. Africa has been here for millions of years – one bad year is not going to stop its appeal.
What do we need to do to make sure that happens?
I think just continue to market the attractions, open up in a controlled manner and get back to normal as soon as possible – whether after a vaccine or the pandemic fizzling out. And I mean normal – no masks, less hand sanitizer and being able to hug and shake hands. Africa has to be physical!
Based on the five senses and thinking about travelling what do you…
- Like to see: The world from a seat in an open safari vehicle.
- Like to taste: Anything around a campfire.
- Like to feel: The sun beginning to warm up the day as it rises.
- Like to hear: Laughter.
- Like to smell: Wild sage growing in the bush.
Suggestions on resources for other travel and tourism stakeholders. Any websites, publications, podcasts, thought leaders you can recommend or newsletters we should sign up to?
Bradt Guides are like a bible for each country. Not just to follow, but also for inspiration. I subscribe to travel newsletters from organisations and companies, and have joined a lot of Facebook groups which bring us all together.
Lastly, what do you love about Africa Travel Week (WTM Africa) and do you think live trade shows will still be important going forward (why)?
I love meeting people face-to-face. Don’t get me started on Zoom calls instead of physical meetings! Live trade shows ae essential. Agents need to meet, shake hands and hug suppliers, friends need to meet up again (sometimes the only time in the year they do so) and I for one always travel around before and after a show to experience things myself so that I can tell my clients what they are missing if they don’t visit.