After an exciting week on the Nordics show it was time for round 2 at ITB, after a brief stop in Geneva I jumped onboard my flight and got ready to see Berlin!
Jetting into Berlin around 10 pm, Mike insisted we meet at the Irish Pub for some very important marketing meetings aka catching up with industry friends! The meetings were sponsored by our old friend Pinot Grigio and went very well!! Jokes aside, the Irish is the only place all the African exhibitors meet and can be a useful tool in negotiating rates, specials generally catching up with the industry! Ironic that we pick an Irish pub in Berlin after a day of convincing German and Swiss agents to send their clients to experience a different culture in Africa, haha!
With lots to showcase including our new websites with dedicated lodge pages. As a team, we tirelessly test our lodges making sure they are tip-top for clients! It’s a tough job but we are all team players! Subsequently, we can offer agents an honest and thorough account of each lodge we sell. We have now put this onto our new website pages and then made our own backdoor system where agents can log in to develop quotes themselves (coming soon). Lots of hard work but with a growing interest in Malawi and Zambia, we want to be ahead of the game and make it as easy as possible for the agents to send clients our way!
Day one started, and, much to Mike’s dismay, we had meetings from 9 to 5 back to back and even doubled up, his hope of a day of Wurst and beer was somewhat diminished! We were on a Malawi stand with a few of our friends, which was nice to see some faces from home. The day went brilliantly and Mike even had a quick lunch break so Mike managed to get his beloved sausage fix!
After a long day, it was time to hit up the ATTA event, grabbing our nearest and dearest neighbours(ish) we joined forces with some of the Zimbos, Bots crew and Zambian friends. Africa may be large but this industry is a small one, and more like a family than anything else, sibling fall outs included. The ATTA drinks are held in the Chateau 9 (again we went French not German!!) and after a welcome drink and some incredible snacks we had a few speeches and lots more chats. It is always great to keep up to date with the industry and also let them know what is going on in our part of Africa. How many of our neighbours can say they are having conservation SUCCESS!
Day 2 was equally as busy, but, as always productive and we managed to finish up at the Onshow/Botswana event. Gathering the troops – some 15 strong – the alphas of the group (i.e. those with either free wifi for navigation or some sense of direction) led us onto public transport (a rare occurrence for Mike) to direct us to the nearest German (finally!) restaurant. With lots of schnitzels, sausages, pretzels and potatoes passed round (unsurprisingly we had no vegans in the mix!) it was back to, you guessed it, the Irish! It’s not called BEERlin for nothing! Round 3 was going well but to maintain our energy for round 4 we went home before Cinderella!
Day 3, the cold weather finally hit us Africans hard, with colds spreading around the conference/world faster than it does in a school, the dreaded lurgy struck. Never one to be the man down, Mike and I downed a cocktail of lLemsip, Barocca and Strepsils and headed back to Messe-Berlin. It is easy to keep going when you have booked most of your ‘fun’ agents on the last day with most of whom had been to Malawi with us and so it was more of catch up than a hard sales pitch! As the saying goes there is nothing quite as infectious as the bite from the love bug of Africa and even more so for Malawi. It seems everyone who comes is struck by the Malawian’s passion and agents always seems to develop a soft spot for us.
As the trade show wound down we hosted ‘drinks’ on our stand at 5, which was really shots of gin after a mix up from the ministry leaving most of our gin in Malawi! As we say in Africa ‘we will make a plan’ and being resourceful we found some drinks and made a party! There is nothing quite like the warm hospitality you find here in Malawi.
On our final night we took out a few VIPs including our good friend Chris Badger at CAWS and Nicole our best-selling agent (take note agents you can win a fun evening with myself and Mike if you send us the most business, wait sorry you can win dinner and the option of us coming along, or you can ditch us and go yourself!). Making the most of being in the western world we decided on an Asian restaurant (yes I know not German again but at least we were branching out and we don’t get many options in Lilongwe, so…!). Nicole has been out to see us a few times having worked in Lilongwe previously so we had lots to catch up on (yes we did end up in the Irish). Time seemed to fly by and I realised I had but a few hours until my plane left, so, I dashed home to pack and take a short danger nap before flying back to London for the day and back to Malawi that evening.
It was a fantastic show, with lots of agents approaching us. Malawi can be a hard sell if you don’t know it but with a low tourism density, great value for money and increasing animal populations it seems people are cottoning on to the magic we can provide! It was an incredible experience and we will be back- Proust!