‘Tourism can be unpredictable,’ says safari company owner

Corcoran says doing business across Africa can be rewarding in many ways. “You have to know that you can make a big success here. You can do so much on this continent, but it is all about people. [You have to] to keep your allies close, look after people, treat them well and Africa will reward you in so many ways, not just financial.”

He also says that some of the negative perceptions about Africa help his business. While the internet is eating into the business of middlemen in Europe’s tourism industry, this trend has been slower to emerge in Africa. “It is a blessing in disguise. [Tourists] are scared. They think we are all going to run away with their money. There are also too many services that you cannot find online yet.” However, he recognises the influence of the internet on the tourism industry, saying players need to be strategic to remain relevant in the future.

To cushion itself, Liberty Safaris Africa is diversifying into accommodation through lodges and camps as well as transportation. Corcoran intends to expand investment in these two areas. “We have gone into that because even if the internet takes over there is one chain in the loop that cannot be avoided and that is the end service. The solution is to have the beds and the vehicles.”

Entrepreneurship has taught Corcoran to focus on targets but also to be adaptable to changing situations.

Looking to the future

During difficult times he draws motivation from his 104 employees, his passion and love for Africa and the positive feedback from satisfied clients. “They [employees] have given me blood, sweat and tears, so I have to try and steer the ship to keep them going. This work is so incredibly satisfying. When you do a great job, the letters, the comments and the thanks we get from clients and their agents are so satisfying.”

Corcoran would like to see more appreciation for the tourism industry in Africa and its contribution to the economy. The biggest challenge in Kenya he says is the view of tourism as a rich man’s business that does not affect the whole population. “That is so shortsighted. I mean, [a significant percentage] of Kenya’s GDP is created by tourism. Take that out of any equation and nobody is going to have a job. It affects the country so dramatically.”

According to Corcoran, Africa has a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in other parts of the world, he says. “I think Africa is going to become the next superpower,” says Corcoran. “It will take a generation, maybe two [but] there is no limit for this continent.”