When we last spoke with Craig Beal of Travel Beyond for his June 2013 feature, his company was booking about $11 million annually, 80 percent was derived from selling safari travel, the foundation on which his parents had founded the company in 1975. When Beal bought the family out in 2006, he decided to expand the company and sell to other parts of the world, including luxury cruises and independent travel to France, Italy, Croatia, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Argentina, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Alaska.
Since we met, gone is that rapid growth plan to sell multiple destinations; instead, Beal is back to selling Africa exclusively. And guess what? With this new focus, the company is on pace for $18 million in sales this fiscal year.
“Without exception, clients are very appreciative of the fact that we don’t try to be ‘everything to everyone’,” Beal tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “They love our new model and are now telling their friends we are the best at Africa, and they must use us for their safari planning. We believe further specialization in our strongest destinations is a better path forward rather than trying to be a one-stop shop.”
Travel Beyond has also finessed how it functions in the marketplace, acting as a luxury tour operator for Africa for tailor-made travel. “We white-label our documents so our travel agent customers can tap into our deep expertise in Africa and our pricing without causing brand confusion for their clients. We even offer to draft e-mails for our travel agent clients that they can then forward to their customers defending or selling whatever safari proposal we have designed.”
Last summer Beal planned a safari with a private plane from Lusaka to South Luangwa to Lower Zambezi to the Okavango Delta for a client. “It was so much fun to plan because these trips are so logistically efficient,” he says. “The family of six loved their plane and the pilot, not to mention the safari experience.”
Next up: “I just collected deposit on a trip for next year where our client is getting married in Lewa Downs, Kenya and taking wedding photos on top of Pride Rock in Borana.”
Beal believes that to successfully sell travel you need to fully understand and immerse yourself in that particular destination. He has been traveling to Africa since he was five years old, and spends about one month out of the year there, splitting his time equally between discovering new destinations and revisiting old ones. Since 2013, he’s spent several days in Zimbabwe, five weeks in Botswana and three weeks in Kenya.
His new favorite new places for 2015 are the Lewa Downs, Northern Rangelands and the Masai Mara circuit in Kenya. The last hotel he stayed at was Sabyinyo Lodge in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda. “I absolutely loved this property,” says Beal. “The management couple, from Scotland, had opened the most luxurious lodge in Zambia, and they are holding the standards high at Sabyinyo. The service was amazing, with valets literally putting on each guest’s gators and boots before each gorilla trek. After each trek they clean your shoes, which look better than they did before you went out in the morning. And the food was exceptional.”