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Gully takes reins at travel firm Aardvark Safaris
Aardvark Safaris, the Edinburgh-based holiday operator, has announced that founder Richard Smith has retired and has handed over the business to co-owner Alice Gully.
Mr Smith set up Aardvark Safaris in 1999 with co-founder John Spence, creating tailor-made safaris across Africa.
In 2004, Ms Gully became joint owner, supported by a team of 16 safari consultants who now assist with up to 600 trips per year.
Mr Smith said: “With Covid in the rear-view mirror and customer confidence returned, the company has the right team in place.
“After 24 years as a small part of a bigger team I can step away knowing that Aardvark Safaris is in very good hands.”
Aardvark Safaris is now among 33% of travel businesses owned by women. It has seen a resurgence of interest in tours to Africa post pandemic, with 2023 on track to be its best year.
Ms Gully said; “Throughout my almost 20 years at Aardvark Safaris, our focus has not changed – to help our guests discover the Africa that we know and love, while protecting African landscapes and way of life.
“Over the last two decades, travel and tourism has become vital to African economies, accounting for 7% of the continent’s GDP and contributing $169 billion to its economy in 2019.
“Our dedicated team have over 115 years of combined specialist experience and have helped thousands of people discover and enjoy the wonders of this incredible continent. I look forward to continuing our work.”
Towards the end of 2020, Ms Gully spearheaded the Open Africa Travel campaign, speaking out against the UK Foreign Office’s post lockdown blanket travel ban on Africa and highlighting the negative impact this would have both on local economies, which rely heavily on tourism, as well as poaching in the region.
Post-Covid, travel to Africa from the UK took longer to recover than from other inbound markets, however that is changing this year, with Aardvark’s numbers in 2023 surpassing those of 2019. Approximately 45% of Aardvark Safari’s customers are repeat clients, with between 10 – 15% visiting Africa annually or bi-annually.
All the camps and lodges that Aardvark Safaris work with support conservation and community projects. They aim to protect their local environment, flora, fauna and landscapes, respect local cultures and try to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism through employment, sourcing of supplies and support of local schools, healthcare facilities and other community projects, as well as minimising their environmental impact.