We talked to Augustin Ndikuriyo of Augustine Tours about tailor-made tours and safaris to East Africa and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: Thanks for the question. Thankfully, my family and my colleagues are all well and safe. As you already know, the travel industry is one of the most hard-hit sectors during these tough times. It is no surprise that as a travel entrepreneur, I was forced to take a break from my tour operations to spend more time with my family- something priceless.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Augustine Tours.
Augustin Ndikuriyo: I am a tourism entrepreneur and Augustine Tours founder, a travel company offering custom tours in East Africa for families, small groups, and solo travelers.
I founded the company in 2010 after spending nearly half a decade in the hospitality industry as a hotel manager. My unwavering belief that tourism is a great channel for both educational and cultural exchange pushed me to found Augustine Tours.
Our tours are designed for those looking for adventure, educational, and cultural travel experiences in East Africa.
Inspired and encouraged by a quote from St. Augustine,” The world is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page,” I resolved to be a bridge for those who travel to see, observe, experience, inspire, be inspired, learn, appreciate, and value cultures and countries other than just theirs.
Besides my profession, I like to travel, learn new languages, and try to understand new cultures. I speak fluent French, English, and German. In my free time, you can find him reading articles and books about business trends and entrepreneurship.
How does Augustine Tours innovate?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: Tourism is about people, for people, and by people. That is the reason we prioritize tailor-made tours. Yes, we are online as most of nowadays businesses. The internet has changed the way people communicate, get information, and make decisions, but when it comes to the travel industry, the human touch remains irreplaceable. We understand that traveler needs are different, so are itineraries too. This means we are open to any custom-made tour idea clients may have in mind to match their travel needs, and we are well-positioned to respond to this type of request. We focus on working on the best value experience- which, in return, enhance our company reputation. We have a platform where our clients express themselves in reviewing our services.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: It’s no secret this year has been tough for the travel industry. East Africa is lucky not to have recorded many Covid-19 cases, but the region, like the rest of the world, has been financially affected.
Before the pandemic, we had bookings scheduled for 2020 and 2021; they all have been put on hold and postponed. Nobody could ever have imagined that all people around the globe would one day be confined in their homes. East African countries have recently opened international tourism, but it is still limited as countries where we get clients from are still struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic- Europe and the United States, for instance. It is worth mentioning that there is a sign that proves the travel industry will recover from these tough times. Clients who cannot travel now are inquiring about tours for 2021 and 2022. It is encouraging to hear that there are people who cannot wait to hit the road again when parks and borders open.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: The impact this pandemic has created cannot be ignored with airlines, travel companies, hotels going bankrupt, or being forced to lay off a big number of their staff. In our company, we had to restructure our work and staff. Working from home was the new normal, while laying off guides and drivers was unfortunately inevitable.
About lessons, we learned that in tough times, getting together is the only working key. As earlier stated, nobody could ever have imagined that all people around the globe would one day be confined in their homes. As an entrepreneur, it is important to have the right tools needed to run a business and keep everything under control, but it is wise to admit the humanity is limited- and there is nothing we can do about it.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: It is easy to lose faith when I tell myself, “I am not alone!”. Well, I know many people are asking themselves questions about the future of travel after the coronavirus pandemic. I decided not to give into losing faith but get ready for the new season. What motivated me in 2010 when I founded the company is still valid in the short-and long-term future. When I am not working on tour bookings for 2021, I create new content and update my website.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: East Africa has a big number of tour operators. But a huge uncertainty hangs over traveling, and for sure, no one can tell how fast the travel industry will get back on track. So, it is not easy to know who remained or left the game. Something I am sure of is that Augustine Tours is and will remain the solid bridge for those who travel to East Africa looking for unique and authentic travel experiences.
Your final thoughts?
Augustin Ndikuriyo: The Covid-19 pandemic has been a testing moment for entrepreneurs. What motivates you to do what you’re doing today? Knowing what it takes to be who you want to be and what you want to achieve will keep you committed in tough times and focused during the harvest season.