The 'Monday Minute' is a weekly feature at PAX dedicated to highlighting the movers, shakers, leaders and rule-breakers in Canada's travel agent community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Danni Ponter
Company: Sikeleli Travel and Expeditions
Where do you live? I live in Victoria Falls but spend time in Cape Town at our offices there… and of course Vancouver BC, which is where our head office is located.
How long have you been a travel agent? I have been in travel for 10 years, but having grown up in Victoria Falls, I went on my first safari when I was just three weeks old and never stopped.
What is your specialty? Africa and Asia travel – having spent many years in both and having family from both regions, my heart is split. However, safaris and Africa exploration are my true passion.
What do you love most about being a travel agent?
The relationships you develop with your guests and how guests become friends over the years. They trust you and your expertise and knowledge to ensure they have life-changing experiences around the world and of course, enriching people’s lives. It’s hard to pin one of those down but they are the top three most amazing ‘loves of travel’ that I have!
What's one travel trend you've noticed as of late?
More families are traveling with younger children. This is so important as it really can be a very humbling experience for a family. I love to see families come to a very different part of the world from their own and be stunned by the diversity of culture and then be humbled by the difference or lack of privilege but happiness they encounter there. Travel is an early life lesson for children. More and more families and grandparents are taking their children and grandchildren further afield. Travel is the best education you can give a young person.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary and/or travel package are you most proud of?
I curated an extremely interesting Zambia-focused itinerary that explored the best of Zambia. From walking in the South Luangwa, to seeing the tree-climbing lions of the Busanga Plains in the Kafue National Park and the finale in my hometown of Victoria Falls.
Capturing an audience and encouraging them to go more off the beaten track on a more intrepid travel itinerary is one of the most fun and exciting parts of my job: guests have returned home and they have been blown away by the diversity of the wildlife, the experience and the true remoteness of the National Parks. Anthropologists, environmentalist groups, authors, wildlife researchers and many more have embarked on this itinerary.
What's your number one piece of advice to other travel agents?
Read between the lines. What is implied is as important as what is openly discussed and noted. This way you can really give guests what they want and by giving them what they don’t even know they desire from a trip, you can really change lives and perspective.
The nuances can lead you to curating extraordinary trips and those are important to understand. Our role in people’s lives and families is sometimes much more important than we understand, and we should take the time to connect on all levels with our guest - even if that means flying out to see them and spending quality time.
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