An interview with Wanjiru Catherine, CEO and Founder Saffara Limited, Kenya on Business and Leisure Travel

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine.

This past month of April 2018, Wacha niKwambie  blog embarked on a series dubbed “Safari Tunayo!”. Every once in a while the blog takes a break, a digital holiday if you will, to enjoy the sights and sounds of our local tourist offering around Kenya and around the world. The aim of the “Safari Tunayo!” series is to appreciate that we all live and work in different countries of the world, and at the end of the day we are all citizens of the world.

In line with this theme, I had the opportunity to interview Wanjiru Catherine, Founder and CEO of Saffara Limited http://www.saffara.com/. ​Saffara Limited is  a specialist full service Destination Management Company providing unique experiences to busy Corporate/SME executives and Individuals who travel regularly for business and leisure.

Elizabeth “Kwambie”Nyambane: Thank you Catherine for the opportunity to have a chat with you this morning on Travel – for Business and Leisure – and to tap into the experience gained by SaffaraTravel over the years.

Catherine: Karibu sana sana, Kwambie.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: I have always meant to ask you this question – what was your motivation to start a travel company?

Catherine: I started Saffara hoping that I would get to travel the world! I have no formal education in the travel and tours industry and I thought that since I had travelled quite a bit while in employment, this ‘education’ would serve me well in the business.  I was so so wrong! It was a baptism of fire!  Which therefore means that I have had little time to travel and experience the travel destinations and travel experiences that we have created for our clients. I have therefore been living vicariously through my clients! But, I want to change that soon.  I have previously used the feedback I get from my clients to rank different hotels and different destinations, but I want to travel and experience everything for myself.  First on my bucket list is ‘Gorilla tracking’ in Rwanda, next is Livingstone & Cape town and then Mozambique.  I cannot wait!

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: What drives Saffara Limited?

Catherine: We derive a lot of satisfaction in creating travel experiences that meet our client’s needs. At Saffara travel, we put ourselves in our clients’ shoes and create travel experiences that we would want to go and enjoy ourselves. I am generally a very meticulous person and you will see that all of our travel plans and experiences are just as meticulous.  We think of everything! And where we are not sure, we ask our clients what it is that they need and then we find it and provide it for them.  Many of our clients are well travelled and discerning and we cannot afford to be anything less than excellent with our planning, and ‘out-of-this-world’ with our travel experiences.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane”: What are some of the travel experiences that you have put together for your clients?

Catherine:  Some of the experiences that we have put up for our clients include, Motor racing in Abu dhabi, The Best of Dubai, Amazing Kuala Lumpur, The best of London and Paris, Gorilla tracking in Rwanda, Yoga retreat in Kerala and skiing in the Alps.  We are currently working on creating several more experiences such as a spa experience, golfing rail tours, our very own wildebeest migration etc. We carry out in depth research and create amazing experiences for our clients. We also put together some amazing customised family vacations for our clients.

I also need to add that to offer our clients seamless service we have different partners from around the world in Europe, in the UAE and Asia. Together with our partners we ensure that everything is well synchronized and on time so that our clients do not have to think of anything but having fun.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: Why do Kenyans travel?

Catherine:  In our experience, Travel for business is the biggest reason Kenyans travel. At Saffara, we are able to meet the travel needs of our clients irrespective of their reason for travel. Over time we have gained tremendous trust from our clients because of our meticulous planning, our integrity and the value we give our clients in return for their travel investment.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: What are some of the challenges people face in travel”?

Catherine: Airline Ticketing is a complicated process for many clients.   Because airline fares change according to demand, we ensure that we educate our clients on the process of ticketing before we send a ticket to them.  We take care of our clients until they reach their destination. I also write a newspaper article on ticketing and contribute it to the East African Newspaper here.  In this article, I educate travellers on the intricacies of airline ticketing and how to buy the most affordable tickets for their travel.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: You mentioned that most Kenyans who travel usually travel for business as opposed to travelling on holiday. Are holidays important?

Catherine: Holidays are very important. There are a number of Kenyans who appreciate holidays, can afford to pay for a holiday and therefore, go ahead to make plans to go on holiday.  But the majority of Kenyans simply cannot afford it – going on holiday is aspirational for these Kenyans. Many Kenyans can hardly meet their basic needs and so it is still difficult for them to access the holidays that are on offer. Holidays are important for rest and relaxation. They are also important for creating memories and opening up one’s mind to different cultures and experiences.  I hope that one day, many Kenyans will afford to pay for a holiday.

Elizabeth “ Kwambie” Nyambane: What are some of the popular holiday destinations for Kenyans?

Catherine: The Coast still remains very popular. I notice that many of our clients choose to patronize the same hotels at the coast every year!  Internationally, Dubai remains a favourite for many for good reason.  Dubai is fortunate to have developed very many different experiences for one destination.  Travellers have the opportunity to do some shopping, go for desert safaris, experience the beach, experience Formula One in Abu Dhabi, experience Dubailand which is the Middle East’s answer to Disney World and many more. Cape Town, South Africa is also very popular and will increase its popularity this year because Kenyans will no longer need to apply for their visas before they go – they can now get them when they arrive in South-Africa.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: What are some of the hidden gems that you have unearthed in travel?

Catherine: Cape town and The Victoria Falls at Livingstone Zambia are truly worth the visit. Especially if done together.  One can buy a ticket to travel to South Africa and use the same ticket for a stopover in Livingstone at no extra cost. Experiencing the Victoria Falls is truly a spiritual experience!

Other notable gems in Kenya are Castle Forest Lodge in Kerugoya. There is also the Sunbird Lodge in Elementaita.  I consider both the idyllic weekend getaway for a couple. Castle lodge is very quiet, very affordable (Approx 5k a night) and very scenic.  There are no words to describe the peace that you experience while at Castle Forest Lodge!  The Ngerende Island Lodge at the Maasai Mara is another undiscovered gem by many.  Ngerende is built for couples.  I love their spa, I love their personalised service – every tent gets its own butler and chef.  What more could a   couple want?

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: What should we do to ensure that we are adequately prepared for our travels?

Catherine: Simple.   Get a really good travel agent! A good travel agent will provide you with the necessary advice and planning and book you into a place that has the best service. All you need to do is pack your bags and go and enjoy your travel and leave the planning to your agent.

Elizabeth “Kwambie” Nyambane: Thank you for those tips on travel Catherine. I did not realize time had flown so fast. Time for some lunch, shall we?

Catherine:  You are welcome Kwambie, the pleasure has been all mine. I would like to wish the readers of Wacha niKwambie happy travels and if they need a partner for hassle free travel they should not hesitate to contact us at Saffara.

© Kwambie Nyambane,

May 2018.

More about Saffara Limited:
Saffara aims to reimagine and shift the ground in the travel industry by providing bespoke, customized and easy to purchase travel solutions to both businesses and individuals. For further information on Saffara and exploring ways in which you can partner with Saffara on business or leisure travel please contact them as follows:

Mobile:+254 733 940 400

Email: catherine@saffara.com

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