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Club Faune Voyages, a look back at an inspiring success story

A brother and sister irresistibly drawn to Africa. This is the starting point of the entrepreneurial adventure: Club Faune Voyages. An agency that displays – thirty years later – an exceptional loyalty rate, without firing a shot in the face of crises. How do you find your place in the face of the giants of tourism? How to speak in the ear of travelers from one generation to another? Interview with Sylvie Bernon, co-founder of Club Faune Voyages, who shares her recipe for success. The opportunity to review the trends around the big summer event.

Originally, what experience of Africa did you decide to offer?

Sylvie Bernon : Thirty years ago, my idea was to discover an authentic Africa, the one that made me dream when reading the books of Hemingway and Karen Blixen, this Africa that I loved. There was therefore no question of organizing minibus safaris to observe the lions of any park in single file and sleep in the evening in a lodge with an African look. So I decided to share my passion for the bush by organizing old-fashioned safaris on private lands. This meant evolving in an open 4×4 or on foot over territories of 60,000 to 1 million hectares in the company of experienced French-speaking guides (directors of animal reserves, veterinarians, bush pilots, etc.), without meeting other “ tourists”. All this from small capacity luxury canvas camp for an elegant discovery of Nature that begins every morning at dawn, to finish in the evening around the campfire in the light of oil lamps…

At the time, Club Faune Voyages was the only French travel organization to have its own viewing areas and its own camps, which until then had been the prerogative of Anglo-Saxon organizations.

The African continent is often apprehended solely through the safari experience. What are the other faces of Africa yesterday and today?

Africa is also, and above all, beautiful encounters. Before this word was overused, we always gave our travelers beautiful African experiences: living a “good food” camp for a day with Masai warriors, discovering the great Rift Valley with a paleontologist, taking part in a translocation of animals in the company of bush veterinarians… examples abound. Today these new experiences are still part of our offer but we also want to discover an Africa that moves, that reinvents itself. In this spirit, we propose the discovery of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, with a renowned artist of the country to take the pulse of this Africa at the artistic avant-garde and to explore this real arty breeding ground. Dakar, Kigali (Rwanda), Johannesburg (South Africa)… are constantly reinventing themselves while drawing inspiration from their traditions.

Sylvie Bernon in Botswana @ Club Faune Voyages

How did Club Faune Voyages find its place in an ecosystem long dominated by giants?

I have endeavored to maintain a company on a human scale in order to be able to forge bonds of trust with our travellers. In the same way as a notary, a lawyer or a family doctor, we accompany them in all the important moments of their life and know their requirements, expectations, desires… This intimacy allows us to offer personalized trips to the extreme, tailored to individual requirements. These bonds of trust must also be developed in the field, with our partners and guides. To do this, we spend a lot of time with them. This allows us to fine-tune the experiences offered with them, to discover new “confidential addresses”, places of interest and to ensure the continuity of our standards of excellence.

I have endeavored to maintain a company on a human scale in order to be able to forge bonds of trust with our travellers. Just like a notary, a lawyer or a family doctor, we support them in all the important moments of their lives. This intimacy allows us to offer tailor-made trips.

You have expanded your offer by covering the four corners of the world (Brazil, Laos, Saint-Barth, Iceland, etc.). How do you bring your philosophy to life: “Engage to create life-changing journeys”?

For more than 20 years we have enriched our production and we shape tailor-made trips around the world. To achieve this, I surrounded myself with travel enthusiasts. Experts of the destinations covered, often native or who have lived there for a long time. By way of illustration, my collaborator France Baizet, responsible for Southeast Asia, lived for more than 20 years in Vietnam and was passionate about the countries of the Far East.

In addition, we have developed the concept of solidarity luxury tourism by associating with committed partners, promoters of conservation projects contributing to the protection of the environment and the development of local communities. Thus, we allow our travelers to be “agents of change”. Concretely, a percentage of the overall cost of their stay will finance actions in the field: anti-poaching, ecological monitoring, training of locals in tourism professions, but also in conservation…

Traveling in the Covid era no longer has the same flavor. From now on, what do your customers want? What are the destinations that are really picking up?

More than ever, our top-of-the-range clientele wants to move away from standardized travel and establishments… Palaces and ostentatious luxury hotels are no longer popular. Our travelers want to be told a story and favor discreet luxury getaways, allowing them to combine respect for traditions and the local environment. Southern Africa, East Africa, as well as destinations like Argentina, Chile, Brazil are really picking up. Asia is of course still lagging behind due to health restrictions.

Club Faune Voyages © Chem Chem safaris

What is the trend for the next major tourist event of the year, the summer holidays?

Greece and Iceland are once again on the rise this year, but also on the African continent, Tanzania. We also note the resurgence of family travel in the United States and Canada.

Despite the health crisis, so many hotels are opening their doors and investments are spreading. What do you foresee about the tourism of tomorrow?

The need for calm, for oneself, for exclusivity is very palpable. Small capacity accommodation, offering personalized service, in an exceptional natural setting will be the “big winners”: a mobile canvas camp, which can be set up according to the movements of the wildebeest and antelopes to follow the great migration as closely as possible. ; a colonial property in Siem Reap (Cambodia) converted into a small capacity hotel; a farm in the heart of the Pantanal (region of Latin America) to discover a conservation project centered on jaguars… So many experiences responding to this quest.

For further :

Wildlife Travel Club

<<< Also to read : What will tomorrow’s tourism look like? >>>

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