Naturetrek Specialist Wildlife Holidays – A Great Niche Marketing Example

by Paul Simister on September 10, 2011

I want to tell you about Naturetrek, a specialist birdwatching and wildlife holiday company that is based in the UK but provides amazing wildlife adventure holidays around the world.

The Theory & Practice Of Differentiating Your Business

My blog shares plenty of the theory about differentiating a business but it’s nice to see the concepts of differentiation, strategic focus and niche marketing in practice and I think Naturetrek is a great example.

Of course it helps in that it combines two areas of particular interest to me, travel/holidays and wildlife. I’ve already written about travel agency differentiation.

It also gives me an excuse to share some of my favourite photos from my wildlife safari holidays.

naturetrek African wild dogs are a rare sighting – this is from my trip to Botswana

What is Naturetrek?

To quote from the Naturetrek website

“Naturetrek operates the largest selection of professionally organised, expert-led wildlife holidays and tours in the world. We’ve been organising specialist wildlife tours for 25 years.”

That’s a strong unique selling point. Let’s break down the positioning statement:

  • A very clear what – professionally organised, expert-led wildlife holidays and tours
    .
  • And where – all around the world – I’ll list some of the tours later so you can see how specialised it is.
    .
  • And how many – a combination of “the largest selection” (and it is vast) and “the 25 years” which gives confidence and credibility.

Naturetrek Sample Tours

Here are some examples of Naturetrek wildlife holidays taken from their 2012 brochure that arrived a couple of weeks ago:

You’ll see quite a variety from what I’d think are the popular holidays to some very specialist tours:

  • Kenya’s Wildlife
  • Namibia, Botswana & Zambia – Etosha to the Victoria Falls
  • Finland – Just Brown Bears
  • Spitzbergen – Real Of The Polar Bear
  • Wolves & Bustards In Rural Spain
  • Temples & Tigers – The Best Of Northern India
  • Borneo’s Orang-utans
  • The Carmague In Spring
  • Iceland in Autumn – Glaciers, Icebergs & Waterfalls
  • Bulgaria’s Dragonflies
  • Butterflies In Croatia
  • And many, many more – the range of wildlife and nature tours that Naturetrek offer is remarkable.

Wildlife Holidays Are Amazing

naturetrek Elephants, again in Botswana

Without trying to sound like I’m promoting Naturetrek, I can’t put into words just how special it is to see animals in the wild.

Margaret and I have become addicted to safari holidays in Southern Africa. We did our first in 2001 and our sixth in 2008. Unfortunately my health issues have caused us to stop but I’d like to think that in 2012 or 2013 we can venture into the wilds again.

Still it does show that you should take the chance to do something this special when you can because you never know what is around the corner.

We’ve seen some amazing things including this incredible sighting of a female leopard who appeared in front of us and then climbed a tree to put on a show.

Wildlife Holidays The stunning highlight of a great holiday in Botswana – our best leopard sighting ever

This Isn’t A Naturetrek Holidays Review

I want to make it clear that this isn’t a review of Naturetrek wildlife holidays because we haven’t travelled with them.

When we’ve been to Southern Africa – South Africa, Botswana and Zambia – it has always been with a specialist South Africa travel agency – Cedarberg – who have been excellent. We met a couple of South Africans on a cruise holiday and it sounded wonderful so the next year we went to Cape Town, the Garden Route and finished near the Addo Elephant National Park. We were hooked.

We had talked about doing one of the European bear holidays with Naturetrek to celebrate my 50th birthday but my health problems got in the way.

I love getting the Naturetrek brochure to see where we could go but there are aspects of the marketing which don’t quite tip me over from interest to action. Their MD, David Mills asked for reasons and I sent him a long email.

It will be interesting to see if he responds and how quickly. In fact Naturetrek may not realise it but if, when and how they respond to my reply to the request to their question “why haven’t you bought from us” has become a big moment of truth which could define the relationship on the purchase tipping point.

Update on Naturetrek – it took five weeks to receive an acknowledgement from my email which was disappointing and I suspect only happened because of this blog.

Have You Been On A Naturetrek Wildlife Holiday?

I’m using Naturetrek as an example of a business which has a very strong position in a tightly defined niche but I’m very happy for this article to include comments from those people who have been on one of the Naturetrek tours.

Did you have a great time?

Did you see the wildlife you hoped to see?

Did you find the company provided good customer service and responded well to your needs?

Would you go back again and would you recommend a Naturetrek wildlife holiday to other people?

Key Success Factors For A Wildlife Holiday

I’ll just step away from Naturetrek and share my thoughts on the key success factors for a wildlife holiday.

  1. The wildlife or nature experience. Animals and birds follow their own rules and in the wild, no sighting can be guaranteed. However they have patterns of behaviours which can be predicted. Your experience will depend on what you see, what you see them doing, how long you see them and how close you are. When it’s right it just feels so magical to be sharing their world.
    .
  2. Whether there is a guide and if so, the quality of the guide. You may have assumed that professional guiding was always included in a wildlife holiday but you can drive around the South African National Parks like the world famous Kruger Park on your own in a hire car. A good guide and/or tracker can make a big difference to your wildlife experience in terms of what you see and learn. They’ll have plenty of great stories to share as well.
    .
  3. The time of the year you go. This impacts on the weather and the environment. Too hot, too cold, too rainy and your experience won’t be as good as it could be. Quality of wildlife sightings depend on how lush the bush is and surprising large animals can hide.
    .
  4. The accommodation and food has to be appropriate to your holiday environment and expectations. The menu can also be an issue as we don’t eat the game we’ve been admiring and filming.
    .
  5. The other people on the holiday. We’re generally talking about small groups on wildlife holidays and you’re likely to be together for much of the time.
    .
  6. What else you can do on the holiday. We’re not sunbathing by the swimming pool type of people and the luxury spa treatments that are sometimes offered don’t appeal either. During the wildlife intensive sections, we’re happy to read and catch up on sleep – you match your times to the animals and that can mean very early mornings. It’s also nice to have some history and/or culture included to yourself more of a feeling for the country you’re visiting.

Paul Simister is a business strategy coach who helps business owners to differentiate their businesses and develop winning strategies. Get your free copy of the ebook The Six Steps Profit Formula.

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{ 4 comments }

Andy Tucker October 20, 2011 at 7:38 am

Hi Paul. You didn’t get a response just because of this blog. As I explained in my email , every single one of those who emailed or wrote to us had a personal letter or email of thanks. I regret the time it took but we were overwhelmed with the response. Writing to your inactive clients is something I’d definately recommend!

Paul Simister October 20, 2011 at 8:14 am

Thanks for your comments Andy (he is the General Manager of Naturetrek).

Next time you do the exercise, I recommend that you have someone send back an email reply immediately saying “thanks for the feedback. We really appreciate your thoughts and that you care enough about Naturetrek to respond,”

I’ve got nothing against Naturetrek so I don’t want to get into a detailed discussion but the response I received irritated me more, not less which is why I let a few days pass before I came back to update my blog. The fact remains that the incident has soured the way I view the business and made me less likely to buy a holiday from Naturetrek.

I still think its a great example of differentiating a business by focusing on a highly specialised niche market.

I’d very much welcome comments from people who’ve been on Naturetrek holidays to share their experiences. The company features some nice comments on their website taken from customer surveys.

Clare Johnson March 4, 2012 at 9:58 am

I am about to embark on my third Naturetrek trip in July 2012 on their “Just Brown Bears” trip to Finland.
In 2009 my Dad found himself in a position to be able to take my sister and I on a once in a lifetime trip to India to see the wild Tiger after retiring early from a life-long career in the Steel Industry. After much deliberation we decided on Naturetrek’s “Tiger Marathon” due to leave for India in January 2011.

It was my Dad’s first ever long haul trip and out of the three of us, I realised I was the most seasoned traveller having visited Thailand, and eastern Asia on a number of occasions. I believe the fact that my dad finally chose Naturetrek as our tour operator was a direct result of his (for want of a better word) inexperience.

Let me explain:-

All flights (both internal and long haul)/transfers/train journeys/food and accomodation were organised in full by Naturetrek and they even handled our Visa applications (obviously at an extra charge). This took the stress and worry out of booking such a trip with nothing to organise ourselves except our travel vaccinations and getting to London Heathrow on time.

Prior to the trip Naturetrek provided a detailed trip itinerary and final instructions to follow with regards to what clothing/apparel/medication to bring, what money to bring (and where best to change it) along with various bits of valuable information that we would have struggled without. Such as a heads up regarding the cold morning temperatures whilst driving through the reserves. (I would have died of cold if it weren’t for my fleece!)

During the trip, we were provided with 2 professional Naturalist guides who accompanied us from the moment we set down on the tarmac at Nagpur, on to our accommodation and on all drives into the forests. As there were 16 of us on the trip in total we had to rotate jeeps to enable us all to benefit from their expertise but on the few occasions where we were unaccompanied on drives, we were given an equally knowledgeable forest guide direct from the parks themselves. We found the naturalists, drivers and park guides throughout the trip to be excellent at their jobs and invaluable in terms of their knowledge of the reserves and animals within them.

The accommodation provided was excellent on all sites, some admittedly much better than others but I feel that this added to the trip experience and in no way lessened my enjoyment. Despite a few minor issues with a door handle in one lodge we found the facilities and service to be more than sufficient for our needs. From the beautiful view and dining room at the Ken River lodge, Panna to the stunning lodges at Tiger Corridor, Pench and to the almost unnessessary luxury of the Leela Kempinski in Delhi it was definitley “varied” to say the least.

The food, (consisting of buffet type meals) was great all but the one meal in an external restaurant in Delhi on our return journey). Generally a little rich for some to survive two and a half weeks on and my body would have welcomed a break from curried food somewhere around halfway through the trip, (or a good English brekkie at least). The packed breakfasts became a chore whilst out on the drives and I don’t think I’ve eaten another hard boiled egg or banana since!

As for the drives themselves and the wildlife we saw. It was phenomenal. We were very lucky to see more than a few tigers, including one on our very first day! Three close encounters, in Pench, Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh and two long distance sightings in Kanha and again, Ranthambore left us amazed. Infact my very first tiger sighting in Pench brought tears.

The Langur, Chital, and Samba populations were thriving, along with endless bird life throughout both the parks and the areas around the accomodation. Also seen were Guar, Wild Boar, Jungle Cat, Jackall, Wild Dog, Sloth Bear, Mongoose, and Rhesus Monkey. Many different Birds of Prey were spotted from Eagles to Owls to Vultures, and the guides knew exactly where to find certain wildlife within the reserves.

The travelling between the different game reserves (5 in total) was tiring but filled with many sights and experiences I’ll never forget. Coupled with the early morning drives and generally intensive schedule of the trip we became exhausted towards the end of the second week and an optional morning off for some for a lie in was much needed.

Overall the trip was amazing, and after our experience we decided that we would look into taking another wildlife holiday at the end of 2011, this time to Zambia to see the Leopard (which had unfortunately eluded us in India), and again, there was no competition when it came to booking the trip. Naturetrek excelled yet again.

Preparations have now begun for our third trip in July this year and we are excited to say the least. If our previous trips are anything to go by we will not be disappointed.

If I had one concern with Naturetrek it would be the cost of these trips and getting good value for money. A friend of mine travels to India herself this year and is embarking on a visit to Ranthambore National Park to hopefully see Tigers for herself. I understand she is working on a much smaller budget than we had but the difference in price between the two trips is huge. Understandably, travelling on ones own and organising accommodation yourself is bound to be a cheaper option for these types of trips but I understand her drives work out cheaper too. I guess for the seasoned traveller or someone who is familiar with a particular country, it is much more financially viable to organise such a trip off your own back.

For us, (well my Dad in particular) it is worth spending a little extra to be guaranteed good service and have that peace of mind that if anything goes wrong, there is someone there to deal with the problem and fix it for you. For example, another company we are considering booking with for a return trip to India in 2013 is Lionscape Indus.

They offer similar trips to Naturetrek across India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. However, the main difference in being that your flights are not included in the cost of the holiday nor are they organised for you. Obviously for someone such as my dad who prefers to pay one fee for an all inclusive trip, Naturetrek wins hands down.
Maybe, following our next trip to Finland, my dad may be a more confident traveller and who knows where we will go next (and with which company).

For now though Naturetrek seems to be doing exactly what it says on the tin – offering “professionally organised, expert-led wildlife holidays”. And for that reason I would definitely recommend them to others.

Paul Simister March 5, 2012 at 7:03 am

Wow Clare. Thanks for great feedback on your Naturetrek holidays.

I always see repeat purchases as great proof that the holiday met or exceeded or expectations. That’s why we’ve used the same travel agent for each of our six trips to Africa for safaris and sightseeing.

I’m not sure India is for me because of the food but I’d love to see tigers in the wild. It sounds like you saw plenty of other stuff as well which helps to keep you entertained and explains the entire ecology.

Have a great time in Finland. The bears trips are one of the things that first attracted me to Naturetrek.

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