Interview: Mantis CEO Paul Gardiner on hospitality in the Serengeti

Interview: Mantis CEO Paul Gardiner on hospitality in the Serengeti

Supporting guests and the local community through the pandemic has been key to Gardiner’s strategy

Luxury mobile safari Siringit Migration Camp is the latest opening by Mantis, in association with Accor. Opened in the Kogatende, Northern Serengeti, the camp follows the migration and will move to the Ndutu region in Southern Serengeti from December. With the challenges of being mobile, sustainability and a pandemic, Mantis CEO Paul Gardiner has had a lot to cope with. His answer, among other inspired moves, was to launch a recovery holiday for burnout CEOs. Connecting Travel caught up with him to find out more about this and the support Mantis is giving the local community.

Connecting Travel: Mantis recently opened Siringit Migration Camp – what makes this different from any other safari camps in the Serengeti?
Paul Gardiner: The unique shape of the tents – octagonal with transparent sides – are designed to dissolve the division between indoors and outdoors, allowing guests to be closer to nature. That’s the most unique feature of the new Siringit Migration Camp by Mantis. The mobility of the camp as well as the proximity to the density of the wildlife following the natural migration route, provide a fully immersive wild experience in luxurious comfort.

CT: How should travel agents sell Siringit Migration Camp to clients?
PG: It’s a unique and exciting African bush experience for a couple or family to enjoy; a bucket-list experience, witnessing the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle, the annual migration. And, as mentioned, the unique design of the camp allows guests to be closer to nature.

CT: Which camps are in your comp set?
PG: Other luxury canvas tented safari camps in Serengeti, both mobile and fixed and located on the migration routes.

CT: How do you maintain a competitive edge?
PG: By adapting to market trends by means of specific offers and value-adds. There are also two other properties within the collection, which allows us to offer joint itineraries, ensuring guests get the most from their visit to Tanzania. Partnerships and collaborations with other offerings in the area have also given the traveller more value.

CT: Where are Siringit Migration Camp’s main source markets, and who is your typical guest?
PG: Our source markets are North America and Europe and our customers are the ‘Experience Collectors’ and ‘Eco Adventurers’.

CT: What have been your biggest challenges and victories with sustainability?
PG: The biggest challenge is not compromising on the values of sustainability while at the same time delivering five-star luxury, or building a mobile camp to the standards and comfort of a five-star luxury property. Victory is making that possible and partnering with the right people with years of experience to accomplish the goal, with companies in Tanzania who maintain a low carbon footprint, who make sustainable choices, to help benefit the community, conservation and the Tanzanian economy.

The tents for Siringit Migration Camp are made by Eco.tz, a company that trains and employ a Tanzanian team of tailors and craftsmen to handmake the tents, using durable material that will withstand the elements, and blend into the environment.

We use agro-farmed sustainable hardwood for the raised platforms, recycled metal for the framework of the tents and decking

We encourage the growth of the Tanzanian economy by investing in a Tanzanian product made by Tanzanians. We are committed to investing in the time of Covid and to creating a magnificent mobile camp that stays true to the roots of safari, the value of community and sustainable travel, moving in migration with the wildlife.

CT: Can you tell us about iThemba?
PG: iThemba – a Belgian Foundation of which the Siringit owner is also founder – is supporting Baraa Primary School, a government school in Arusha. When this collaboration started in 2009, the first imperative was to improve the overall infrastructure and the construction of new classrooms, sanitary blocks, a library and computer room, as well as providing the children with books, stationery and everything else to create better learning conditions.

For the future, our focus is on the quality of education and to improve the teaching methods and the overall academic performance of the children, because we believe that a good education is the key to a better future. Each Siringit property works with the Pack-for-a-Purpose initiative, in which guests bring supplies that are needed and on a wish-list for the Baraa School.

CT: How did the pandemic impact your work?
PG: The lack of tourism dollars has had a huge impact on the livelihoods of the communities, and this ultimately impacts the wildlife, because the only way these communities are able to survive is by having to resort to poaching.

CT: What’s Mantis’ recovery strategy?
PG: We’ll only make a real recovery when countries like the UK decide to take the Southern African countries off their red list. The UK is the largest contributor to tourism in Southern Africa. In the meantime, we’re desperately trying to survive off the domestic market, which is very small.

One initiative we’ve just launched at a pair of Mantis properties is called ‘Resurgence Through Nature’, and we’re targeting CEOs and captains of industry that have had severe burnout during this paralysing time for so many industries.

These industry leaders are invited to visit our properties to meet with some of South Africa’s leading doctors and help them navigate their way out of their burnout; nature’s the best medicine

CT: What does Mantis’ partnership with Accor bring?
PG: Amazing recognition, global online distribution, a massive loyalty program, support services and much more. Together we’ve launched a Foundation together called the CCFA, Community Conservation Fund Africa, and the aim is to make a real difference to the lives of many rural communities and the wildlife they live alongside. With their Heartist Fund, Accor has also been instrumental in helping us feed many of the Mantis families that have taken the brunt of the pandemic.


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