It was 2020, and it was meant to be ‘our year’. With 2018 as our warmup, and 2019 as our practice, 2020 was meant to be where we hit our stride and operated at our full potential. The last 10 years had been spent learning, developing and building a brand, a great team and most importantly a solid reputation. We took risks, spread our wings and put Malawi, Zambia, and our extensions into Mozambique and Zanzibar on the map.
And so it began
In January 2020 came the chitter chatter around the Twittersphere about the risks that Covid-19 not only posed to the health of the global population, but to our beloved tourism industry. To begin with, we pushed it to the back of our minds and hoped it was all overly embellished by the media. Mike, the owner and MD, had spent February and March 2020 on a marketing tour of the US and Europe, until inevitably the storm rolled in. ITB was cancelled, countries were closing their borders and everyone was locking down; it was time for him to make a plan to get home ASAP and dig really deep as we grasped the reality that all projected revenue for 2020 could be gone in a flash. Challenge accepted; it was time to raise our game, plan for the worst, and hope for the best. The show must go on, we have all given too much to fail now.
To cut costs, we moved our offices to Mike’s house, which has become a permanent fixture. We cut as many overheads as possible and all staff were either reduced to part-time or received a financial payout until we were back on our feet. Fortunately, almost everyone stayed, and we had our full sales and reservations team there and ready to maintain our high standards and manage all the postponements and cancellations in an efficient manner, clinging onto what we could.
During this time, we refreshed all our agent resources and started to look into a total rebrand. While this rebrand idea was gently simmering, we realised very quickly that it wasn’t just enough to keep our heads above water, we needed to heave ourselves onto a self-built life raft if we were to survive the storm. We toyed with different business ideas to diversify and rake in some revenue to keep our company afloat – one that was not seasonal, or weather or Covid dependent!
We knew that whatever we did, had to be somewhat in line with our expertise. We had the dream team on our hands to ensure that it would be run efficiently and offer exceptional service; and thus, a gap in the market appeared through the clouds, one that had been glaringly obvious all along. WINE!
Dude, where’s my wine?
Malawi, despite a very limited offering throughout the country, was in desperate need of good wines. There was a cultural shift happening as Malawians and expats alike were developing a more discerning palate, and were demanding more experiential wining and dining that had so far been begrudgingly forgone. With one of the greatest wine countries in the world just a short flight away, we couldn’t imagine why everyone was still importing the same old chestnuts that could be found on every wine list in the country! And so, Wines & Wings was born.
Welcome ‘Wines & Wings’
We launched Wines & Wings, a wine distribution company, to supply the Malawi consumers, as well as bars, lodges and restaurants with fine South African wines. We offer a full package service, in collaboration with our South African agents ‘Under the Influence’ that offers a steady supply of their selected wines, menu design, waiter training and event management. Before we knew it, our team of safari experts were becoming wine experts too… And as they say, the rest is history!
The big re-brand
Our next project wasn’t far behind and in 2021 we rebranded our tourism company, from Malawian Style and Zambia in Style, to Crafted Africa. We wanted a name that suited who we have evolved into and highlighted our ability to craft the perfect itinerary to perfectly suit each and every one of our clients. As we grew our products, itineraries and specialisation into our neighbouring countries, we merged our websites and brands to fit under one umbrella, with all the best information and sales tools on one platform.
Here we are now – well into 2022. The wine sales are flying in comfortably, having established an amazing and loyal client base who love what we have to offer. In just 2 months of 2022, tourism has steamrolled back in with a vengeance and more people are excited to travel than ever! Our little team are charging forward at full pace, managing both the wine and tourism sides of our business, without compromising our usual standards of service.
So maybe we were wrong – 2020 wasn’t to be ‘our year’, but as each day passes, it’s looking more and more like 2022 is the start of many ‘our years’. While we have been fortunate, our hearts go out to all of you who had been so negatively impacted by Covid-19 and we look forward to safely bringing your clients to our part of the world and welcoming them with a bottle of bubbly.