What you need to know:
- Pursuing a passion. At the height of the pandemic, Ann Cheptumo could not resist her passion for tours and travel. Despite the crisis, she got ideas and relocated to Uganda to run her start-up. It has now picked and she has clients from across borders and overseas. Edgar R. Batte finds out more about the travel enthusiast.
Ann Cheptumo describes herself as a happy, down-to-earth individual who sees herself as open minded, determined, ambitious, sociable and easy-going.
Cheptumo’s childhood dream was to become an air hostess but changed her mind when she read about travel agencies in a magazine during her second year in high school. Since then, her focus was to found an own agency. After high school, she enrolled at the Regional Centre for Tourism and Foreign Languages in Nairobi where she pursued a course in Travel, Tours and Tourism Operations. With the qualification, she got placement in different tour and travel companies.
Mid-2008, she established Acheche Tours & Events Management. After some rejections while registering, she coined the name from her name.
“I remember working from my bed trying to figure out how to enter the market. I registered in January 2009. Each day is a lesson when you are in business and I am still learning. But, the main thing that has come with this business is active listening, patience, attention to detail not forgetting understanding the terrain well,” she explains.
“I remember my first job afforded me a printer and I managed to put up a very simple website,” Cheptumo recalls
With a laptop and internet, she established her tours and travel venture. After opening social media accounts and an email address, Ann Cheptumo worked on getting bookings.
In May 2021, she relocated from Kenya to Uganda after falling in love with the Pearl of Africa. It was initially tough given the language barrier in a country that largely speaks Luganda among other indigenous languages.
With time, all fell in place. Besides, the business turf here was not so different from the Kenyan one. She harnesses her business effort to build an East African clientele mainly through social media marketing and referrals.
Uganda is special
She points out that some of the tourism attractions that make Uganda stand out are the Mountain Gorillas and waterfalls while Kenya has the wildebeest migration and the beaches.
“Our company has what we call country-combined tours where we give clients an option of experiencing two or three countries together. They can do the migration in Kenya and later do the primate journey in Uganda or vice versa depending on time and interests,” Cheptumo explains.
Her choice of branching into Uganda for business during Covid-19 was a bit of a risk at a time when the world was under lockdown. She turned to the option of crisis planning and resilience.
“We have learnt that we have to save and plan in advance. We have no choice but to anticipate future crises and how to handle them,” she adds.
With the lockdown, she went digital and has grown an online presence, and is constantly adaptive to the fact that every client is different, with unique desires and wishes. She used the initial lessons to improve and purpose her business venture.
For instance, by actively listening, she gives full attention to what her clients and people around her say, takes time to understand the concerns, asks questions as appropriate, and not interrupts at inappropriate times.
Geography is important because knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea and air.
“You have to have knowledge of places to visit around the world. This way you can give good suggestions and advice to your clients. Then, attention to Detail and Patience – the job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing tasks on time to exceed the clients’ expectations,” she adds.
Acheche does in and outbound tours. Despite tours and travel being her passion, she is astute at making business sense out of it.
“We prefer giving our clients a package. We have contracts with different suppliers from hotels, car hire, and guides who give us special rates. Once we have a request we come up with the best rates and our finances are handled by an accountant. All the money that comes in has to be accounted for so all paperwork has to be in order in each trip we have.
In doing business, good service has turned clients into friends from different parts of the world and of different professions.
“Through Acheche I have experienced life differently and seen different places. I have visited Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Seychelles. I do not have a favourite but I would go back to Ethiopia because I see it as a country with its own script. I wish to visit the Danakil Depression sometime this year. I love discovering places,” she says.
For inbound clients, her company’s focus is on East and Southern countries, with key attractions being mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda while Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania, the Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Dunes in Namibia and the Kruger and wine tours in South Africa.
• For outbound East African clients, visits to Dubai, beach getaways to Zanzibar, Diani, Mombasa, Seychelles and Maldives are ideal.
Major on her wish list is becoming a competitive global travel advisor.