The overall mood of African outfitters and clients at the hunting conventions this year was buoyant. Major outfitters in some countries came into the conventions this year booked up and went away heavily booked for next year and even the year after that. It would not be an understatement to say African hunting - at least that part of it that takes places on government concessions - is on a roll, with demand beginning to edge above supply, making most of the business a sellers market.
The only exception to that bright picture is the situation in South Africa where the dollar has plunged in value just when competition inside and outside the country has increased, making it hard for outfitters to increase prices. We mentioned the dollar slide in the January issue, in an article entitled "Will Hunting Survive The US Dollar Slide?" In that article, we told you South Africa had been hit the hardest with this problem, with its currency strengthening a whopping 23 percent between July 1, 2003 and December 14, 2004.
We now believe that article understated the problem. Seems several very successful South African outfitters told us at the conventions that they essentially made no money in 2004. One said he had lost money on an increased volume of business. Clearly, if the dollar doesn't rise soon against the Rand some weaker South African hunting companies are going to bite the dust.
Some will tell you a shakeout is long overdue in South Africa, that there are simply too many new outfitters coming on stream there. Be that as it may, we believe it is more than usually important that you hunt with a quality company in South Africa this year, one that has a track record of accomplishment. Do all you can to confirm that your intended South African operator is solvent........(continued)