Today, we are very happy to be speaking to Hilmar Tonnemacher, the founder and owner of Abenteuer Afrika Safari!
Hilmar is from Namibia, in Southern Africa. In this episode, Hilmar tells his story, talks about Namibia, and shares his knowledge and experience. We talk about enjoying life and incentive trips, and Hilmar shares some valuable nuggets that are particularly helpful for preparing for the unexpected in business in the future.
We hope you enjoy our fun and exciting conversation with Hilmar Tonnemacher today!
Hilmar Tonnemacher’s bio
“Abenteuer Afrika Safari”: The German name stands for Adventure Africa Safari (which is also a registered Trade Name in Namibia). The company was founded in 1993 by Hilmar Tonnemacher. Having grown up on a Namibian farm, Hilmar was accustomed to the distant horizons and the beauty of the rugged nature in between. It is believed that it was this wide expanse that gave him the vision that would later lead his business to such great success. As a toddler he was standing on his dad’s lap, hands on the steering wheel, so it was no surprise to anyone that at the tender age of 7, Hilmar started driving the farm truck, a Land Rover 88’ Series. Here began a love affair and to this very day there is always, amongst other Land Rover products, an “88 or 90” in his life. As a young adult, Hilmar studied Hotel Management and ended off his education with a Senior Hotel Executive Course in Switzerland. After over 10 years in Management positions in Hotels in South Africa and Namibia, his passion for nature led him to start a Safari Company. Turning his leisure love into a business, Hilmar started sharing the immense vastness of Namibia’s nature with clients. His passion for four-wheel driving soon expanded into Incentive and Corporate travel, as well as Leisure travel.
Allowing stressed executives from all over the world, to experience the dream of driving a 4×4 on trails that rarely were circular, but mostly a means to a remote destination of beauty. The clients experience the thrill of driving in unspoiled nature, ending at a campfire under the spectacular African sky and even occasionally sleeping under canvas, but Hilmar’s Hotel background brings an exciting twist to the experience, because there is always a luxurious surprise, whether skydivers deliver chilled bubbly and fresh oysters in the remotest desert location or an African Achapella Choir appears out of the dark at the campfire to entertain, or gorgeous Lodges are reached after a thrilling day’s drive. Always adhering to the fine line between sustainability of nature, trail driving and not compromising on luxury, Hilmar built up a multi-million operation that caters to around 40,000 clients annually. Some are self-drive clients that, armed with a detailed roadbook, experience the remote beauty of Namibian nature on their own in a rented 4×4; others are guided either in self-drive groups in rented 4×4’s with specialist guides carefully mentoring the drivers via two-way radios, and sharing copious amounts of background information and folklore about the country, it’s wildlife and tribes; or groups being taken around in coaches or specially designed and built 4×4 luxury adventure vehicles. Amongst their clients were the original Land Rover Experience trips of Namibia, Skoda Yeti adventure tours, and still are the Porsche Drive Experience groups. In fact, about every 4×4 vehicle brand has been associated with Abenteuer Afrika Safari. Whether it was the launch of Mercedes’ AMG G Series or most Japanese 4x4s, they all had a taste of Hilmar’s Creative Team in Namibia. Hilmar and his team skillfully choose the multiply different terrain to enhance but never embarrass the ability and capability of the different levels of the vehicles. As a result of this, quite a number of vehicle sales have been generated after affluent clients, wanting to bring some of the memories of the Namibian trip into their daily lives, ended up purchasing such a vehicle. Abenteuer Afrika Safari’s motto: Creative Minds Playing at Work, says it all.
Hilmar Tonnemacher’s background
Hilmar was born in Namibia. He grew up on a sheep farm in the south of the country. After completing his military conscription, he wanted to try something different, so he decided to get into the hotel industry. He was surprised to discover how much work it entailed, but as a child, he was taught to finish whatever he started, so he completed his studies and obtained a Degree in Hotel Management. He followed that with a Senior Executive course in Switzerland before returning home to work as the youngest General Manager in Namibia.
A midlife crisis
When he turned 30, Hilmar had a midlife crisis because he was no longer the youngest person doing what he was doing.
An incentive opportunity
While working as the General Manager, he was approached by a South African incentive company, asking him to host 100 people outside on the beach rather than in the beautiful, newly-restored hotel restaurant. Initially, he thought it was a crazy idea, but he thought it could be fun, so he decided to do it, and it became his first incentive opportunity. He realized that being out of the box with incentives and events was a lot more fun than being stuck in a hotel with only a couple of outlets.
Still a hotelier
Now, Hilmar is still a hotelier. However, he has many more outlets and beds to sell in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Helping people create unique memories keeps Hilmar going!
Creating a company of his own
Hilmar will soon be celebrating 30 years of Abenteuer Afrika Safari! He felt no fear when he started the business. He just started it and did it, even though it was very different from what he expected it to be.
When he was very young, Hilmar started driving a Land Rover while standing on his father’s lap. When he was seven years old, he drove the Land Rover on his own, for the first time – without permission. Even though he got into serious trouble, he was still allowed to drive from then on.
Africa is often perceived by the rest of the world as a country when it is a continent.
On the map, Namibia is situated in southwest Africa, just north of South Africa. It is approximately the same size as Texas and Oklahoma put together. It has a population of 2.5-million people, making it one of the least populated countries on earth.
The nature in Namibia
The nature in Namibia is very beautiful! The Namib Desert is considered a living desert because it is so full of life. It is the oldest desert in the world and has some of the world’s highest dunes. There is no light pollution in Namibia, so the stars are visible from horizon to horizon at night. It is also ideal terrain four-wheel driving.
Namibia offers some of the world’s most affordable charter flying. Flying is an integral part of travel in Namibia because it is a vast country, and flying is relatively inexpensive.
Preparing for a crisis as a business owner
Although he is an out-of-the-box thinker, Hilmar leaves nothing to chance. As a business owner, it is risky to draw money out of your business or live a high life, even when your business is doing well because that will leave you with no reserves.
The Namibian lifestyle is measured differently from that in the US or Europe. Namibian people do not live extravagantly, but life is very good there, and you do not need to spend much money. The nature, sunshine, fresh air, and food in Namibia are phenomenal! They also have one of the richest fishing grounds on earth.
Keeping afloat in times of trouble
When you live within your means, you will have the necessary reserves if trouble starts. If trouble does start, you need to recognize it and use every possible opportunity to keep your business afloat.
Hilmar believes in giving. His industry is about relationships. So he understands that if he saves someone a dollar today, they will willingly spend two dollars with him tomorrow.
During the pandemic, many of the companies that had already paid Hilmar large deposits trusted him enough to leave their deposits with him to be used for future arrangements.
Invest in yourself
Hilmar believes that the best investment you can make as a business owner is within yourself. Investing in the training of your staff is also vital.
Strengthen your business
The assets you have in your business will carry you through unforeseen occurrences like the pandemic. Before drawing profits out of your company, strengthen your business by buying the property you are in rather than giving a large portion of your earnings away to a landlord.
It is important to prepare for tomorrow if you want your lifestyle to be sustainable.