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AFRICAN TRAVEL SEMINARS BY VICTORIA HEAD The GEORGINA AFUA LORENCZ Swahili word “Safari” actually means jour- ney, which is exactly what founder and owner, Georgina Afua Lorencz offers those who present to her company seeking an impacting adven- ture to other nationals and their home- lands. African Travel Seminars, Inc. (ATS) is far more than just a travel company; ATS was founded in 1996, to specialize in custom designed cultural tours and safaris to various African destinations, as well as select nations in Central and South America, in order to not just take visitors to new lands, but to leave with them the knowledge, understanding and first hand interaction with the African people, their history and heritage. Lorencz, a U.S. citizen, originates from Ghana, West Africa. While visualizing the career path her life would take and navigating through her studies, she always maintained a desire to teach, enlighten and present valuable communica- tion to others. Initially, she felt this would lead her to pur- sue a career in law or broadcasting. However, after attend- ing the University of Minnesota, Lorencz’s passion for procla- mation manifested in a Bachelors, Masters and the introduc- tion to a field concentrated in International Education. From her work with the University, Lorencz started receiving requests from families, church- es, businesses, TV stations and special interest groups that wanted to go on tours to Ghana, Senegal, The Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Egypt. Over the years, ATS developed an array of overseas partners and a network of African organizations that work closely with them to insure the comfort, safety and distinct customization of each groups experience abroad. ATS’s distinction in the travel industry is derived fromtheir dedication to provide quality travel opportunities that 18 Black Meetings & Tourism July/August 2011: www.blackmeetingsandtourism.com respect and support the indigenous cultures and environ- ments visited, as well as provide positive, cross-cultural interactions that are mutually beneficial. Lorencz recalls when she was new to the U.S., people approached her with insensitive questions about Africa like…”do villagers live in trees” or “doesn’t Africa have many diseases?” Lorencz real- ized that people needed accurate information, so instead of getting upset, she decided to become an ambassador for Africa. Those wishing to travel abroad with ATS would be encouraged to learn about the destinations prior to arrival, and not from old Tarzan movies. Prior to traveling, participants are given a series of classes to provide them necessary information for their trip. They learn what to pack and how to interact. Most travelers aren’t aware that in some places, it’s improper to pat a child on the head, ask a woman her marital status or initiate certain polit- ical conversations. There are also certain nonverbal commu- nications (the OK or thumbs up signs) that are highly insulting in certain areas. Orientations also include learning some native words so visitors can communicate simple phrases like…Hello…How much?...Thank you. These small gestures can make a great impact on the locals. “Since you may be the only African-American, Latino or Asian person they could ever meet, it’s wonderful to promote encounters that build bridges, not walls” says Lorencz. Travelers are taught the beauty of the countries they are to visit, as well as its strengths and struggles. Prior to travel, many groups decide to prepare to aid those they will encounter by donating food baskets, school supplies, volun- teering to help build schools or churches, work in the orphan- ages, and participate in other community outreach projects. Lorencz instructs, “It’s good to always be a responsible tourist, leaving a country better than you found it. Tourists impact the places they embark upon, whether it’s good or bad; why not have it be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties?” ATS enjoys talking to potential travelers to fully customize each experience. ATS is a “One Stop Travel Shop” says Lorencz, “We can arrange air transportation, accommoda- tions, itineraries, travel insurance, provide updates from the CDC, immunizations and Visas.” For more information visit www.AfricanTravelSeminars- .com, call (612) 216-5457; or e-mail here at Georgina@- AfricanTravelSeminars.com.