Meet Lilian, your trusted tour operator

Lilian Mbise is not your ordinary tour operator.

At just 33, the mother of one now owns a fleet of Safari vehicles, defying the odds in the $2bn-a-year industry.

A graduate with a Sociology degree from the University of Dodoma (UDOM), she had to first work as a volunteer for several organizations before owning her own tour operating outfit.

“My first attachment was with Mkombozi, a non-profit organization rescuing children from the streets,” she says.

Lilian was at that time a huge believer of giving back to community, hence the decision to work with non-profit organizations.

Her passion of working and giving back to the community, could at times come with a cost as she puts it.

“We would sometime get attacked by street children but that didn’t hold me back,” Lilian recalls.

The tour operator would later join the Aga Khan Hospital as a receptionist and also featured at the cardiology department.

This would prove a bit of a challenge to the determined lady as she didn’t have any background in medicine.

Nonetheless, she still enjoyed meeting and rubbing shoulders with the patients, and probably her would-be clients.

“This was an eye opener to me as knowing people and their needs is an important attribute of any tour operator,” she opens up.

That would serve as a juncture of switching careers for Lilian as she would later join the travel industry as a way of making ends meet.

From being a tour consultant, sales manager to an operations manager, Lilian started engraving her name in the lucrative sector.

It is for this reason that she owes all her success from the experience she obtained from different companies, while climbing the success ladder.

“I couldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the experience I harpooned, having worked with different travel companies”, Lilian reveals.

Driven by passion for the sector, particularly what she loved the most in giving guests the best experience possible and dedication in making their experience unique and flawless while sharing the beauty of Tanzania’s nature and the friendliness of its people to the rest of the world, the idea of establishing her own tour firm came into her mind.

It wasn’t an easy move though, as she had to pull enough resources and advice from a number of individuals and friends who had already made a name in tour operation business, albeit the challenges.

“I put my best foot and dared to give it a shot,” she recalls.

Unperturbed with the common yet archaic notion that tour operations was only meant for the men, Lilian went ahead to disabuse such a belief by establishing Zohar African Safaris (ZAS) that has since 2014 been growing in leaps and bounds.

Thanks to its reputable associates in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, her company’s tour services have now extended throughout East Africa.

According to Lilian, the tour outfit embodies those same values of passion, dedication and uniqueness by providing her clients a true once-in-lifetime experience, and she has never regretted such a decision.

“It was a bit challenging to be a woman alone as people might not give you the same trust they will with men, but thank God I’m where I’m today due to my perseverance and a never-say-die attitude,” she quips.

“I wanted to show the society that women can also thrive in such a male dominated venture, circumstances notwithstanding.”

Lilian is happy to see herself able to build her clientele portfolio and also build an excellent reputation with travel enthusiasts who visit the country to savour the numerous eye-catching attractions found in Tanzania.

From serving her clients from the click of a laptop key, Lilian has employed a number of staff in her office to keep the business up and running.

Lilian boasts of a team of skilled, local guides with in-depth knowledge and passion for African wildlife.

She says: “Our guides have excellent communication skills and an easygoing, friendly manner and high professional standards,”.

Just like any other tour operator, Lilian also felt the blows of Covid 19 pandemic.

She however sees light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are very confident that in the next few years we will see a massive increase in the number of tourists coming here with the travel restriction much looser and new government support to ensure the tourism industry continues to grow and we hope to meet some of them and bid them farewell after their safaris as friends”, she says.

Lilian further reveals that her company remains active developing and diversifying new products to keep pace with the ever demanding sector.

“If you see your business grow from just an idea into an actual flourishing business and the goals you set for yourself are accomplished, that should not mean you sit back and relax”.

As a parting shot, Lilian advices fellow women to demonstrate hard work, determination and sheer perseverance as they continue chasing their dreams.



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