What can we do right now to help Africa’s travel industry recover?

By WTM Africa Team

As travel restrictions slowly begin to lift throughout Africa, and confidence rebuilds, there’s one question that needs to be answered: what can we do right now to help Africa’s travel industry recover?

With the recent launch of Africa Travel Week’s virtual Meetings & Masterclasses coinciding with South Africa’s Tourism Month this September, we asked all of our panelists to weigh in. You can find their answers below.

Anthony Berklich

Founder of luxury travel platform,

Inspired Citizen

“Africa, as a continent, is in a prime position to recover through the types of experiences offered in various countries. Now is the time to advertise socially-distanced experiences, wildlife viewing and enhanced protocols in terms of disinfecting, sanitisation, etc. This should all be part of your new marketing efforts.

“It’s essential for African travel experiences to provide guests with a liaison or advocate who can help them through the process of entering and exiting your country, COVID requirements and more around new stipulations for travel.

“Alter your offerings to give guests the option of doing everything without other guests involved in an effort to show your commitment to their safety. Please highlight your extraordinary products and new services—now is the time to market well and think outside the box.”

Mimi Mmabatho Selemela

Director of advisory firm

MM CONNECT

“While the tourism industry is a resilient one, destinations on the African continent should provide financial inducements to related businesses to ensure recovery and help them stay afloat.

“An increase in promoting domestic and intra-African tourism will absolutely be vital to the recovery of the sector on the continent as opposed to marketing campaigns only targeting international visitors.

“Part of the marketing should communicate the scale of the pandemic on the continent, include the number of infected persons and how the numbers compare to other destinations outside the continent.

“Middle class and higher-income Africans are definitely ready to travel now!”

“I think the first priority should be safety as we look to re-open tourism across Africa. There is some history of inquisitive travellers arriving in Africa and wreaking havoc due to a lack of medical preparedness. Beyond this though, safety will now be at the forefront of many travellers’ minds and knowing that the country they’re visiting sees it as a high priority will go a long way. Ghana has been a good example of this so far in terms of establishing rapid and secure COVID testing protocols.

“Beyond that, on a more everyday level, we need to re-evaluate how Africa is marketed. The national tourism boards of several African nations primarily advertise to a white, middle-upper class well-travelled clientele, and the kinds of activities the world is taught to expect centre around safari and wilderness-adjacent experiences. More emphasis should be placed on the diversity and culture of individual nations as well as the breadth of experiences that can be had. We need to displace the perspective that many African nations are unsafe for solo travel or for women. Measures can be taken by tourism boards to safeguard travellers such as English/French signposting, information centres, and improved connectivity between local service providers. I also believe the more small-mid size service providers (tours, restaurants, activity hosts, clubs etc.) can collaborate, the brighter Africa’s light will shine. Better transparency of information will help travellers feel more comfortable traversing the continent and investing in Africa, while knowing they are both safe and well catered for!”

Paula Franklin

Co-founder

FranklinBailey

“I don’t think the travel world had intentionally left out black travellers, but this fact is pervasive. Even in Africa, which is particularly hurtful, as there is an obvious connection to them that seems to be totally overlooked.

“As African destinations slowly recover and as we talk more about this market segment, I personally also think it’s important to note that our interests are just as varied as other travellers and that there is no specific way that black people travel. We just want to know that we can feel comfortable in the spaces in which we travel.”

Anita Mendiratta

Strategic Advisor & President

Anita Mendiratta & Associates

“Our industry has experienced a profound ‘intervention’, forcing us all to rethink the WHY and HOW of Travel & Tourism, and not just the usual WHERE, WHEN, WHO. This is a very good thing.

“Critical to safe, sustainable, equitable recovery of travel and tourism will be, I firmly believe, identification and prioritisation of the following: 1) collaboration with other destinations, especially when it comes to air routes and visa policies; 2) development of and investment into tourism offerings that meet the desires and demands of domestic (which are year-round, cross-country travellers) alongside international visitors; and 3) strengthen the ‘software’—the local travel experience culture of visitor connection and care at the centre of all experience delivery. Then and only then will we have a holistic, sustainable tourism approach.”

Ravi Roth

Founder

Ravi Around The World

“The number one way to ensure recovery of travel is to postpone and not cancel trips! Safety has to be number one and being responsible is a huge factor. While booking travel make sure your accommodations are focusing on the wellbeing of the guests. For example, The Hilton Hotels have started the Hilton Clean Stay programme where each room is sanitised before entry, masks are mandatory, housekeeping only comes in if you request it, and contactless check-in is available. I recently experienced a staycation in NYC at the Conrad Downtown and felt incredibly safe and inspired to start travelling again!

“It may be a while before travel is ‘back to normal’, or maybe there will be a new normal, but we must stay flexible and positive. After any crisis or pandemic, the queer community has always led the way for everyone else to travel. We proved to do just that after 9-11 and we are doing it again now!”

Gillian Saunders

Independent Tourism & Hospitality Advisor

“Some of the research and anecdotes from overseas outbound trade are telling us that the most important factor for travellers is relaxed cancellation policies—losing their money or time through COVID circumstances they can’t control creates huge concern/fears. Denied boarding, their home city/country locks down, South Africa locks down, they have to be quarantined or isolated while on a trip—all these have massive implications for people that they can ill afford and do not want to be out of pocket for. So as the trade—hotels, lodges, airlines, and ground operators—we have to provide trust and some certainty on refunds for travellers before anyone (but the wealthiest with lots of time) travels.

“The people are looking for ‘trusted’ health protocols and reassurance that they will be observed. Governments or other institutions, e.g. WTTC, TBCSA, should have industry-standard protocols as we do, with widespread adherence and testing through fam trips, media hosting, peer experiences, etc. Tourists want to be sure that distancing, minimal touchpoints and sanitising is happening all the time. Then we need to stress the outdoor, open spaces, no crowding experiences here—the warm weather, year-round outdoor eating and restaurants, wilderness areas, and so on. We are not crowded beach and night club destinations.” 

Staycations and more local travel are seen as more popular during COVID times, and certainly, on our continent, we have heard of more locals enjoying, for instance, Kenya’s experiences, our luxury lodges, Namibia’s sights and so on. Some of these are people who, after lockdown, needed a break and had not thought of leisure travel in their own country at all and experienced it for the first time; others may have wanted to go to Paris, London, New York or Rome, but are choosing local instead. Africans enjoying staycations should lead to the next level of Africans enjoying their own continent. We may have always underplayed the markets on the continent, but now is the time, more than ever, to entice Africans to explore their continent first.”

“We have to come out of this COVID crisis better than we went into it and we’ve seen with the constraints that have arisen as a result of the pandemic, there are real opportunities to collaborate meaningfully—across associations, sub-sectors, between private and public sector.”

“The past six months have been characterised by brands, even those in competition to each other, working hand in hand to get protocols devised, lobby for borders to be reopened, sustain communities, etc. We have a long road to walk still even though borders are reopening. It’s a road best tackled together. Our recovery depends on sticking together and tackling the inevitable challenges as one Tourism Team. We’ve shown we can do that in times of great crisis. Let’s show people we have the grit to stick with it.”

For more information on Africa Travel Week’s Meetings & Masterclasses visit: https://atwconnect.com/category/masterclasses/

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