Community curated experiences will be the next frontier of tourism in Africa after the Covid-19 disorder.
Speakers at the recently completed Africa Travel and Tourism Summit in South Africa say own experiences will be the catalysts for a new way of traveling – one that will add value to community and rural tourism. This will help the industry emerge with new actionable ideas after more than a year of inactivity.
The new way of traveling has spawned health conscious tourists, millennials looking for authenticity, and the lowering of barriers for women and people of color through travel platforms.
Judy Kepher-Gona, founder of the Nairobi-based Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda, said tourism thrives in places created by people who make it beautiful to experience.
“Travelers want to experience the food and the natural beauty of a place. But people travel to meet people. The core are the people in these communities, ”she told the delegates in Johannesburg.
The theme of the two-day summit was “Awakening Africa Again” and was virtually linked to delegates in Durban, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria.
Kepher-Gona referred to the 2005 conversion of the Masai Mara National Reserve without local Maasai guides to almost all tour guides from the local community. “We argued that this is their livelihood and must be given to them. We then changed the narrative because they would not only be guides but hosts as well. Now 99 percent of the hosts in the Masai Mara come from the local community. They are not asking for handouts, they are asking to be given a chance, ”she said.
Safiyya Akoojee, director of Thomson Wilks law firm, said community empowerment means leaders need to bring about change beyond political agendas. “We have to look inside before we look outside. Local communities, down to the rural level, have doctors, nurses, carpenters and other professionals who can help establish tourism in their communities. ”
However, delegates said that in order for tourism to flourish in Africa, countries must loosen borders and allow free movement of goods and people.
“We failed to facilitate access within Africa. Until we as Africa are coordinated and have a policy that integrates travel, we will fail. We see our own continent as a place where we shouldn’t spend time, ”said Tshifihwa Tshivhengwa, head of the South African Tourism Business Council.
Unfortunately, Africa continues to rely on routes laid out during colonial times rather than building new infrastructures.
“We talk a lot, we dream a lot, but we don’t act. The tourist travels because she wants to have fun, enjoy different foods and landscapes. But the limitation is the infrastructure, ”said the ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Africa, Bene M’Poko.