Tourism in Africa has become a lucrative industry, as tourism has truly benefited African economies. In fact, in some nations, tourism is a larger contributor to the economy than the agriculture sector.
Coincidentally, there has been a rise in the black travel movement, particularly in the United States. There has been a renewed interest in Africa shown by African Americans. African-Americans have begun to tour Africa in hopes of discovering their cultural heritage in Africa. According to CNN, there has been an increase in the intent to to travel from three percentage points to 18 percentage points this year. Despite this, African nations have failed to market and often overlook this new movement. Whereas, Instagram-savvy travel start-ups are offering experiences tailored to the black experience. This is disrupting the African tourism industry.
These travel startups were created due to the lack of marketing. As some African Americans no longer wish to wait for African nations. For example, T. Michelle Curry founded the Travel Africa Movement with the mission to create the black experience for African American tourists who wished to explore the African continent. These trips have been coined as heritage trips. These are trips that promise the reunion of African-Americans with their ancestral heritage. This missed gap has provided smaller companies to leverage the industry.
“Certain tourism boards, like South Africa and Ghana, are better than others. But generally, I don’t think that African tourism boards do a good job in reaching out to African-Americans through marketing efforts… They seem to focus on Europe and Europeans, which is understandable due to the closer proximity, but they are missing out on a lot of opportunity,” Curry explained.
According to statistics, white baby boomers are the most frequent visitors to Africa. This is an indication of the limited marketing strategies employed by African nations due to a homogenous view of the average U.S. traveler. African nations have been building new partnerships and relations in China and India in regards to the travel industry. However, these partnerships have involved limited launching of programs targeting black travelers. The founder and CEO of Tastemakers Africa, Cherae Robinson, stated “Part of the problem is marketing, and who has the budget to spend. Emerging tour operators could cater to this new traveling demographic but they have little support from state-run tourism boards.”
Robinson went on to explain the importance of bridging this gap. As she stated, “It’s a necessary space but we’d love to see more leadership from those organizations on being more reflective of the continent and pave the way for people who are not doing safaris to actually showcase at Indaba and use that platform to grow the conversation and level up their skills.”