Upping Africa’s Tourism Business Via Social Media, Changed Perspectives

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Written by Kimberly Jacobs

As Social Media Week (#SMW) kicked off in New York City on Monday, February 23, travel to Africa was the topic of discussion at Tuesday’s “Redefining Africa: Changing Perspectives on Travel to Africa” panel. Held at WeWork 42nd, the event was hosted by Travel + SocialGood.

Participants included Glenna Gordon, a documentary photographer; Harcher Batravil, CFO of Tastemaker Africa; Terry Oppong, founder of Chale Tours Ghana; Osekre, co-founder of The Afropolitans; Vanessa Wruble, founder/editor at okayafrica with moderator Andrea Papitto from the Africa Travel Association.

Everyone on the panel had a desire to encourage more people to travel to Africa through their various companies and of course through using social media.

“When I work at consumer travel shows, when people come up to me at the Africa Travel Association table they either say to me, ‘I’ve been to Africa and I loved it, can’t wait to go back again’ or ‘Africa is a scary place I don’t know when I’m gonna go’ and ‘I may never go’,” said Papitto.

Using Social Media To Build A Business

It’s safe to say that the continent gets a bad rap when it comes to travel — especially when people in the west hear about wars due to elections, and viruses like Ebola. But those who have visited Africa know it’s home to some of the most beautiful countries in the world and its so rich in culture.

A couple years ago, two of the panelists — Oppong and Batravil — who’ve started tourism businesses, noticed the signs of tourism growth on the continent.

“What triggered my first trip was a New York Times article “46 Places To Go in 2013” and Accra, Ghana was number four and I said, ‘hey, something is going on in Accra, Ghana I gotta figure this out,’” said Oppong, who was born in Ghana and raised in the United States. “Working in finance you understand that people don’t make decisions just because.”

Batravil, who has traveled extensively to Caribbean and South American countries, became interested in Africa after seeing his co-founder’s pictures on Instagram. Tastemakers Africa believes in using similar tactics to attract people to embark on their suggested tours.

“Tastemakers Africa isn’t a tour company in the pure sense of the word, it’s more of a media branding content platform,” said Batravil.“We realized when we first started doing it, to get the most eyes, it had to be built on a holistic 360-degree platform.”

Social media has played a huge role in people’s interest in visiting different parts of the continent because of various platforms being able to showcase the diversity, beauty, and normalcy that mainstream media sometimes lacks.

“Instagram is visual. People comment on posts, ‘Wow, that’s Africa?’” said Oppong.

Visuals from personal experiences create the dialogue which spreads positive narratives about travel and tourism in Africa.

Prioritizing Promotion of Culture

“As that dialogue grows, [through] more positive discussions and more positive imagery, people will begin to learn and say ‘hey let me put that on my to-do list’,” Batravil said.

It was made very clear that you can’t escape the culture when the question of promoting and preserving it was brought up during the panel discussion.

“Educating tourists to preserve the culture and cultural sites are pretty prevalent still,” Oppong, also as an expert on Ghana, which is known for being a site where slaves were captured said. “Educate tourists on small things, the beaches are secondary.”