US Entrepreneur Wants To Provide ‘Gateway Drug’ To African Travel

US Entrepreneur Wants To Provide ‘Gateway Drug’ To African Travel

U.S. travel entrepreneur Cherae Robinson has a way with words, and she’s using them to break stereotypes of where black people like to travel.

Robinson offers highly curated, luxury African tours that promise travelers exposure to experiences beyond safaris and the tired old African travel itineraries. She’s offering experiences that she says span local traditions and global ambitions — art strolls, indie music haunts, eco friendly retreats and hidden spas.

Her company website, TastemakersAfrica.com, tells visitors over and over again, “Travel Africa, skip mediocre.” One of her website pages is titled: “Choose a city, let it be your gateway drug.”

CEO and founder of Tastemakers, Robinson has convinced a lot of people that she’s on to something. Forbes named Robinson one of 10 Emerging Women Entrepreneurs To Watch In Africa. She was named one of 10 women to watch by the U.N. Foundation for her work expanding tourism to Africa and working to change outsider perceptions of what makes Africa tick.

Tastemakers Africa is a company committed to disrupting what the world thinks about travel to Africa, Robinson says on her LinkedIn site. It’s also the name of her much-hyped mobile app, recently in beta testing. Robinson describes TastemakersAfrica as a mobile app and website where hip travelers book curated experiences in African cities on demand — from restaurants to nightclubs to unlisted adventures (think surf school in Senegal).

Mail&Guardian interviewed Robinson, who is African American, about her work promoting investment in African tourism, agriculture and market entry.

Tastemakers was born out of Rare Customs, an award-winning project Robinson started in 2014 to bridge the gap between foreign investors and small and medium-sized enterprises interested in investing in African agriculture, market entry and tourism.

Robinson worked with micro-finance groups run by women in Sierra Leone. Her micro-finance work took her to Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. “I discovered very distinct ­cultures of each place in both the traditional and contemporary sense,” she told Mail&Guardian.

“With innovation and technology, Rare Customs shows and proves that it’s ready to compete with other global businesses,” BlackEnterprise reported.

When Robinson posted photos from her business trips on social media websites, friends and family would constantly say, ‘’Take me to Africa with you’,” she told Mail&Guardian.

Her inner entrepreneur recognized a business opportunity: offering highly curated tours with a luxury traveler in mind that combine local insight and a more intimate level of travel.

“I looked at (African) tourism as an industry with great potential, underdeveloped but a gateway to investment and growth,” she told Mail&Guardian.

Tastemakers Africa is an experiential group tour service that aims to eradicate entrenched misconceptions about travel in Africa, Mail&Guardian reports.

“I gravitate towards experiences that break the stereotype of where black people ‘like’ to travel, giving a more well-rounded example of who we are,” Robinson said. Her target audience is millennials and her customers are 80-percent female and 80-percent African-American.

Her tour packages, she said, are infused with innovation and technology that can break down deterrents such as issues around perception, affordability and accessibility.

A report in zandlicious described TastemakersAfrica tours as “an à la carte way for modern jetsetters to have an Afripolitan experience.”

Robinson’s Tastemakers Africa mobile app and content platform has been recently in beta-test phase. Robinson described the app to Mail&Guardian this way: “It’s like Groupon-meets-Afar magazine-meets the coolest person in Lagos.”

Why would travelers to African cities even consider a group tour? After all they have access to information, existing tour offerings and social media ­connectivity. “It’s a combination of ­wanting access to insider experiences and still having a ‘fear of Africa’ as a destination,” Robinson said. “We provide safety in a really cool package.”