Travel products across Africa can play a vital role in shaping international consumers’ perceptions of the continent through hyper-localised, unique experiences, opportunities and offerings.

Misconceptions

Anthony Berklich, Founder if Inspired Citizen, says that many inbound travellers have misconceptions about Africa. “People think that you come here and you go on safari; but there’s so much more to offer.”

Other misconceptions include people thinking that Africa is extremely dangerous, “but that’s true for all countries – there are areas that are dangerous, and areas that aren’t”, says Berklich. Some travellers think that Africa doesn’t offer luxury experiences, or first-world amenities; has health hazards that require them to take a multitude of medications before visiting the continent. And one of the biggest misconceptions that Berklich noted was that many travellers view Africa as “one giant country, that is the same from the top to the bottom,” not a multitude of diverse countries each with its own tourism offerings.

Challenges for Africa-based travel brands

“Whether you’re a tour operator, a hotel, a representative from one of the DMOs or tourism boards, you need to delineate and separate your product from the rest,” says Berklich. He emphasised the importance of social media as an essential tool for tourism brands to tell their story. “I can’t tell you how many brands I’ve come across on the continent, in the different countries, that have amazing travel experiences but their social media is poor, and there aren’t that many beautiful pictures – some of the most beautiful areas don’t show themselves correctly, and don’t take that opportunity to speak to prospective customers through that channel.”

Other challenges that face travel brands are:

  • To become advocates and representatives of the cultures and countries in which their brands exist.
  • Create a story and ‘fantasy’ around the travel brand, and deliver that message to their consumers at every customer touch point, to build a desire for them to go to that place, and to be able to realise those emotions that are being evoked through the message.

The use of video is a powerful tool that many travel brands don’t utilise, says Berklich, due to fear of high costs or feeling they don’t have the tools to create one. But just using a smartphone with built-in software, or an app, makes this tool a possibility.

Watch this video created by One&Only Nyumgwe House, Rwanda, which Berklich feels is a good example of how to create an immersive ‘fantasy’, through video promotion.

Mistakes often made by Africa-based travel brands

Berklich shared some mistakes that he feels Africa-based travel brands often make.

  • Believing that travellers will be aware of who they are and what they are solely through agents.
  • Thinking that travellers are familiar with the country or culture in which the brand operates.
  • Believing that informing travellers of the culture and ‘brand’ of the country in which they operate is not their responsibility.
  • Don’t make a strong effort to combat bad PR that the continent often gets internationally.

Addressing misconceptions and accepting challenges

To address the misconceptions and work with the challenges faced by travel brands, they need to

Create unique experiences and encourage a feeling of luxury

But luxury is not necessarily attributed to cost, says Berklich: “It is, above all else, a feeling.” Making a guest feel looked after, anticipating their needs, and bringing in thoughtfulness to small details achieves this.

Show consumers who they are and what they offer at every customer touchpoint.

This includes focusing on creating stunning imagery; immersive videos and other experiences in creative ways; bringing those details on to ‘hyper-local’ ideas and concepts (focused specifically on the unique offering of the travel brand); and disseminating these messages around the world through social media, email and the brand’s website. A good website is vital, says Berklich, and travel brands need to ensure that they create a visually appealing, easy-to-use and navigate website.

Take-aways to remember

“Your job is never done,” says Berklich. “Don’t be complaisant in realising how important your challenge is to give Africa, your country, and your brand, the image it deserves. Focus on becoming hyper-local and luxury-minded, to bring people into a unique and special experience; and partner with experts and tastemakers in travel who can help you realise your fullest potential.”