Undeniably, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today as one out of five of all new jobs created globally in 2017 are attributable to Travel and Tourism, according to the World Travel and Tourism council (WTTC). Although, Africa has witnessed some significant growth in tourism in recent times going by how blessed the continent is in terms of its very hospitable people, wildlife, great weather, flush and greenery, it is clear that tourism is not growing at the rate it should in Africa all things being equal. But the truth is all things will never be equal. However, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubts that if we could find a way of ensuring that every African in every nook and cranny of this lovely continent buys into tourism and own the industry, tourism will flourish as it ought to in Africa.
Therefore, I am particularly pleased that the South African Tourism (SAT), partnered with Airbnb and hosted me as one of the West African participants at the first-ever Airbnb Africa Travel Summit which was held in Langa, Cape Town, South Africa between September 11-13, 2018. The Summit brought together well over 120 innovators in tourism and tech for two days consecutively and we shared, discussed and debated how technology could be used to accelerate inclusive and sustainable economic growth through tourism on the African continent.
Airbnb which is basically an online marketplace and was founded in 2008 has over the years clearly shown strong belief in the power of healthy tourism – tourism that is local, authentic, diversified, and sustainable – to benefit underserved areas and create opportunities. In my opinion, the agenda of the summit was quite straight forward and it directly connected to what I consider the main driver of tourism — the people. The innovators that were brought to the summit shared their thoughts on how they have been helping to democratize tourism in Africa. We were given the opportunity to share our expertise and ideas on what tourism can do to empower more people in Africa. We learnt about the Airbnb Academy, Airbnb’s programme to connect underserved communities to tourism in South Africa through technology.
The organizers of the summit clearly knew what they wanted to achieve with the summit as they were able to create a very cozy environment. They ensured that participants were not too many so there was optimum participation by all and sundry. Although I had been to Cape Town a couple of times before the summit, I was able to experience Cape Town through the Airbnb lens.
We left Nigeria as scheduled around 10pm on Monday the 10th of September 2018 and like I have always had on all the South African Tourism (SAT) hosting to South Africa, that I have been on, my fun-filled and very exciting experience started from the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, Nigeria. As soon as I got to the South African Airways (SAA) counter, my pampering started right there, I did not have to pressure the lady who attended to me to get me a seat with enough leg room for my very long legs. The service on board is traditionally exquisite and like it has been on most of my flights on board SAA, this particular flight to South Africa was also smooth, the pilot and the crew were very engaging. On arrival at Cape Town, there was a ready shuttle waiting at Cape Town International Airport to convey us to Southern Sun Cullinan where we lodged. As customary with SAT, there was a tour guide in the shuttle who ensured that as we drove through the city we got familiar with certain sites and landmarks on our route to the hotel. After a slightly late lunch, we refreshed and headed to the Bungalow Restaurant, where the welcome dinner was held. The dinner was Afrocentric as we had been advised to dress in our traditional attires; we took drumming lessons and there were more than enough food and drinks, to guarantee that everyone was satisfied.
Wednesday, 12th September marked the first conference day of the Africa Travel Summit 2018. The day kicked off with an opening ceremony and welcome by Summit MC, Afua Osei (Founder, She Leads Africa) with a performance by Black Roots Foundation. A keynote address by Chris Lehane (Head of Policy and Communications, Airbnb) followed. Another highlight of the day was a discussion on, “Government as An Enabler for Innovation.” Anita Mendiratta (Global Strategic Advisor & Author in Tourism & Economic Development) moderated the panel featuring Kalle Palling (Estonian politician and MP, Lance Greyling (Director of Trade and Investment, City of Cape Town), Rosette Rugamba (Founder and Managing Director, Songa Africa) and Najib Balala Kenya’s Tourism Minister. In the evening before attending a concert hosted on the Airbnb platform featuring MC Marc Lottering and music by Jimmy Nevis and Demi Lee Moore, delegates were spread all across Cape Town to have dinner hosted by local hosts on Airbnb at various restaurants.
Thursday, 13th September which was the second and final day of the summit was equally as exciting as the first day was. It kicked off with another panel discussion on the role media play in shaping the African continent’s narrative as well as its role and responsibility in telling the stories that drive more inclusive tourism. While some panelists represented traditional media, the conversation organically shifted to social media and the role social media plays in redefining the African narrative. The panel was moderated by Thabile Ngwato (Entrepreneur and News Anchor) and featured panelists; Larry Madowo (Business Editor, BBC Africa), Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi (Lifestyle Editor, Sunday Times) and Sarah Waiswa (documentary and portrait photographer). Another highlight of the day was a presentation by Velma Corcoran (South Africa General Manager, Airbnb) sharing contents from the Airbnb Africa Academy. The Academy is a programme focused on empowering individuals and organisations in under-resourced communities by providing tools and information to help them share homes and experiences with a global community.
In the evening of Thursday, 13th September, delegates who had pre-registered for township experiences were able to have the following experiences: Townships into Town hosted by Project Maboneng; Art Workshop in the Townships hosted by Our Workshop; Gumboot Dance hosted by Happy Feet; and Beading and Technology hosted by Quirky 30.
On Friday 14th September we started our post Africa Travel Summit experience at the wine lands in Franschhoek, where we spent the better part of that day. After we had gone through part of the vine in a Wine Tram, we then went for wine tasting and got to know the story behind all the wine we tasted before we had a very sumptuous meal.
On Saturday, 15th September which was virtually our last full day spent in Cape Town of this trip was a busy day. We started with the Robben Island experience and though I had been to Robben Island before, there is always something new to learn on how one can be a better man that lives a life of positive impact on others. After the Robben Island experience, we had lunch before we went to Table Mountain. The mountain which forms part of the Table Mountain National Park is a beauty to behold. Table Mountain is home to a large array of fauna and flora, most of which is endemic.
After the Table Mountain experience, then it was shopping time and we went to Canal Walk Shopping Centre which hosts over 400 stores, 7,000 parking bays, numerous restaurants, 20 cinemas plus a game arcade is arguably Cape Town’s largest shopping centre and the third largest shopping centre in Africa. The farewell dinner that we had at the Red Roof of Radisson Red Hotel V &A water front Cape Town was simply spectacular and I must say that it was an icing on the cake to bring the Travel Summit that offered me the opportunity to have yet another very memorable experience in South Africa, to a close.