4 Reasons Now is the Time to Go to Africa
Photo by David Cogswell
Africa has finally recovered from the Ebola scare that devastated the continent’s travel industry in 2015.
The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed that Subsaharan Africa was the fastest growing subregion in the world, with growth of 13 percent during the first four months of 2016, far exceeding the global average of 5 percent.
As to why more people are choosing to travel to Africa, Sherwin Banda, president of African Travel Inc., is seeing four reasons surfacing most frequently in surveys of clients.
1. It’s a bucket list destination. “People want to go to southern Africa,” said Banda. “It’s a unique destination and the experiences you have in Africa you can’t have anywhere else.”
We hold this truth to be self evident. Not a lot of evidence needed to support this contention. I submit The Big Five. There is nowhere else on earth that offers anything that compares to the African safari. I rest my case.
That is only the tip of the iceberg.
2. It’s an exotic destination. “The cultures are very diverse,” said Banda. “The tourist activities on offer are varied and cover a plethora of travel styles and even budgets. There is a great diversity of tourist activities available both in terms of the varied landscape and the safari options.”
For example, you could organize a trip to Uganda and Tanzania and have a safari experience that includes gorillas and chimps in Uganda and the Great Migration in Tanzania.
“Or you go to Southern Africa and experience the Big Five,” said Banda. “Or you could go to Botswana in the delta when the delta floods and have a water-and-land safari. When the delta floods the animals behave very differently. The predator-prey activity that one experiences and the result of that is absolutely unique and beautiful."
READ MORE: A Guide to Road Tripping South Africa
“Even though some people think Africa is just one continent and offers the same experience throughout the entire continent, in fact each region and each country presents a unique and different experience. It’s a massive continent."
These first two factors do not change year to year, obviously, but other factors are contributing to a situation that is causing people to choose 2016 as the time to travel to Africa. One of the strongest of those exterior factors has to do with international currency fluctuations.
3. The strength of the dollar. “Given the strength of the dollar, Africa right now is literally on sale,” said Banda. “It’s an amazing and greatly affordable destination, depending on one’s travel style and on one’s need for comforts. In some cases Africa would be less expensive than going to Europe, or in some cases even less than having a staycation in the United States. I recently wanted to take my family to Hawaii and I was shocked at how expensive it is from Los Angeles."
Combining the factor of affordability with the factor of Africa’s great diversity of attractions has pushed Africa across a new threshold as an international tourism destination.
“The strength of dollar is amazing,” said Banda. “I was just speaking to some people who had just returned from Africa and they were saying, ‘I had a dinner that would have cost upwards of $200-$300 at a great restaurant in the US which would cost me in South Africa less than $50 for a party of two.”
The strength of the dollar is making Africa more accessible than ever before, and it is changing the way American think of travel to Africa.
“Africa right now has changed from being a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Banda. “Now, it can be visited multiple times in a lifetime.”
4. Safety and security. “The region has been untouched by terrorism,” said Banda. “It is considered and perceived to be safe.
Family Travel to Africa
Banda is seeing other changes in the patterns of travel to Africa, including an increasing number of families traveling to Africa.
“More and more we are seeing families wanting to travel to Africa,” said Banda. “The kids are graduating high school and going off to college and they want to have that last family getaway. Or, their final daughter is getting married in a year and they want to have their last family getaway before the wedding.”
Multi-generational travel to Africa is also on the rise.
“Blended family travel is definitely popular,” said Banda. “What makes Africa really unique in regard to family travel is that there are experiences that are of interest to wide variety of people traveling. Rather than thinking ‘What are we going to do today?’ a safari is something you can enjoy as a family whether young or old.”
Many families are seeing the educational opportunities as a primary motivator.
“I have a four year old son, and the education I can teach my son by taking him to Africa is something that he could never learn just through books,” said Banda.
Also on the rise are photographic safaris.
“One of the favorite Christmas gifts in 2015 was a camera,” said Banda. “We are seeing a great interest in photographic safaris, people who want to be able to capture Africa and its people in amazing equipment. We now have vehicles in Africa singled out specifically for photographers. All they have to do is bring their cameras. They set up on a tripod in the vehicle and all they have to do is sit and shoot. It’s done in way where there are few people in vehicle and people can get wide angles and have views on either side of vehicle.”
The growth of interest in photography is also fueling the popularity of walking safaris.
“Walking safaris are becoming more and more popular,” said Banda. “On a walking safari you are able to walk get close to nature and smell it and understand the role of ecosystems and nature and how they influence human and animal behavior..
Increasingly, people also want to go beyond seeing wildlife and have interactions with local people.
“An element we see more and more,” said Banda, “is that people want to experience authentic human interaction. Cultural experiences are very sought after. And people want to leave a legacy of giving back. They don’t only want to visit, they want to contribute to local society in a meaningful way, whether that is giving back through conservation or or supporting local communities through some of the charities we visit, that is something that is hugely important to people.”
Shifting Booking Trends
African Travel is also seeing changes in booking trends are also shifting.
“When you start looking at booking trends, in prior years used to plan travel 12-18 or even 24 months ahead of travel,” said Banda. “Now we’re seeing travel in really short booking windows. Sometimes, we literally get requests for travel within a month, people who are looking to travel next month. This suggests to me that people who want to travel are waiting longer till they push the button. They know they are going to travel, but they book close to their departure date. In part this is an indication of how affordable it is to travel to Africa now.”
African Travel Inc. is trying to take full advantage of the trends and to boost the demand by making full use of currency exchange rates to offer the most striking rates possible.
“Our 2017 program will be released next month,” said Banda. “We are very excited about our programs. We have looked at not only what is on offer but also at the price points. We decided up front in the year of 2017 we are going to give best programs but offer them at the best possible pricing.”
The company has also expanded its volunteer programs and cultural programs and introduced new programs to Kenya, South Africa and Botswana.
“We looked at what are the top destinations people are asking for and made sure we came back with meaningful offers and experiences for our clients in those regions.”
The point is to align all the advantages in an irresistible way so that people who consider Africa a bucket list destination will choose now as the time to pull the trigger.
“It is definitely is a great destination and one that cannot be missed,” said Banda, “and the time is now to travel to Africa.”
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