Insight: Is Africa losing its authenticity?

From a recent article in Travel Weekly:

Africa has been placing so much focus on luxury that it might be at risk of losing its uniqueness. So said a panel of U.S. tour operators, wholesalers and travel agency owners who were invited to a USTOA workshop in South Africa hosted by the Southern African Tourism Services Association.

“So much focus has been placed on luxury that it almost does not feel like Africa anymore,” tour operators said. They urged the African trade to develop more and more varied product to appeal to the North American market.

Panelists told African suppliers to not be too overly focused on the luxury elements and rather promote to the three- and four-star market. “When one ultimately thinks about it, South Africa’s three- and four-star market is in most cases seen as luxury compared to the same level of offering in other countries,” one panelist said, adding that it is important to look beyond the ‘high paying’ luxury market and provide the product that makes Africa and South Africa unique.

David Marek, president at Ker & Downey Safaris, explains that loss of uniqueness is indeed a concern for Africa. He says: “Everything seems to be high-end luxury.  Some people just want a tent in the bush, but it’s hard to find this traditional safari option in South Africa. I had to send a family to Botswana to get that traditional experience, and I believe there is a growing market for this.”

Marek explains there is nothing more personal than being serenaded awake in the morning by the doves and francolin. He says: “You get that when you are under canvas. Most luxury experiences muffle the great cacophony of the early morning experience. There is something magical and mysterious to lie awake at night and hear an elephant eating the leaves from the tree over your tent or to hear the lions calling in the night. Those memories never fade.”

Read the full story here.