It’s a startup that gaining a lot of street cred among Millennials as it shapes the future of travel in Africa.
We’re talking about Tastemakers Africa – a website devoted to providing young Millennials, travelling to and within Africa, with insider knowledge of great experiences to be had in their chosen African city – whether it’s Lagos in Nigeria, Accra in Ghana, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Cairo in Egypt or Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa to name a few.
Tastemakers Africa generates original content from a global contributor base with an insider’s perspective on what’s hot and happening in these destinations, enabling travellers to purchase these insider experiences and immerse themselves in the lifestyles of the destinations they’re visiting.
On May 25, 2015, Tastemakers launched the mobile app version of its site, initially featuring five African cities – Lagos, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Accra and Cape Town.
CEO Cherae Robinson – a young and dynamic New York-based entrepreneur with a passion for Africa, who was a guest presenter at Indaba 2015 – says Tastemakers Africa’s ‘secret sauce’ is its network of local influencers and trendsetters who give advice and write content on the Tastemakers platform about the ‘in’ places in the city and where to go to have an authentic insider’s experience.
While at Indaba, Cherae googled the words ‘Africa travel’ to see what would come up about Africa. “What came up was the safari experience. The promotion of travel to Africa is very much focused on that, and no-one is really looking at cosmopolitan experiences in Africa. While the safari experience is a unique resource for Africa, it is not a diverse story and does not help travellers like me.
“As a Millennial, I not only want to experience an epic safari, but I also want to know what’s hip and happening in the destinations I visit, whether Johannesburg or Lagos. I want to know how to get into the hottest club in Kinshasa, and meet and interact with local celebrities and the movers and shakers in town. This kind of info is difficult to find on the internet, so we’re helping the urban sophisticate to connect to these experiences and buy them on demand,” she says.
Cherae says all experiences and places featured on the site have been tested by the influencers themselves. Tastemakers Africa has also partnered with merchants, creating exclusive offers with them, which users can buy on the site or from the mobile app.
“For example, travellers can buy a voucher on Tastemakers for a lunch in Lagos, which features an appetizer, entrée and wine. By paying for it online and getting a voucher, the traveller doesn’t have to worry about having to pay in local currency or that their credit card is not going to work. They can just enjoy the experience. And it allows you to book the experience up to the minute you walk in the door.”
With the mobile app, Tastemakers is taking the big picture version of the experience and putting it in the palm of travellers’ hands. “So if you’re travelling to Lagos, Cape Town or Nairobi you can quickly look to see where the best restaurants, nightclubs and excursions are that won’t have you feeling like a tourist.”
Tastemakers Africa also runs quarterly tours to Africa to places featured on the app and website. “Our last tour was to Accra in Ghana in December. We did a social media campaign around it and brought 12 people from the US to West Africa in the face of the Ebola crisis. It was interesting to see how people were so inspired by the imagery and stories we were telling that they still wanted to go to West Africa, even though the news was telling them not to.”
According to Cherae, research shows Millennials are 50% more likely to travel to Africa than any generation before them and the roughly 10-million Millennials that travelled to Africa in 2013, made decisions about what to do using mobile apps. These Millennials, she says, spend around US$1000 a week on leisure activities alone. And Intra-Africa tourism is also on the rise, she says. “By 2030 there will be 100-million Africans living middle and upper-class lifestyles, many of whom fall into the Millennials category. These people are spending US$30 a day in their own markets on leisure alone, so there is an enormous opportunity for us to tap into this market and give them better options; raise the standard of their experiences in their own cities and when they’re travelling around the continent.”
Cherae says authenticity is the thing missing from many operators in the Africa space. “Operators are focused on service level impression, rather than giving people more authentic experiences. They fear showing people the authentic nature of a destination, but these are the experiences that Millennials connect to and want.”
Tastemakers is looking to partner with the travel agency community to give them alternative options to offer their clients who are looking at travelling in Africa.