Technology will bring more tourists to Africa, ultimately boosting economies and livelihoods across the continent, according to South African startup Tribaltourist.
Launched in 2015, Tribaltourist aims to provide a central booking platform for adventure travel trips across Africa. The startup differentiates itself by providing a personalised, authentic service, ensuring all trips arranged in collaboration with local team leaders in each destination.
“At Tribaltourist we live and breathe Africa. We all come from Africa and live here. We have intimate knowledge of all the countries we sell adventures to. We have team leaders on the ground, who meet and greet, who are from those countries, and you travel like a local,” explains founder Matthew Kearns.
The startup wants to change the perception that African travel is limited to safaris, and wants to facilitate access to a wide variety of adventure and cultural travel across the continent.
Kearns says innovation – fuelled by technology – is crucial to bringing more tourists to Africa. It is important to boost tourism, as it brings in money, and impacts on huge numbers of people living on the continent.
“Africa needs innovation in travel to bring more tourists here. Tourism dollars compete with other destinations. I feel governments have got lazy. They think ‘people are coming, why spend more dollars when they come anyway?’” Kearns says.
“The truth of the matter is growth in African tourism sits around four to six per cent per annum. Asia Pacific beats this hands down. We need to spend more in all our African countries to capitalize on these valuable tourist dollars,” he says.
“Tourism in Africa affects one in 20 people. That is a huge amount people. Without tourism, Africa can only suffer.”
Technology could impact the whole travel sector, Kearns says, not only the travel booking and access element of the industry. For example, he advocates for tech systems to improve immigration for tourists, as well as the creation of tourist information apps, and solutions linking travellers to vital services such as taxis, health care, and emergency services.
“Technology will bring more people here. More people means more money for governments and their people,” he says.
“Governments must encourage technology; new apps for their countries, and better internet services should be a key driver.”
While over the past year Tribaltourist has been focusing on fine-tuning its offering and business model – with approximately 100 customers – the startup now feels ready to scale and hopes to be recognised as a market leader in the online travel space in Africa within three years.
Plans and partnerships are already in place to target the Chinese and Russian tourist markets over the course of this year.
To further fuel its expansion plans, the company is looking to raise US$500,000 over the course of 2017.
“We want travelers to have a more cultural and inspirational experience in Africa. We want to explain to people that Africa isn’t a single country; that it’s made up of many amazing countries with a huge amount of different activities to do here.”