Africa Travel Week
Kirsty Knott

A millennial living in picturesque Cape Town

Kirsty Knott has been a sales executive at Beachcomber for over 2 and a half years, previously a sales rep at Thompsons Holidays and prior to that a travel consultant at Pentravel. More than that she is a sister to 2 incredible siblings, a daughter, a friend and a travel lover. 

Kirsty is a millennial living in the perfect picturesque city of Cape Town. She is passionate about people and seeing them live freely themselves as well as businesses and seeing them live out the positive impact they each could carry.  

This is a lover of adventure, food, wine, beautifully designed locations, sunsets, community and furry friends 

“I have 6 dogs – send help”  

Kirsty says she loves to dance and has been dancing since she was 6 years old in all different styles. She also loves writing and really wants to pursue it more.  

This travel enthusiast believes in celebration and seeing the opportunity in everything.

“Fun is an important value to have and I am learning that anything that is not sustainable should probably not be continued. I also believe in adding a bold blazer to every outfit. I have big dreams and visions for this life but there is nothing sweeter than staying present.” 

Where did your love for travel start? 

I was 19 and about to go study Industrial Psychology when the most incredible opportunity popped into my Facebook inbox. 2 Weeks later my bags were packed and I was moving to Granada, the fairytale town in the south of Spain. Picture waking up each morning opening the shutters and walking onto a balcony to stare at uninterrupted views of the Alhambra castle. Or taking a midnight stroll down pebbled streets and hearing laughter mixed with a guitar playing and seeing elderly couples dancing in the streets.

Or meeting with friends after dinner, which is really only at 22:00, and going for tapas until you literally cannot eat anymore. A dreamy reality that I still miss constantly. Anyways, I lived with a beautiful Spanish family, au paired, studied photography, taught English and then travelled Spain as much as I could. An experience where you completely immerse yourself in another culture, language and lifestyle and you realize how much more there is to discover and learn and see… that’s where, as we call it, the travel bug bit and there’s no end to it. 

Why do you enjoy working in the industry? 

Well, I love travel. I love the experiences travel brings: meeting people from all over the world, trying different foods, learning different histories, tanning on different beaches and the list goes on. But if I really look at our industry, I would say I have found that we are like family. Somehow everyone knows everyone. In the stresses of life, we support and stick together.

In the celebration of life, we join in and root for one another. It’s an industry full of people passionate about travel, passionate about people and their experiences when they travel and as we have seen in this past year and a half, although all effected so deeply, it’s an industry with resilience, people that persevere and create something out of nothing. Why? Because working in the travel industry isn’t just a job or an income stream or a ladder in a corporate that you want to climb – it’s a love and passion that runs deep and a family and a home that we will forever build no matter the challenges. It’s an industry that will forever grow and require us to adapt in order to do so.

It’s an industry that carries the reward of clients having their dreams come true, their minds opened and their lives being filled with inspiration and refreshment. It is an industry that impacts all, and that’s a powerful thing to be a part of. 

What is your favourite destination/place to visit and why? 

I have loved each place I’ve visited and each for its own reasons. I loved Paris and the glamourous life it invites you into. I loved Greece and sitting with a local restaurant owner in Athens until I don’t know what time talking about our two different countries and cultures and taking the local shots in between it all. I loved Prague and how it felt like I was stepping back in time. I loved the authentic African feel of Zanzibar. But if I had to choose one to go back to over and over again, it would be our precious island of Mauritius.

Since working at Beachcomber I have got to experience the heartbeat of Mauritius, the people, the food, the rum… oh the rum – be careful of that – the entertainment and their local Sega dance, the music, the beaches, the mountains, absolutely everything. It is an island where there is always more to discover. I still haven’t even hiked up Le Morne mountain, a UNESCO world heritage site of theirs. Nothing beats walking into a Beachcomber resort, smelling their iconic Beachcomber scent, getting greeted by Artisans that have become family, taking in the most perfect locations and feeling like you’re home. It is also an island that offers something for every kind of clientele and every kind of holiday.

Whether you are super adventurous and want to go parasailing or swimming with dolphins in their wild habitat, or go zip lining, or you want to take it easy and sip away at cocktails while enjoying our perfect sunsets, dancing the night away under the stars or joining in at a Paradis Golf Challenge, there really is something for all – romantic or for families, weddings, groups, or a friend’s getaway.  

Tell us about one of your most memorable travel experiences and why it stands out. 

I really need to work on giving simple answers but there’s so much to share. Immediately I think of my friend’s wedding in Prague, her bachelorette at a villa in Crete, or visiting my family in the UK for a proper winters Christmas and even all the educationals I’ve taken to Mauritius, Thailand and Zanzibar. But let’s be real, it’s the moments of panic or joy that really create the best memories so let me share this one.  

My sister came over to spend the last month in Spain with me and we were going to travel and wing it. We would sit and decide where to next and off we went. What an adventure it was, from an all-boy hostel in Barcelona because our Airbnb cancelled on us when we had already arrived and all hostels were booked, peak season is a real thing, to sleeping on someone’s couch because ‘couch surfing’ is actually a well-known way of travelling in Europe – not again. Oh, and staying in a room where the window opened into a detergent room, I am pretty sure that’s illegal?  

Anyways, enter in a movie scene. We are leaving Barcelona to go to San Sebastian. We are in the train station and we are trying to find the train that takes us to the next stop where we will take our bus. Everything is in Spanish, obviously. I can survive with my beginner Spanish and my sissy doesn’t know a word. Next minute, a train arrives, I realise it’s the one and I shout, “this one” and jump on. It was so last minute that the passengers had to grab me and pull me onto the train as the doors closed on my backpack. Well, I turned around to see my sissy still standing outside and dramatically shouting nooooo with her hands in the air and falling to the ground. Wow. Picture it.

The entire train gave me death stares and one lady even said, “what now” with the most disappointed tone. Good question. What now? We don’t have Spanish numbers so there’s no network, does she even know where to go? Do I get off at the next stop and wait? Or do I go to the destination and trust she gets there? Do I turn around? How? I decided to go to the destination and was nervously walking up and down, up and down. Next minute there she comes skipping off the train happy and proud… wow. What a time. That’s a memory. 

Give us a travel tip you don’t think anyone else gives… or that isn’t given enough… 

Throw away the map, the checklist and the tourist must do’s and get lost in the place you’re travelling to. Walk down the random streets. Go to the restaurants where there isn’t an English section to the menu. Ask the locals about their life and their story. And at least once in your life, travel alone. You’ll find it both a little challenging in the beginning, but then, the most freeing experience of it all.  

Based on the five senses and thinking about travelling what do you… 

Like to see: an iconic view out of my hotel window. 

Like to taste: a coffee first thing in the morning at the local breakfast spot. 

Like to feel: the smile that appears on my face when I am about to go on an adventure. 

Like to hear: a language I have never heard before followed by a familiar sound – laughter. 

Like to smell: freshly baked croissants… ALL DAY…sorry body! 

Suggestions on resources for other travel and tourism stakeholders. Any websites, publications, podcasts, thought leaders you can recommend or newsletters we should sign up to? 

Speaking of Mauritius and Beachcomber, here is the link to their newsletter for all the latest:  

Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows 

Ok fine, I’ll admit it. I love myself some fine dining, right? Food is so important that my friends know it’s become a love language. But as a sales executive, I am on the road all day going from meeting to meeting and eventually the body is screaming for food. And what do I crave, the beautiful yellow M and a good old Mc Chicken burger. There it is everyone. But I like to reassure myself that I am an all-rounder that can do a little both. 😉  

Lastly, what do you love about Africa Travel Week (WTM Africa) and what are your sentiments on the evolution of trade shows being part-virtual? 

To put it short: it brings everything and everyone together in one place. It is a platform of opportunity, resources and support. Empowering us to grow, co-lab and also speak. I love what is written on the WTM Africa page,  

“World Travel Market Africa is the only event where you can simultaneously… Generate sales leads – Launch new products – Enter new markets – Raise brand awareness – Size up your competition – Conduct market research – Command press attention and Develop and maintain relationships.” 

There has been a movement of moving most things to virtual. Although I personally love face to face and being involved, virtual has its place where it can reach and include many more, globally or nationally from the comfort and safety on their own space. The reach is bigger and therefore the opportunities have grown wider. 

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.