Naledi K. Khabo is a corporate strategy leader with over 25 years’ experience within Operations, Marketing & Technology. Having developed and implemented countless of global innovative multimedia brand initiatives, she possesses a rare combination of exceptional business and technology acumen and the ability to translate complex technical concepts for practical business applications.
Naledi currently serves as Chief Executive at the Africa Tourism Association (ATA), a global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships. ATA serves both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry. Naledi is passionate about the intersection of marketing and emerging technologies, and is excited about this intersection and great opportunities within the tourism sector. Her diverse background lends a fresh perspective to ATA’s approach to promoting tourism to and within Africa.
During her tenure at ATA, Naledi has led the organisation through significant operational changes including a complete re-branding of the organization and launching several new digital platforms to serve the hospitality and tourism industry, including ‘thexchange.africa’ which was recently launched in response to the impact of the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic on the hospitality, tourism, and meetings industry.
How did you fall in love with travelling?
I feel as if I’ve never known a life without travel. I’ve been traveling for as long as I can remember, taking my first transatlantic flight as a baby when we relocated to the US from South Africa. And as a young child, 6-10 hour road trips to visit other South Africans across the US were the weekend norm and as a result driving 10 hours nonstop is easy. When I was old enough to fly solo, I was crossing the US on a regular, and I came to love everything about travel. And when I say I love everything, I mean everything – packing, travel luggage, road trips, roadside rest stops, room service, street meat, flying, airport lounges, in-flight movies, and even airplane food!
What kind of traveller are you?
I’m typically a planner because I travel so frequently for work and I have to be strategic about squeezing in some extra time for exploration. I have a number of checklists that I refer while prepping for a trip. And I’m a researcher so I will conduct internet searches and use social media to create must-do and must-see lists. How I travel once I’m on the ground depends on the purpose of the trip and my mood; I’ve been known to mix up some ultra-luxe days with the complete opposite. Regardless of the type of stay, I try to immerse myself in the local culture through food, music/nightlife, sports, art, and fashion.
What’s your travel philosophy?
Although I’m a planner and list maker, I also believe in going with the flow and accepting you can’t control everything. Schedules change and new experiences present themselves. It’s important to be flexible and open-minded.
What are your top travel essentials?
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Power banks for all my electronics
- Ankle/wrist weights
- Large, comfy scarf
- Disinfecting wipes (I was always the annoying person wiping everything down)
- Debit card – I’m all about supporting the local economy!
Where was your most memorable trip?
This is an impossible question to answer because I don’t have just one. I have had so many amazing experiences around the word. But the top five off of the top of my head include: a solo trip to Lalibela, Ethiopia; walking the Great Wall of China (well, parts of it) followed by a trip to Thailand; spending my uncle’s 50th birthday at a chateau in Warsy, France for my uncle’s 50th; walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain which was exhausting and fulfilling at the same time; and coming home to attend World Cup 2010.
How has travelling changed your life?
It sounds cliché, but travel does change your life and is essential for the soul. Interacting with those from different backgrounds and cultures opens your mind and broadens your perspective. The more I connect with others, the more I realize we are all more alike than we are different. And I’m a city slicker with Type A tendencies; traveling has not only made me more tolerant and compassionate, but I have also become more creative in all aspects of my life.
Where are planning to travel to next?
A friend recently invited me to join her in Montana, a place that I probably would not have otherwise considered, which is exactly why it piqued my interest. However, I’m most anxious to travel home to South Africa as soon as international borders open, followed by travel through West Africa.
Best travel advice you can share?
Be open. Be respectful. Be kind. Be adventurous – and be safe!