I started my working life in corporate and investment banking. After ten years, I took a break to travel the world (in 2008). When I returned, I started blogging about my travel experiences on Velvet Escape, something I still do passionately.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be in your role today.
When I started reaching out to the travel industry, I realised that there was little understanding of how bloggers work, a gap I knew had to be bridged. This led to the founding of iambassador in 2011. My objectives were to create innovative marketing campaigns with bloggers and educate the travel industry about the value of bloggers and how to work with them effectively. One of our first campaigns was a collaboration with Cape Town Tourism, in which #LoveCapeTown was born. It fills me with pride every time I visit Cape Town to see how the #LoveCapeTown brand has grown! Since then, we’ve created award-winning campaigns and conferences worldwide, and we’ve significantly grown our network of travel content creators and influencers.
Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day
My day starts with a quick check of my social media channels, the news and finally, my emails. The rest of the day is typically filled with calls to clients about future or ongoing projects, meetings with my colleagues, and posting on social media. My spare time is spent working on my blog, editing photos/videos or going on walks.
On a personal note, how has travel changed your life?
Travel has changed my life in many ways. When I embarked on my solo round-the-world trip in 2008, I set myself some goals: to challenge myself, try new things and learn a bit more about myself through frequent reflection. When I returned, I felt truly empowered. Looking back, it was the boost I needed to chart a new career path. In addition, travel has taught me precious lessons about empathy, resilience, and the importance of keeping an open mind.
What are the key challenges you see for the travel and tourism industry?
The biggest challenge I see is balancing tourism with conservation and the needs of local communities. On my travels, and even where I live (in Amsterdam), I’ve seen first-hand how beneficial tourism can be for local communities and nature conservation. Still, I’ve also seen the flip side as a result of uncontrolled growth. Maintaining the right balance is key, but with so many factors and stakeholders involved, it certainly is a complex challenge.
What are the key opportunities you see for the travel and tourism industry?
These are unprecedented times with many challenges but also unique opportunities. For instance, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to rethink our approach and adapt our offerings to build a more sustainable and resilient tourism economy. It’s the perfect time to let our creative juices flow and turn these into innovative practices. Digitalisation, engaging with the community, reducing or offsetting carbon emissions, and ramping up conservation efforts present wonderful opportunities.
What should travel and tourism professionals be doing to add value to travel and tourism on the African continent?
To add value, we first need to learn from one another, especially in terms of sustainability. Best practices, expert opinions and the latest research need to be shared. We then need to turn these lessons, coupled with a good dose of creativity, into action. We can lead by example – and that’s where I see the biggest added value: sharing our newfound experiences and knowledge and inspiring others, both consumers and the tourism industry, to follow suit.
What do you foresee travel and tourism will look like post COVID-19?
It’s hard to say what the post-COVID-19 landscape will look like. One thing that will most likely happen is that travel will be more expensive. In the short term, once restrictions are lifted, and the pent-up demand is unleashed, we might see scenes reminiscent of the ‘roaring-20’s’, though I foresee people being more informed about the COVID-19 status of the destinations they visit and wary of crowded places. The rise of different virus mutations will continue to have a disruptive effect in the near future.
My hope is that people will be more conscious of their impact on the environment and local communities when they travel and adjust their behaviour and choices accordingly. In this sense, though efforts to make travel sustainable are well underway and gaining momentum, we must continue to lead by example to facilitate this change in behaviour.
What is the importance of travel and tourism shows like Africa Travel Week, including World Travel Market Africa?
Shows like Africa Travel Week/WTM Africa will continue to play an important role in connecting people and business acquisition. Even though COVID-19 has shown us the viability and ease of online meetings and networking, nothing beats in-person contact. Furthermore, its function as a platform that brings together industry professionals, experts and entrepreneurs is crucial for knowledge to be shared and new ideas to be conceived.