Cape Town -Tourism across the Africa is seeing a boost thanks in part to a group of Instagrammers who have been documenting rare and hidden hotspots across the continent.
It's no secret that some of the most popular accounts on this bespoke photo-sharing app are dominated by travellers, attracting millions of followers who regularly see and socially engage through breathtaking travel photos.
As it continues to grow rapidly with over 700 million active users who share more than 80 million photos and videos every day - young African innovators and diaspora entrepreneurs are turning people’s desire to see a “different side of Africa” into a business and tourism boards are giving credit where credit's due - to Instagram.
The platform is known as the go-to place for the kind of vacation photos that will inspire and anger all your friends, it has also become an essential tool for millennials who choose their holidays according to Most Instagrammed Tourist Attractions.
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The platform is so huge that tourism agencies recruit "influencers" or people with large online followings who set trends through their social media use to capture the beauty of the continent.
Quartz Africa reports that some of these 'influencers' include the likes of travel platforms like Tastemakers Africa, Hip Africa and Visiter L’Afrique to name a few.
But how are they really boosting tourism?
Influencers are giving African travel and tourism a fresh and youthful injection by reimagining the possibilities of African travel for Africans, the African diaspora, and international tourists are keen to do something other than just seeing the “Big Five” on a game reserve truck or buying rugs in Morocco, according to the Quarts report.
According to Quartz Africa, Cheraé Robinson, chief executive of Tastemakers Africa claims that social media has done more for African tourism than anything else.
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“When I visited those places, I felt their dynamic and creative cultures weren’t being covered. So I thought Tastemakers could reflect what was actually happening in African cities to give a fuller and bigger picture of those cities,” says Robinson.
Robinsons has since worked with South African, Kenyan, and Nigerian tourism boards as an advisor for online branding and marketing strategies and received a $250 000 (about R3m at R13.19/$) investment to expand the team and develop growth strategies.
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Agreeing with Robinson, Hip Africa founder and travel journalist Ruby Audi also tells Quartz Africa that before there wasn’t a platform offering practical advice about how to travel around and between African countries.
“There wasn’t really a place to go where they could tell you how to book a hotel, get a visa, and how to travel around different African countries,” she says.
“When I first started Hip Africa, we were one of the only ones covering Africa through the lens of tourism. A lot of my work involved reporting about places, talking to people on the ground, and using the network I had as a journalist to understand each city.”
In today's world, amongst other social media platforms, Instagram is not only used to generate likes and a huge following but also helps to show authentic and unexpected sights of the African cities and cultures.
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someone doing just that is Diane Audrey Ngako, the Cameroonian founder of Visiter L’Afrique.
Ngako, listed on Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 2016 list, tells Quartz Africa that when she started her Instagram page three years ago, she was determined to take on what she perceived as Western tropes of Africa being a place of “famine and wars.”
"I started travelling at a young age to Europe and America but soon realized I wanted to learn something about where I was from and began frequenting East Africa and North Africa," she says.
Tourism contributing to African countries
The World Travel and Tourism Council projects that tourism will contribute around $296 billion (about R3 t at R13.19/$) to African countries’ combined GDP by 2026.
“There’s a massive opportunity to guide African tourism ministries in the right direction,” Audi tells Quartz Africa.
“I think it’s about marrying the premium and the authentic and peeling back the layers,” says Robinson “So if we’re in South Africa, yes we’re showing you Maboneng and the creative scene, but we’re also talking about gentrification. If we’re in Ghana, we’re going to talk about having a house girl or a houseboy because that’s a reality there.”
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“We are always happy when people say, ‘is it really in Africa?’ or ‘man, I’m from Mali but I never heard about this place,'” says Ngako.
According to Ngako, tourism boards and ministries are really non-existent in Francophone parts of Africa.
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“Today it’s mainly people that create accounts to promote their country without any help," she tells Quartz Africa. "You’re seeing a renaissance, you’re seeing people on the continent prioritize going to African countries over Europe.
"Because of the visual aspects of social media, people feel more connected to one another and can explore their curiosity about other African countries.”