Travel. The quest for adventure and a yearning for discovery. A luxury for some yet a necessity for others. Whichever way you look at, we can all agree that the opportunity to explore new territories and enjoy immersive experiences can provide a sense of awakening, especially when a destination surprises you. Given the availability of disposable income for some, juxtaposed with sheer curiosity of what lies beyond our borders and comfort zones, it is a fair assumption that most will choose travel as a form or leisure and relaxation at some point in their lives.
Luxury travel on the African continent is piquing the interest of more and more people from within our borders and beyond our coastlines. We have the tweets of some of Hollywood’s finest to thank for that. Think of Boris Kodjo and how his visits inspired Ghana’s “Year of the Return”, a government initiative that encouraged africans from the diaspora to return home and invest in the continent. Other celebrities like Will Smith, Steve Harvey, Richard Branson and Michael Douglas have tweeted about their visits to the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides of Victoria Falls while South Africa has welcomed Jay-Z and Beyonce for the Global Citizen Concert in Johannesburg. Those celebrities needed beds and places to rest their heads. So do the millions of followers they have whose curiosity has been stirred upon realising that Africa offers a lot more to offer than previously acknowledged.
Serving those travellers are the many individuals from all walks of life who have chosen to make hospitality and tourism a part of their livelihoods. For those of us looking to get out of the rudimentary “desk-all-day in a windowless office” situation, perhaps a career in this sector may be just what you need. In fact, this was what inspired my transition into destination marketing after close to 8 years’ worth of expo-sure and success in Atlanta’s retail and real estate landscape, I love telling a destination’s story!
Back in Zimbabwe in 2007, in a virtually non-existent property market I found myself trying to sell houses. Much to my frustration the economy was at its worst and no one was selling or moving out of their homes if they could help it. South African’s economy gives its citizens the propensity for upward mobility as they seek economic and professional growth. If it’s not a new house they are looking for, it’s a new apartment. Zimbabweans on the other hand – not so much! Our parents have quite literally lived in the same homes they raised us in; the same homes we now go back to for a short visit with their grandbabies in tow!
My natural spontaneity and “nothing to lose” attitude led me to knock on the doors of the hospitality industry. My reasoning was simple. If it wasn’t going to be real estate, I for sure didn’t want to work in an environment that felt like I was spending my days in a penitentiary, with ancient bosses and colleagues constantly looking for the next available escape route.
One imagines Luke Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of luxury destination management company Vayeni, had a similar reason for starting his business after pursuing a degree in Zoology from Eastern Cape’s Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
It wasn’t going to be lab work and research on Africa’s animal species for him. Instead his gregarious nature and love for people that led to him getting involved in Safari Tourism. Brown landed a job in the UAE as a safari guide at Al Maha Desert Resort. After gaining experience at a number of other establishments across the globe Brown and his wife headed home to Southern Africa in 2012 on yet another journey; one that moved them from being employees in the UAE at renowned attractions, to starting Vayeni.
In a nutshell Vayeni is an entrepreneurial venture that offers a refined approach to destination management across Southern Africa. Having travelled the world during their tenure in the Middle East, and of course enjoying the privilege of working in one of the fastest evolving travel destinations in that part of the world, Luke and his wife Suzanne had something new to offer travellers to Africa with the most discerning of tastes – and were ready to bring their expertise home.
I on the other hand enjoyed the privilege of starting my career in destination marketing in Victoria Falls before heading off to the UAE. Along the way I discovered that the nature of the luxury travel industry is very competitive but absolutely worth it. It is incredibly rewarding despite the fact that it almost looks like a vacation. We have the people and the culture to showcase, combined with the landscapes and wildlife like nowhere else in the world. For luxury tourism players, it’s all about creating a unique product that combines industry knowledge and exceptional service provision. Also, it never feels like work when you are truly passionate about what you do and the people that surround you.