Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.
Few places in Africa are not attractive to travellers, but those that are rurally located have great difficulty connecting to markets and this so much the more so for operators in their individual capacities. What Open Africa does therefore is to assemble them into structures that are branded as destinations with collaborative plans, goals, and strategies within a dynamic monitoring and evaluation system. Each participant remains sovereign within this network yet gains the benefit of being within the embrace of an entity that combines strengths, shares success stories, encourages collaboration, develops an economic feedback chain within the local community, attracts media coverage and is more easily marketable. Proof of the latter, which in the end is the most important test of success, is that growth in referrals across the website is 37% up on last year.
The method of developing routes is manually driven and systematised, which makes it easily replicable. The process follows a series of workshops during which a fully inclusive list of all existing and potential stakeholders who can add value is drawn up; all attractions are identified; a route forum is elected; individual data, photographs, geographic coordinates, and narratives collected; route parameters and a name decided upon; goals set; and plans made for a celebratory launch, the purpose of which is to attract media coverage and build team spirit and collaboration. All the information garnered resides on the front and back-ends of the openafrica.org website for marketing and monitoring purposes respectively.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.
So far 62 routes have been established across six countries, positively influencing the lives of 35,634 rural people directly (178 170 indirectly if you consider the families of those helped), joining together 2,161 participant small businesses with 33,473 employees. The network’s website <http://www.openafrica.org> attracts 35,000 page views monthly, 34% up last year, and referrals across the website also up 34% from 2011. There are weekly bed night sales of nearly 600 on average. Namibia has become the first country to officially adopt this model as a method of rural development in conjunction with conservation.
There are six beneficiary categories in this programme:
1. The participant operators are structured around a collaborative and common vision, with a business plan and goals, within which capacity is built through the sharing of experience, whilst collectively their ‘product’ is branded, polished, and gets marketed through the Open Africa website with a sales strategy that includes the generation of media and other publicity.
2. Job security for the personnel of these participants is improved and new jobs stimulated through growth.
3. With rural attractions being predominantly biodiversity based, instead of conservation simply being a nice idea it becomes a wealth creator.
4. Local economies are boosted via tourism’s feedback chain.
5. Aspirant travellers gain a source of reliable information hard to find anywhere else.
6. And government gets a representative body through which to deal with this sector more intelligently, whilst also getting more product to add to its national portfolio.
The more referrals we generate, the greater the demand becomes for more routes. More routes in turn mean more business referrals, the one feeding off the other in what is an autocatalytic reaction. This is a sure way to get and maintain growth, which exponentially over time could reach millions of people.
The potential is enormous. Africa has 54 countries, among which at least 40 are candidate participants. Job creation based on utilizing indigenous strengths, as this does, will eternally be desirable, whilst the popularity of rural travel is likely to burgeon, as it is doing. Recently this was confirmed at ITB, the world’s biggest travel show, where it was stated that the way people travel has changed significantly. “Travellers are hungering for community and want to get involved with causes larger than themselves. They want to engage in more meaningful conversations and relationships. They want to get off the bus, linger and get lost in the hearts and homes of the places they visit – enriching their lives, not with material wealth, but with meaningful experiences.”
Fitting that ‘Life enriching journeys’ is the Open Africa motto.