Cheraé Robinson is the founder of Tastemakers Africa, a travel company that curates and arranges local experiences in cities across the continent.
Due to a reignited interest in traveling to African countries, we caught up with her to find out what her thoughts are and how this affects her business.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Africa.
I think we have sort of the stereotypes that have been well documented (poverty, war, conflict, corruption) but I honestly think the bigger issue once we get past that is that people haven’t thought about it at all. We’ve been fed that Paris is paradise or that the Caribbean is the only affordable destination for us. So ignorance is at this point the biggest issue.
You sold out your Ghana 2019 trip in 48hrs. Would you say this year will be a game changer for travel to Africa?
I wouldn’t say the year is a game changer in and of itself but this year is a harvest so to speak. Over the last five years there has been a concerted effort by creatives, companies like my own, entrepreneurs, and others to really show people a more dynamic view of the continent.
I think we saw this hit fever pitch, particularly in Ghana with Bozoma Saint John’s Full Circle Festival bringing nearly 100 people from the entertainment world to Ghana. I think this says a lot about the impact that illustrating the ties that bind via shared culture can have on transforming perception.
Quick story, I landed back in NYC on Jan 1st this year from Ghana and had to run to T-Mobile the next day. Somehow I mentioned that I was just back from Ghana and the T mobile employees were HYPE! Meanwhile this is in EAST NEW YORK.
So these weren’t necessarily your intellectual pan africans so to speak, these were young kids from Brooklyn who wanted to go to Ghana because it looked poppin on the gram. That to me is how we can see the transformation, like this is true change.
In the past 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
Two things: the concept of “run your own race” and really understanding that most people are literally trying to win themselves, hanging on to slights, real or perceived doesn’t benefit you so it’s best to accept people as other humans trying to do the best they can with our time here. Those two things have been incredibly freeing.
How do you feel tourism is linked to Black economic empowerment on the continent and in the Diaspora?
Tourism is a significant percentage of GDP in many countries and it’s often undercounted due to the blurry lines between tourism related dining, retail, and transport.
When you think about tourism and black people, it serves the BEE agenda on a few fronts:
- Intercultural monetary exchange (black travelers with USD supporting black businesses on the continent)
- Longer term economic plays, tourism is an entry point to understanding investment and business opportunities in new markets, this is even more true for the African market. A trip is often the best way to spot opportunities and make valuable connections which are required to do business in a country. If we can leap forward from this point and marry capital, skills, knowledge and access in a two way mechanism, that is transformational at a generational level.
Where do you see the company 5 years from now?
I see Tastemakers as sort of an AirBnB x Vice Magazine hybrid providing end to end inspiration and connection points to millions of people across Africa and its diaspora around the world.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)