What can Africa Offer the Experience Economy?

Millennials Want Live Experiences Not Retail in Africa

Africa is the new experience economy destination for millennials who want live experiences, sharing memories on social media, not shopping. Discover African cultures and adventures on our tours! Africa is a magnetic place, a continent full of contrasts – a crazy hot and sometimes icy climate, jaw-dropping white beaches, the wild bushveld, harsh deserts and lush indigenous forests. Diverse cultures, astonishing foods and luxury hotels – but hunger and poverty clashing with corruption and ostentatious wealth.

Africa is ready for economic revival from the experience economy. Millennials want experiences instead of retail, sharing not spending. Brands can jump on this bandwagon and create live experiences the African way. But why should Africa bother about the experience economy and what has the continent got to offer? 

Sunset Catamaran Cruise in the ocean around cape Town
South Africa is certainly a destination offering wonderful photo opportunities. From beautiful sunsets in the savannah, to vibrant sunrises in the mother city of Cape Town!

The new generations are changing the face of travel by exchanging retail tourism for experiential tourism. Generation Y, the millennials (born between 1981 and 1994) want to experience life to the full, not shop til they drop. The youngest generation, now the workforce in Africa, is Generation Z, the techno kids who do everything online yet somehow find time to save, travel and care about the planet. 

It seems rather sudden that the trendy young tourist is avoiding brands and retail for something more meaningful, enjoying live experiences in all spheres of tourism – culture, food, adventure, business, safari, romance and family bonding. But post-Covid, the experience economy is truly alive and kicking in Africa. International attention is focused on walking safaris, forest bathing retreats, eating dinner with a Maasai herdsman, spending a day with a Kalahari Bushman and tracking rhinos in the Namibian scrublands. 

There is so much more to traveling to Africa than simply sitting in a 4×4 taking photos of the Big 5, buying polished curios and sending beadwork back home. It’s about shaking the hands of authentic Himba people, laughing in a pub with joyful Mozambicans and dancing with Maasai herdsmen around a blazing fire. Pick indigenous herbs with a Zulu Sangoma in South Africa and forage on the West Coast for seaweed with local fisherfolk. 

In Africa, the experience economy is not a fad, it’s here to stay and it forms the nuts and bolts of ecotourism. Without sustainable tourism and responsible travel, Africa’s cultural, historical and environmental heritage will be lost. Mindful travel takes people and the planet into consideration as the world fights increasing poverty, hunger and the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. The millennials are driving the experience economy, putting their money where it counts, into tours and safaris where they learn something new and they give back too. 

Research Shows that the Experience Economy Boosts Tourism

Africa’s journey towards economic growth is not without its challenges, from hunger and poverty to political conflicts and corruption. The experience economy attracts tourists who want to collect stories and make good memories. Social media promotes the instant sharing of such stories worldwide and as more travelers consume tourism per se and gather experiences, they enrich their holidays in exotic lands. Research is showing that the newfound experience economy is a trend that “boosts interest in rarer experiences and unvisited places – because a story uncollected by others is more exceptional and thus more valuable.” 

Guests on a safari boat drive going past an elephant
Did you know? Millennials are the fastest growing age-segment spending money on travel.

It opens up many doors for travel agents and tour operators to concentrate more on bespoke, customized holidays for visitors, showing them unique, untouched places. Some experiences even ban mobile phones to remove that instant social media sharing obsession everyone has. The very essence of expenditure has shifted from amassing possessions to creating lasting memories through exceptional experiences. Brands are jumping on the trendy bandwagon, no longer merely selling goods and services but also crafting unforgettable events that resonate with consumers on a profound level.

Leading this charge are millennials, America’s largest and most influential generation who wield immense purchasing power, estimated at a staggering $1.3 trillion annually.  Africa is rapidly emerging as their destination of choice and is poised to unlock the full potential of the experience economy.

Our top 10 African national parks await discovery!

We show you our best 5 experiences in Africa for 2024:

Mozambique for Beaches, History, Culture and Wildlife

Guests paddle boarding in the clear waters of Mozambique Bazaruto
Mozambique beckons with its coastline and swaying palms, its traditions, its cultures, its vibe and its opportunities for adventure.

Mozambique is an ode to relaxation, offering world-class beach lodges and island hotels, diving, snorkeling, and sailing experiences. The best experiences are:

  • eating and drinking with the locals
  • sightseeing on Ilha de Mozambique
  • swimming with dolphins and whale sharks
  • watching turtles lay their eggs in the sand at night
  • water sports and boating, whale watching and fishing
  • Gorongosa National Park’s community-based natural resource projects – harvesting and buying honey from 40 entrepreneurial beekeepers, sourcing vegetables from local growers, coffee plantations and cashew crops, and innovative agroforestry enterprises to benefit poor people and the environment. 
  • Walking and canoeing safaris to see wildlife up close in pristine habitats.

South Africa for Adventure, Food and Wine

Group of people on a game drive viewing elephants on a safari in south africa
From city life to adventure, wildlife to culture, breathtaking scenery to sun-soaked coasts – discover South Africa.

Venture to the very south of Africa. Geared for your needs, South Africa is the adventure center for pleasure seekers, adrenaline junkies, sports pros, safari enthusiasts, beach addicts, mountain maniacs and river babies. This whole world in one country should be on everyone’s to-visit list. Welcome to the rainbow nation!

Find these exceptional experiences:

  • Exploring iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town 
  • Hiking the wild beaches of the Eastern Cape Wild Coast
  • Durban’s lively promenade for keeping fit and eating out 
  • Tours to Johannesburg’s historical museums, drama and art
  • Climbing in the Drakensberg Mountains
  • Customized safaris in the famous Kruger National Park. 
  • Food and wine tasting in the Cape Winelands
  • Collaring African wild dogs in private game reserves

Zimbabwe for Bushveld Wonders and Vic Falls

Couple looking over the views of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Experience one of the natural wonders of the world when you visit Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

country brimming with 7 vast ecoregions in the form of grasslands, woodlands, forests and bushveld, plus a wealth of wildlife, well-conserved. Mind-blowing biodiversity in 12 unique national parks where perfect bushveld habitat hosts the largest population of elephants and the fourth-largest population of rhinos in the world. These experiences rock:

  • Bungee jumping off Vic Falls bridge or white water rafting below
  • Canoeing safaris in the Lower Zambezi Valley from Mana Pools
  • Houseboat accommodation on Lake Kariba and fishing all day
  • Track African wild dogs in Hwange
  • Wander through the ruins of Great Zimbabwe stretching over 800 ha 
  • Eat with the locals – rice cooked with peanut butter, eaten with thick gravy, mixed vegetables and meat.

Tanzania for Wild Wildebeest on the Run

Aerial view of thousands of wildebeest on the Great Migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration – the annual migration of giant herds of grazers across Northern Tanzania and Kenya is a truly spectacular event.

Witness the Great Migration and feel the ground tremble as hundreds of thousands of hooves rumble across one of Africa’s largest open savannahs in search of food and water – unbelievable predator and prey interactions as the animals speed annually in a clockwise rotation through the Serengeti National Park.  Extraordinary photographic opportunities and clear visuals of lion kills on the vast open plains stun every visitor. Explore this region on board a hot air balloon!

Botswana for river and wetland oases

Guests on a Mokoro ride down the river in Botswana
Game viewing by boat on the Chobe River or in the Okavango Delta is a unique experience providing a different perspective to wildlife behaviour.

In Botswana, you’re spoiled for choice in terms of premium wildlife destinations and high-flying accommodation in luxury safari lodges. Meet the mysterious San people (Bushmen) and get up close and personal with the Big 5. Check out these amazing experiences:

  • Mokoro rides in the Okavango swamps
  • Sunset river cruises on the Chobe River
  • Camp out at Makgadikgadi Pan under enormous Baobabs
  • Fly over the Delta in a tiny plane
  • Game drives and walks in Moremi Game Reserve
  • Dead trees and vibrant birds in the Linyanti floodplains.

All of these top experiences reveal how African countries are recognizing the immense potential of the experience economy and investing in sustainable tourism. Eco-lodges, responsible wildlife conservation, and community-based initiatives are on the rise. It’s a transformation that not only brings prosperity to the region but also ensures the preservation of its natural and cultural treasures.

Africa is fast becoming the eco-tourism destination of all time and sustainable tourism is the latest buzzword as tourists and tour operators tune into the environment, community involvement and history of a region. It’s all about ethical travel so holidays to Africa are less about personal enjoyment and more about contributing to the future of wildlife, natural resources and local communities and their cultures. 

African eco-lodges and environmentally friendly hotels aim for small carbon footprints, employ real people from their surrounding communities, provide exceptional and meaningful experiences in nature, and show their guests amazing places that they have never seen before.

Sustainable Tourism is the new way to see the world

Millennials place a premium on experiences – happiness is no longer tethered to possessions or career success; it’s about creating, sharing, and capturing memories that span life’s myriad opportunities. The numbers don’t lie. A remarkable 78% of millennials would choose a desirable experience over a tangible possession, and 55% are investing more in live experiences than ever before. The impact of these experiences extends beyond the moment. 

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a driving force, with 69% of millennials experiencing it in a world where life’s moments are broadcast across social media, the compulsion to participate, share, and engage is stronger than ever.  For previous generations, owning a first car or a home was a rite of passage, a symbol of success. However, millennials diverge from this path. The rise of social media platforms allowed people to amplify these moments by sharing them. 

The experience economy is a paradigm shift in the travel industry. Travelers no longer seek just a place to rest their heads; they crave unique, authentic experiences. Africa’s unparalleled blend of natural beauty and cultural riches is the perfect canvas for crafting such experiences. Whether it’s sleeping under the stars in a luxurious safari camp, taking a culinary journey through local cuisine, or connecting with indigenous tribes, Africa excels in providing memorable moments.

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