Tiffanie Anderson, the founder of Away to Africa, found success by creating a niche for herself answering a growing demand of African Americans for travel to Africa. The success of the specialty tour operator is emblematic of an accelerating boom in a travel segment that has crept up to the point of being a force that is worthy of notice.
Anderson has her finger on the pulse of a growing market of African Americans who are discovering the pleasures of travel, and specifically, the exploration of their historical ethnic roots in Africa. As a result, her business is thriving.
Away to Africa is one example of a much broader trend of African Americans traveling more than ever before. The rise of demand has fueled this strengthening market niche. According to a recent report on CNN, there are 5 million African American Millennial travelers in the U.S., and they spent at least $63 billion on travel in 2018.
Born in Jamaica, Queens, Anderson is now based in the other Jamaica, in the Caribbean. She maintains an office in Coral Springs, Florida; another office in Cape Town, South Africa; and she travels extensively around Africa for about four months a year, as she develops tour products for her clientele.
The discovery of the ripe market for African American roots travel was a surprise to Anderson, when she stumbled on the opportunity on her way to being an entertainment and real estate lawyer.
A way to Africa
In 2006, while a student at St. John’s University Law School in Queens, Anderson was accepted for a study abroad program offered by Howard University Law School for two months at the University of Western Cape in South Africa. The experience of South Africa blew her horizons wide open.
“Although you could still see and feel the remnants of apartheid, I instantly connected with my South African colleagues and my living arrangements were definitely a step up while studying in South Africa as opposed to the states,” she said. “As students, we stayed at the V&A Waterfront in the marina. It was quite a crazy introduction to the continent.”
Crazy great. The program included travel, as well as classroom study.
“We spent almost two months with students from South Africa,” Anderson said, “taking three courses and traveling throughout Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. That’s how it all started.”
Tiffanie Anderson fell in love with Africa.
“I just went back and started telling everyone to travel to Africa,” she said. “Remember, this was pre-Instagram. Facebook was around but the trend of Africa wasn’t there yet. Now Africa is trending. Everyone wants to go home. Everyone wants to know more about their roots. But back then, it was still CNN labeling or identifying Africa as this poor — not continent, but country — where there’s just famine and disease. You know that story.
“So, I went back and told my friends, family and colleagues ‘This is not true. You must go. You must visit the Motherland.’ I was quite surprised when people started taking me up on my offer. So, I thought to myself ``how amazing would it be to create a way for people to explore Africa!"
So that was it. Tiffanie Anderson wanted to create a way to Africa for all the people who might have the inclination, but needed some help managing the details.
DMC helps people explore their roots
“Away to Africa is a destination management company, a DMC,” she said. “We partner with tour operators on the ground in each country handling the logistical and client relations within the tourism sector."
South African Tourism, the government tourism bureau, is keeping a close eye on the new wave of travel entrepreneurs, such as Tiffanie Anderson, and the rising trend of African American travel that they represent.
“I enjoy working with tourism boards because they are keen to support young, innovative SME's with a passion for traveling. Through our working relationship we are able to identify the spending habits, age range, and background of these people who are coming into Africa."
Direct data from the tour operators representing the new wave of travel is helping tourism boards to sharpen their tools for identifying their potential markets.
"In addition to tourism boards; tourism authorities, agencies and stakeholders within the Africa travel market are all paying close attention to this influx of black travel and travel to Africa." Anderson said.
"If you take note of tourism's contribution to many African nations' GDP and tourism expenditures, you will understand the great potential of the industry. As the owner of Away to Africa, it is my obligation to work directly with SME's within the exact communities we explore on our tours. Cutting out the middleman and driving the income directly into the hands of African entrepreneurs and business owners within the tourism industry is the best way to make sure this travel to Africa phenomenon is not just a fad but here to stay a lifetime.'