Meet Ndèye Aminata Voyel, the Founder of the platform www.bonjoursenegal.com, a collaborative online vehicle dedicated to promoting Senegal as a travel destination by connecting travellers to local tourism players such as hotels, guest houses, restaurants and heritage landmarks such as museums.
“The idea started from a simple observation, where a few years ago I noted how difficult it was to find good, credible information online about tourist sites, as well as best activities to do and places to see in Senegal. Moreover, very few industry stakeholders had harnessed the opportunities that come with online presence and so one couldn’t find much information on hospitality options, tour operators and any other travel related services on social networks,’’ says Ndèye.
Today, Bonjour Sénégal is a young and dynamic company run by a team of 4 people. It’s online presence features a website that carries highly visual content, as they spotlight experiences and ongoing packages for travellers to take advantage of. Bonjour Sénégal has also grown its followership online significantly since launching, now embracing a community of more than 28,500 followers, engaged customers and brand ambassadors across Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
‘’Our goal is to give more visibility to local tourism businesses, doing our part to develop both local tourism and the appeal of visiting and exploring Africa,’’ Ndèye asserts.
‘’The tourism sector is easily one of the most vibrant sectors for job creation, given how it encompasses leisure and business accommodations, the transportation industry, tour operators, promoters of the crafts and cultural arena, as well the dining and entertainment landscape. It is one of the key contributors to economies, promoting intercultural exchanges and investment into markets through tourism remittances, and so as a company, we are keen to play a role in supporting this industry,’’ she added.
When asked what her take is on the importance of Africans celebrating the continent’s vibrant tourism assets, Ndèye is swift to highlight her belief that Africa is an underrated continent, and while Bonjour Senegal’s current focus is on Senegal, the company has plans to expand into the rest of Africa.
‘’The media fraternity typically shows the negative stories from the continent - images of war and political unrest, famine and so on - however with the emergence of social media, we are witnessing more individuals and content creators showcase through their own experiences, more of what Africa is really about, from our people to the different places across the contient. Africa is definately a-must-experience and we thought it was pretty awesome that Senegal was ranked one of the top 10 countries on the continent to visit by the New York Times Magazine,’’ cites Ndèye.
Her inspiration for venturing into the travel business was the opportunity to discover more of what was beyond her walls. The idea of potentially connecting with local populations, experiencing gastronomic adventures, new cultures, the history and heritage of a place, diverse landscapes, and the know-how of local craftsmen all became increasingly appealing to her.
‘’Having been born and raised in Senegal, it is only after I started to travel across my country that I realized the enormous potential we had in our nation, and there was so much that was little known and undervalued. Traveling also allows you to leave your comfort zone, to meet other people and to create links with them, to face the unexpected, and to discover other culinary traditions.’’
Ndèye’s Top 10 things to do in Senegal
1. The Ousmane Sow House in Dakar
2. The 4 islands of the Dakar peninsula (Goree Island, Ngor Island, Madeleine Islands, Yoff Island)
3. The Pink Lake
4. The walk with the lions in Fathala
5. The desert of Lompoul
6. The National Park of the Saloum Delta
7. The visit of the Bédik and Bassari peoples in Kédougou
8. The Casamance region with its numerous islands and seaside resorts
9. The Djoudj Park in Saint-Louis
10. The megalithic circles of Senegambia
When Ndèye was asked what she would like tourists travelling to Senegal to know about the West African nation, she mentioned that the creativity of the younger Senegalese generation was truly inspired in that it appropriates more of the country’s culture.
‘’Our young people are willing to take more risks in developing their creative talents. I invite tourists to really consider making a trip to Senegal to meet these young entrepreneurs and craftsmen,’’ Ndèye states.
‘’Tourists will also notice our teranga – or hospitality – as a people. We are a warm and friendly people who welcome visitors from all over the world to discover what they can about our way of life. I also believe our geographical location is of huge advantage, as we are effectively West Africa’s gateway to Sub-Saharan Africa. The sun shines all-year round, we have a plethora of tourist sites one can visit, and our safety record means that one can move freely without having any concerns regarding their wellbeing,’’ Ndèye adds.
Senegal also boasts an incredible 700km of coastline, which means there are a good number of pristine beaches from which one can holiday from. The nation is home to numerous places classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Saint - Louis, Saloum Delta National Park and Djoudj Park.
‘’We are culturally diverse nation, and this is evidenced by our freedom to practice one’s religious beliefs, with Muslims, Christians and those that practice animism living in complete harmony with each other,’’ shares Ndèye.
A great way for anyone to also enjoy the culture of a place lies in the opportunities available to try out new cuisines. I’d recommend at least 5 traditional dishes one must try when in Senegal, and these include Thiebou dieune, which is our staple food comprising of fish and rice. Mafé, a Senegelese beef stew, yassa, a chicken or fish dish, thiéré, which is a couscous made with millet, and mbaxalou saloum which is a little known traditional Senegalese dish with a peanut base – are my recommendations. You are definately guaranteed an immersive culinary experience as you sample these dishes, adding to the enriched moments of learning and discovery as you explore Senegal.’’