Travel entrepreneurship and championing travel by local ethnic groups
"I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.’’
- Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki
Thabo Mbeki’s quote speaks to the soul of Refiloe Kobeli, the big boss at Black Trotters Afrika, a travel company deeply steeped in its South African origins. Aptly called Black Trotters, the dream was and still remains to encourage and see more exploratory and leisure travel by the local ethnic groups, with Refiloe happily testifying the evolution of the travel landscape over the past few years. Key to note is the marked increase in the take up of holiday packages by the African market, with the graph definitely trending upwards year on year!
Big on family, cooking, hiking, and cycling, the Sebokeng-born ardent traveller began her career in 2009, while working on the cruise ships as an Executive Host. The combination of being at sea, meeting and working with different personalities and nationalities, while simultaneously performing the functions of marketer, Public Relations professional and Trainer, came together to create the “perfect storm’’ that would shortly thereafter, jumpstart her journey as a travel entrepreneur.
“Part of my job was to travel, and this in turn allowed me to see and explore over 40 countries in a space of 4 years and that was my favorite part of the job. I loved how travel made me feel, the lessons along the way and realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,’’ says Refiloe.
Her experiences became the impetus she needed to switch careers, and just like that Black Trotters Afrika was born! Refiloe’s brainchild is a travel company that specializes in corporate, leisure and groups travel, curating irresistible packages to the most amazing locations all over the world! Black Trotters Afrika’s tailor-made packages transport you on that trip, vacation, honeymoon, strategy session, girls’ or bachelors’ trip of your dreams to destinations across South Africa and the greater Southern Africa region, Turkey, Italy and Greece in Europe, the Philippines, Thailand and Maldives in Asia and of course, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Building the brand and going social
Black Trotters Afrika celebrated reaching 10 000 followers on Instagram by running a competition - with a package prize worth R25 000! The competition winners were announced on the 18th of November 2020 and the lucky Mr. and Mrs. Monyai of Limpopo in South Africa, were slated to enjoy an all expenses trip to Cape Town. Pulling all the stops, the Black Trotters Afrika package covered return flights and accommodation in Cape Town, with the special add on of a private chef who delivered the most amazing breakfasts and four course dinners and their very own private photographer to capture memories throughout their getaway.
Tours form an integral part of most trips booked with the company, with personal guides or hosts being a win for group travel. This was the case for the winners, who too got to experience guided tours of Cape Point, the Castle of Good hope, Robben Island, the Atlantic Seaboard, a wine tour of the Cape Wine lands, the City Tour of Cape Town, hiking on Lions Head and finally sundowners at Signal Hill.
“We thought it would be a great gesture to giveaway a luxury romantic trip to one of our followers, seeing they never stopped supporting us even when there was zero travel happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Refiloe.
“It was heartwarming to note that our followers continued liking, sharing, and commenting on our content till our numbers grew to 10k followers!”
When asked about her top African destinations, this travel enthusiast highlights her love for East Africa, mentioning Kenya specifically.
“From the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve with its abundant game, to the exquisite and mesmerizing white sandy beaches along the coast and of course, the vibrant night life of Nairobi, Kenya holds a special place on my heart. A close second are the humble, welcoming, and easygoing people of the beautiful country of Mozambique. They beckon me for a getaway repeatedly,” Refiloe she says.
"Also, what’s there not to love about the archipelago of Zanzibar with its clear blue waters, the history that is Stone Town, the culture and the seafood of Tanzania,” says Refiloe.
The travel entrepreneur also celebrates her love for her home country South Africa. The beautiful yet varied landscapes throughout the nation, the friendly people of diverse cultures, the wildlife in the world-renowned game parks and the wealth of history are all what make it “Mzansi!”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a hot topic for the travel industry at large, challenging small business owners and bigger brands alike to reevaluate business practices and the how to redefine the future of travel.
“I believe the travel industry is the biggest casualty with this pandemic, and we still have a long way to go. For now the only way to come out winning is to follow the protocols as we know them, monitoring our health daily, while practicing the standard hygiene practices of constant cleaning and disinfecting, washing of hands, wearing of masks and of course – practicing social distancing. What we know is this – business is no longer business as usual and we all have a huge role to play in helping the industry pick back up by doing our part to curb the spread of the virus,” asserts Refiloe.
To connect with Refiloe and Black Trotter Afrika on Instagram, check out @Refiloe_thee_tourist and @blacktrottersafrika