Based in Cape Town, South Africa Ama Africa Experiences is a passionate provider of life changing experiences to young travellers from around the world. We took some time out to get know the new member of the WYSE community and Director Alex Greenlees shares their story with us.
Tell us your story. How did your business get started?
I worked for a non-profit travel organisation in Cape Town for 11 years and then went on to run it as the Managing Director for a few more years. During my tenure I had always wanted to become a social entrepreneur and make a real positive difference in local communities in South Africa by moving towards a more holistic, responsible and authentic experience for volunteers and foreign travellers alike, and hence Ama Africa Experiences was born.
We are a small organisation and we believe that passion and experience go a long way in determining the kinds of fantastic experiences that applicants will have in South Africa on one of our programmes.
What are your unique selling points? What makes you different?
We have had extensive experience in the youth travel industry in South Africa – we are local and proudly South African and are passionate about travel and local community development. We offer a personal, full service experience for young and mature individuals and groups alike – from the moment they decide to embark on a learning journey, through the planning stages with our partners, to their arrival and safety orientation, onto the full assistance and 24/7 helpline during their time with us and up until their final exit interview and certificate of appreciation. We pride ourselves on this personal connection and being available to our applicants every step of the way whilst on our programmes.
What are some of your success stories?
Along with AMA Africa Experiences we run a non-profit organisation called the Ma Africa Foundation that benefits the local community projects that we partner with, and have had a very real impact on the lives of children, young people, the environment and wild animals in South Africa.
The foundation contributes to fundraising efforts for local experiences for children from under-provided areas, some of whom have never left the area they were born in. From donating to school after care projects, reading and feeding schemes, to starting up library and music lessons and upgrading local crèches in townships, we are committed to sustainability and responsible travel, and are currently in the process of joining the code as well as Responsible Tourism in Destinations.
Many of our projects rely on Ama Africa Experiences for help with volunteers as well as financial contributions but ultimately we ensure continuity and sustainability by eventually moving towards projects managing on their own and believe in giving a hand up and not a hand out. We have been successful in positively affecting change not only in the lives of local South Africans, but also of our foreign applicants and volunteers that experiences our programmes.
What are your future plans?
We would like to grow our organisation by increasing our market share and recruiting more international partners. We would like to grow our non-profit foundation and support more of our projects financially through this enterprise and would also like to engage more stakeholders and increase our staff component going forward.
Which trends and challenges do you see in the youth travel sector?
As more and more young people plan their travel experiences online and independently there are some challenges with safety on the ground, hence the reason we still believe in the very real need for interaction from partners though interviews, police checks and working with reputable organisations in receiving countries. We are working towards offering the highest quality and affordable experiences but not by compromising on safety and enjoyment. As young people travel independently and rely heavily on social media channels for information and advice we believe that an important part of our growth strategy is to move towards better connections and social media online.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
Joining WYSE has been a goal of Ama Africa Experiences since its inception, and as the essential global youth travel industry player, we felt that 2015 was the right time to become a member as WYSTC is being held in Cape Town, where we are based. As an organisation, we are passionate about making a difference for local South Africans and travellers alike, and have found that WYSE brings together industry players, individuals and professionals that have one singular goal and that is to make travel accessible and relevant in today’s modern age.
Any top tips for people starting out in the youth travel sector?
Try and join a federation such as WYSE and attend international conferences if your budget allows it, such as WYSTC as these are invaluable for making contacts, finding out about industry standards and innovative new ideas. Always remember to be flexible; no two days will ever be the same, and some days will be tough, but stick it out as it can be so rewarding to see the end results. Try and find a mentor or a more established youth travel industry partner to bounce ideas off and bear in mind that the industry is constantly changing, and you have to try and change to accommodate these new ideas.
Share your story
WYSE Travel Confederation values all of its members and enjoys hearing and sharing the stories behind the brands and organisations that build up our ever growing community of service providers to the youth and student travel industry. If you would like to see your story here contact us, or join WYSE as a member.
Join WYSE Travel Confederation
If you’d like to join WYSE Travel Confederation and benefit from new connections, free access to industry research, informative webinar sessions, discounts on industry events and brand exposure within the youth and student travel industry, click here to find out more.