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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why American travelers do not visit Cape Verde and what to do about it!

Why is it that more Americans do not visit Cape Verde?

It's an intriguing question. If we could nail down the real reasons it does not happen more often, we could reverse the trend. After all, Americans visit Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America in droves. They also go to China, Africa, India, Australia, South East Asia and New Zealand. They visit first world countries and third world countries. They even go to countries where their government forbids them! And end up causing international incidents. It's quite funny.

Yet few Americans go to the spectacular and enchanting islands of Cape Verde for a vacation. Why on earth would this be so? Now I'm not going to count Americans who are actually of Cape Verdean descent - they have a natural reason to visit ... friends and extended family.

Well I am one of those Americans who does travel to Cape Verde and often, in addition to Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico. Yet I am not of Cape Verdean descent. So let me tell you what I have observed from personal experience:

  1. Cape Verde was unknown to me for 45 years. I never heard of the country until I moved to Boston. And even then, I had lived here for 8 years before even realizing there was a Cape Verdean community here. Cape Verde is invisible to Americans. There is very little outreach. If I could be aware of a country as small as Antigua which is a fraction of the size of Cape Verde, there is no reason I should not have heard of Cape Verde!
  2. Cape Verde does not promote itself to Americans like the Caribbean countries and Mexico do. Maybe it is because Cape Verde thinks that people who speak English can't relate. But I beg to differ. Look at England. There are a lot of Brits who flock to Cape Verde - most speak only English. And millions of Yanks visit Mexico without so much as knowing a single Spanish phrase. So language barriers are definitely not the reason. But the Tourism divison of the governments of these countries advertise like they are selling a product! In fact, they are. They think of the country as a brand. Cape Verde needs to do the same.
  3. Cape Verde also needs to promote itself to travel agents in the US. The first few times I traveled to Cape Verde, I bought my ticket from a travel agent. But the only travel agent who knew anything at all about Cape Verde was a Cape Verdean travel agent who sells mostly to US Cape Verdean travelers! This makes no sense at all. US travel agents should be made aware of Cape Verde. There are proven ways to promote a country to US travel agents.
  4. Cape Verde would be competing with other more well known destinations for US vacationers. These were mentioned earlier. The challenge is that these other locations are closer and cheaper than going to Cape Verde. Why is that? Because there are hundreds of travel agents and other providers competing for these consumers. They put package deals together and make it easy to shop and purchase online. This is done now by European agencies who compete to drive European tourists to Cape Verde. However, TACV - the government owned airline is the only real choice for moving US passengers into Cape Verde. This is not a problem except TACV has no competition. Little does the Cape Verde government realize that by lowering prices for US-CV routes it will attract more volume. They will be able to add full flights to leverage costs efficiencies and thus make money. This is Marketing 101. There are many examples of this among the Caribbean airlines like Air Jamaica and BWIA.
  5. The Cape Verde government needs to think of promoting Cape Verde to US travelers as an investment in marketing the brand where the return will be realized when US travelers "buy" by visiting Cape Verde. It is possible to work the numbers so that the exact amount that must be invested can be determined.
  6. Americans love adventure. There are several unique experiences that can be marketed to Americans. Examples beyond the traditional beach bumming include: hiking and back-packing tours; wind-surfing tours to Sal and or Sao Vicente; participating in triathlons on Sal and ultra marathons on Boa Vista; mountain climbing up a Volcano in Fogo; Carnival in Sao Vicente; promoting a Jewish Heritage tour; promoting tours to Cidade Velha - a World Heritage site. There are many opportunities for specialty tours.
  7. The American perceives Africa as "too far." But in fact, Cape Verde is about as far or even closer than some European destinations. It would behoove Cape Verde to undertake an "educational" campaign that shows how close Africa could be. I would be willing to bet that if Americans knew they could get to enchanted African islands about as quickly as they could get to Western Europe, they would go in droves ... provided that the price is competitive.
  8. A large number of Americans take cruise ship vacations to visit their destinations. This would be impossible to compete with because the maritime distances from the US to Cape Verde do not permit it. However, most US cruisers fly to the destination from which the cruise ship departs! They expect to fly. Therefore, it is possible to create a package where the US traveler flies to a cruise ship port to catch a cruise to Cape Verde. The pitch would be a combination vacation in the cruise ship city plus a cruise that includes Cape Verde  Again, a package deal would have to be constructed to do this effectively.

To summarize the issue, it appears that Cape Verde seems to promote itself only to Cape Verdeans! This is not logical because Cape Verdeans already know Cape Verde. They don't need to be told that Carnaval in Sao Vicente is a treat! A dollar spent on that promotion would seem to me to be a dollar lost. In other words, flights from the US to Cape Verde are full of Cape Verdeans! Contrast this with flights from the US to Mexico or the US to the Caribbean. These flights are full of Americans! This is the goal.

How should Cape Verde be packaged for the US consumer? As "the Caribbean of Europe?" Perhaps, but that only places it in direct competition with the actual Caribbean for which it is no match, yet. Instead, I would recommend that Cape Verde package itself as a uniquely African destination in an idyllic tropical island setting.

The African connection is more likely to work because many Americans think of Africa as an exotic destination that is placed on their wish-list. Grant them their wish! Cape Verde can create a very compelling "African" story. It is the most stable democracy in Africa and consistently ranks among the top African nations by every other measure. But, Cape Verde would first be required to not only acknowledge the African heritage, it would need to promote it over its European connection! This may be quite challenging for Cape Verde as it has a tendency to emphasize its Portuguese colonial roots. Again, it would be wise for Cape Verde to take a lesson from the Caribbean success stories - all of the Caribbean countries were once colonies of European masters, and a handful still remain colonies. Yet, not a single one promotes its colonial heritage over its other unique attributes when it markets itself to potential tourists from source country.

To achieve the goal of attracting hordes of American visitors, the Cape Verde government must make greater investments in promoting Cape Verde to non-Cape Verdeans and open marketing channels to US travel agents. TACV, the government owned airline, must also get into the act in terms of making it easier too create air-hotel package deals. It cannot expect this to be left up to private investors. It will never happen. It is only after the government makes the necessary marketing investments to "grease the skids" will it find that private investors (including travel agents, hotel operators, etc) will step up to the plate.

The returns on the investment will reward all parties involved, both public and private.


Charlene said...

Thank you so much for bringing awareness to this issue. #3.#4.#5. Hit it right on the nail. As much as I would love to invest in Cape Verdean businesses/ invest in my government's business i.e. TACV they make it very difficult to want to give them 1200 dollars. When I can easily fwd the same 1200 to TAP Portugal and be guaranteed a comfortable and quiet flight, a flight that leaves and arrives on time, and reasonable wait time at the airport. TACV down to the ground personnel is horrible experience. They don't treat others like CLIENTS they treat us like they are doing us favor flying out of Boston. I have yet to hear of any pleasant experience on TACV. If the flight is on time ever, I expect that something is terribly wrong.

Angelo said...

Charlene, thanks for the comment. My name is Angelo. You can find me on Twitter at My Facebook blog page is If you are on Facebook, please share or suggest the blog and/or my Facebook page with your friends. Much appreciated.

pattaya villas for rent said...

Cape Verde is a beautiful country and has the potential to be a great vacation spot. The question is what makes Cape Verde unique from a vacation in the Caribbean or to Hawaii? Their tourism sector should be able to point this out and promote their country more effectively to the Americans and to the world.

Angelo said...

Thanks for the comment Pattaya Villas. I agree with you entirely. To scale to the heights of the most popular tourist island destinations for Americans, the Cape Verde tourism industry must point out its unique attributes. It's all about the marketing.

Or conversely, maybe Cape Verde's government has not recognized the potential for American tourism and has thus not focused on capitalizing on it.

Adam Smith said...

The right direction is to keep things in a manner that supports us bus tour to niagara falls from NJ would be the most reasonable way to keep it all working for us and that's how it goes.

soft click said...
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