Since 2018, the “Sleep in Africa” account has featured black-owned hotels and accommodations across the continent.
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Iver the past decade, every time she traveled to Africa from Canada, Guinea-born Fatimatou Diallo noticed something: She wanted to stay in black-owned hotels and host families, but she had trouble finding them. There was not a square for them. And so she decided to do something about it.
In 2018, Diallo created Sleep in Africa, an Instagram account that featured black-owned accommodation on the continent, from eco-friendly bush camps in Botswana to boutique island lodges in Senegal. Today, the account has over 11,000 followers.
Diallo says his mission in founding Sleep in Africa was multiple. “I wanted to create a place and a community where travelers could exchange recommendations, get advice and give their opinion on where to stay in Africa,” she says. “I also wanted to show the diversity and authenticity of Africa.”
Diallo, who studied translation and works in project management in a translation company, has always wanted to contribute to the development of tourism in Africa. She says she recognizes the hardships faced by owners of black hotels and lodges on the continent and wants to help raise awareness of some of her boutique properties.
“Global hotel chains already have a very good international reputation and high visibility. This gives them a significant advantage since most travelers can feel more confident booking a room in one of them,” says Diallo. “Black-owned hotels need to stand out to build a strong reputation to attract visitors, which can be difficult as they are not on equal footing with overseas competitors.”
This work has become even more urgent during the pandemic, which has had a major impact on the tourism industry in Africa, causing billions of dollars in losses the sharp drop in international arrivals. Curfews and border closures have affected hotels, and many black-owned accommodations have been hit hardest by a lack of resources or access to subsidies. Some, like Ecolodge Kunda in Congo or Villa 37 in Durban, South Africa, had to close temporarily. Others have had to lay off staff.
At the height of the pandemic, Diallo co-created in 2020 a Guide to Black Owned Hotels and Rentals with Sara Jabril, Strategic Marketing Specialist based in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa. The guide lists 39 hotels and 17 rental properties, each containing information such as the properties’ websites and social media pages. Each property has gone through a “Black-Owned Verification Process” and the names of property owners are available upon request. And more is on the way: Currently, Diallo is working on a website that allows travelers to book black-owned hotels and homestays around the world.
As people return to travel, studies show they are interested in doing so by being more aware of the places and people they choose to support when deciding where to go (and where to stay). Diallo says: “As the global situation slowly begins to change, it is very important to show our support for these establishments as much as possible when we travel.
5 Black-Owned Accommodations Recommended by Diallo
- N’Zi River Lodges (Ivory Coast): For a safari feel outside of East/South Africa, she suggests this place, which is, as the name suggests, on the N’Zi River.
- Dakosta Eco Retreat (Guinea-Bissau): A charming eco-retreat on one of the country’s (approximately) 88 islands.
- Kunda Ecolodge (Congo): Incredible ecological family huts in the middle of nature.
- Stun House (South Africa): An intimate place with lots of art. The 10 rooms are nicely furnished and their design is inspired by different African countries.
- Guest House by the River (Senegal): A traditional Saint-Louis house that celebrates Senegalese culture.
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