Young Professionals Program Celebrate Africa Social Night, Traditional Braai & Shaking a Leg

7 Jun

Celebrate Africa YPP Social Night, just after the braai.

The energy from the YPP Forum carried over to the Third Annual Young Professionals Program (YPP) Social Night. On Sunday, May 20th, 2012, ATA’s young professionals hosted the 3rd Annual Celebrate Africa Social Night at The Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls. This evening was a time for all delegates to revel in African music, cuisine, dance, and Zimbabwean culture. Attendees began the night with a traditional braai barbeque dinner at the poolside garden. Barbeque chicken, steak, and pork were steaming on the grill. Pairings included salad, rice, traditional Zimbabwean sadza, and a lovely assortment of desert.

Chefs at the braai (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

After much merrymaking, the group moved to the Wild Thing Action Bar inside the hotel, which is known for its dance music…..And that we did. We danced, danced, danced……..

For more information on the ATA’s Young Professionals Program, please visit:

For more photos of the YPP Social Night, please visit our Flickr page:

Photos & Blog by: Andrea Papitto, Thinking Forward Media


A Tree & Tradition Grow in Zimbabwe, Host Country Day Tree Planting Ceremony

7 Jun

The inaugural seed for the Tree Planting Ceremony was planted in Banjul, Gambia three years ago at ATA’s 35th Annual Congress. The tradition continued with ATA delegates planting a dozen trees on the campus of Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal in 2011. This year, 12 miles from the Elephant Hills Hotel in Victoria Falls, ATA and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) sow the tradition of planting trees to offset the carbon footprint of the Congress.

12 Miles from Vic Falls, ATA & ZTA sow a tradition (Photo by: Matt Andrea)

The Host Country Day Tree Planting Ceremony is a time when we break from the lectures, panels, and powerpoints to step out of the conference room and into the local community–this year visiting the Ko Mpisi Village, 12 miles on the Vic Falls-Hwange Road. After a short drive from the hotel, we pull over and are guided to our places.

Delegates sit under shade of the tree listening to welcome remarks by Mr. Givemore Chidzidzi, COO of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (Photo by: Matt Andrea)

Men sit under the shade of the canopy and women under the shade of the trees. We listen as Chief Mvuthu of Mpisi Village; Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Engineer Walter Mzembi; Mr. Givemore Chidzidzi, Chief Operating Officer of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority; and ATA Executive Director Mr. Eddie Bergman deliver welcome remarks and explain the tradition of the Tree Planting Ceremony.

Children from the local primary school tell delegates about the tree species to be planted (Photo by: Matt Andrea).

Children from the local primary school recite descriptions of the indigenous tree species we will plant. We applaud as each student finishes his or her recitation. You can feel their pride radiate to the audience as we move from one student to the next.

Minister of Tourism, Wildlife, and Heritage of Uganda, Professor Ephraim Kamuntu plants a tree (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

Then, there is an unexpected announcement. The tree planting will not stop on May 20th. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority announces that 2,000 indigenous trees will be planted over the next year in collaboration with the local Forestry Commission to honor the Nation’s commitment to conserve and its natural resources. This is the biggest Tree Planting Ceremony to date!

We roll up our sleeves, break ground, dig into the dirt, and start planting.

Minister of Tourism, Wildlife, and Heritage of Uganda, Professor Ephraim Kamuntu (Photo by: Matt Andrea).


Chief Mvuthu plants a tree for Mpisi Village (Photo by: Matt Andrea).


Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Engineer Walter Mzembi  (Photo by: Matt Andrea).


Governor and Resident Minister for Matabeleland North Province, Cde Thokozile Mathuthu (Photo by: Matt Andrea).


Mrs. Marah Hativagone, Chair of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Board (Photo by: Matt Andrea).


ATA board members plant a tree on behalf of all members of the organization (Photo by: Matt Andrea).


Primary school children at the Tree Planting Ceremony (Photo by: Matt Andrea).

One of the eight trees planted on May 20th, 2012. 1,992 to go!

One of 2,000 trees to be planted to offset the carbon footprint of ATA’s 37th Annual Congress (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

For more photos of Host Country Day 1 at Mpisi Village, please visit our Flickr page:

By: Andrea Papitto, Thinking Forward Media; Photos by: Matt Andrea and Andrea Papitto

Students, Young Professionals, & Industry Leaders Come Together During Record-Breaking YPP Forum

7 Jun

The conference room at Elephant Hills Hotel was buzzing with excitement and anticipation as young professionals, students, and industry leaders from across Zimbabwe, Africa, and the U.S. kicked off ATA’s Congress with the Third Annual Young Professionals Program (YPP) Forum on Friday, May 18th, 2012. Breaking past attendance records, over 100 students and young professionals from the tourism and hospitality sector came together to discuss the most pressing issues for youth.

A packed house at the YPP Forum (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

The tone for the YPP Forum was set by two engaging and knowledgeable moderators from the Zimbabwean tourism industry—Ms. Rumbidzai Mudzengerere, Northern Region Marketing Executive for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, and Mr. Hugh Mandizha, Food & Beverage Manager of the A’Zambezi River Lodge in Victoria Falls. Ms. Rumbidzai Mudzengerere lead the delegates in singing the Zimbabwean national anthem.

Moderators Mr. Hugh Mandizha, Food & Beverage Manager, A’Zambezi River Lodge, & Ms. Rumbidzai Mudzengerere, Northern Region Marketing Executive, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority kick off the YPP Forum! (Photo by: Matt Andrea).

YPP Forum delegates sing national anthem (Photo by: Matt Andrea).

Dr. Yohannes Zeleke, ATA Mid-Atlantic Chapter President, welcomed delegates and provided an overview of the mission and work of ATA, highlighting, “when we all work together, we as members of ATA are an instrument for change.”

Dr. Yohannes Zeleke, ATA Mid-Atlantic Chapter President delivers opening remarks on behalf of ATA (Photo by: Matt Andrea).

Ms. Robyn Deutsch, Coordinator for Miracle Corners of the World (MCW) Jacqueline’s Human Rights Corner, gave delegates four key social media takeaways to promote African tourism:

1) Know your ‘subject’ and environment

2) Engage your audience

3) Diversify content

4) Monitor your progress

Ms. Robyn Deutsch, Coordinator, Miracle Corners of the World (MCW) Jacqueline’s Human Rights Corner (Photo by: Martha O’Donovan).

Dr. Thokozile Chitepo, Principal Director of the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment of the Republic of Zimbabwe, on behalf of Honorable Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, discussed placing the ethics of sustainability and ecological integrity at heart of African tourism.

Dr. Thokozile Chitepo, Principal Director of the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment of the Republic of Zimbabwe (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

Dr. Chitepo stressed that the youth have the potential to “come up with solutions for the tourism industry.” As a vital part of developing green jobs in the economy, Dr. Chitepo noted that the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment “continues to seek and work with other development partners in developing and implementing programs to empower young Zimbabweans and meet mutually related goals. This includes providing youth with entrepreneurial and life skills, supporting youth livelihood projects through the Youth Development Fund as well as creating platforms for youth to participate in sustainable environmentally appropriate jobs.“

YPP Forum Delegates (Photo by: Martha O’Donovan).

Professor Cleopas Njerekai of Midlands State University, Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, gave delegates a solid background and framework for rural tourism development in Zimbabwe and across Africa. Professor Njerekai illustrated that rural tourism is tourism involving the countryside destination, encompassing local culture, traditions, and industries, as well as outdoor recreational actives and experiences that are staged in rural areas. Contrary to mass tourism, local communities play a significant role in providing the rural tourism product.

Professor Cleopas Njerekai, Lecturer at Midlands State University, Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management (Photo by: Martha O’Donovan).

Ms. Andrea Papitto, Co-Chair of ATA’s Youth Advisory Committee and Vice President of Thinking Forward Media, provided a rural tourism success story from her work with the Reseau de Development Turistique Rural (RDTR) in the Souss Maasa Draa Region of Southern Morocco. RDTR’s keys to success were:

1) Organizational leadership

2) Engagement of rural tourism stakeholders

3) Public private partnerships

4) Commitment to develop rural tourism

YPP Forum Delegates (Photo by: Andrea Papitto)

Mr. Dumisani Nyoni; Director of Zimele Institute, Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), and Member of the Earth Charter Initiative Council; challenged delegates to reflect on 3 R’s:

1) Rethink: what tourism and travel should be

2) Redesign: the sector

3) Return: What is the return we want from the redesign? What are our social return and our environmental return?

YPP Forum Delegates (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

Then, Mr. Givemore Chidzidzi, Chief Operating Officer, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, welcomed us all to Zimbabwe, “a song which, once heard is never forgotten; a mood to suit any soul, any time; a spell to bind those who know her,” followed by an overview of Zimbabwe’s World of Wonders:

1) Our Wonderful People & Culture

2) Rich History & Heritage

3) Great Zimbabwe “The Grand Medieval Palace”

4) The Majestic Victoria Falls

5) Pristine Wildlife & Nature

6) The Mystique of the Eastern Highlands

7) The Mythical Kariba & The Mighty Zambezi

Mr. Givemore Chidzidzi, Chief Operating Officer, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

ZImbabwe, A World of Wonders (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

“The forum presented the perfect platform for young people to express themselves, share ideas and interact on a social level. This was a huge success looking at the number of attendees at the events. The ideas that came up show that the future of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector looks promising and that Africa is willing to go the extra mile in terms of development of infrastructure and technology to meet the world trends. As for me, I am thrilled by the fact that Zimbabwe hosted the third session of ATA and is working to establish a chapter in our country to aid in the efforts to promote Zimbabwe as the preferred destination of choice,” said Ms. Mudzengerere.

YPP Forum delegates with Moderator Ms. Rumbidzai Mudzengerere, Northern Region Marketing Executive, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (Photo by: Andrea Papitto).

ATA looks forward to welcoming participants to the Young Professionals Program and to reuniting in 2013! The vibrancy and leadership shown by the Zimbabwean youth and tourism and hospitality industry have paved the way for YPP initiatives for years to come! Ndatenda!

YPP Forum Speakers (L-R), Moderator Mr. Hugh Mandizha, Mr. Dumisani Nyoni, Dr. Yohannes Zeleke, Dr. Thokozile Chitepo, Mr. Givemore Chidzidzi, Ms. Andrea Papitto, & Moderator Ms. Rumbidzai Mudzengerere. Not pictured Mr. Cleopas Njerekai & Ms. Robyn Deutsch.

For more information on the ATA’s Young Professionals Program, please visit:

For more photos of the YPP Forum, please visit our Flickr page:

By: Andrea Papitto, Thinking Forward Media; Photos by: Matt Andrea, Martha O’Donovan, and Andrea Papitto

The YPP Forum was made possible by:

Mrs. Tsitsi Yekeye, Product Development Manager, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)

Ms. Pauline Ndlovu, Marketing Manager – MICE, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)

Africa Travel Association (ATA) Headquarters

YPP Planning Committee Members:

Ms. Praise Tanya Mangemba, Mr. Taku Mbofana, Mr. Assan Njie,

Ms. Andrea Papitto, & Mr. Robert Washington

Host Country Day 2: Livingstone, Zambia and Sunset Zambezi Cruise

6 Jun

On May 22nd, 2012, ATA delegates enjoyed their second host country day. The most special part of the program was that it was jointly hosted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the Zambia Tourism Board. The partnership between these two neighboring countries, both of whom are ATA members, is an inspiring example of successful collaboration between partners who share tourism resources for the mutual benefit of tourism development.

The day began with a quick and smooth bus trip over the Zambezi River to Livingstone, Zambia for a light lunch of roast chicken, nshima (mealie meal porridge) and local vegetables and cultural performance at the Chrismar Hotel (


Chrismar Hotel (image from

Edward Bergman, ATA Executive Director, likened the commute from Zimbabwe to Zambia to that from New York to New Jersey, and said “Today’s commute was actually better because there was less traffic”! Delegates were also given a tour of the beautiful Royal Livingstone hotel. (


The pool at the Royal Livingstone Hotel overlooking the Zambezi River (image from

After the hotel tour, delegates were treated to a tour of the Royal Livingstone Express, a century-old luxury rail experience( The museum is dedicated to preserving Livingstone’s strong railway heritage with old steam locomotives and vintage coaches that still run cross-country daily as well as railway memorabilia and old photographs illustrating life in the pioneer days of the town.


The Royal Livingstone Express (image from

Then, it was time for us to return to Zimbabwe for a sunset cruise along the Zambezi River, an experience that none of us will soon forget. We enjoyed views of many hippos and the most beautiful African sunset one can imagine.


Sunset on the Zambezi (photo by Robyn Deutsch)


Two hippos (photo by Robyn Deutsch)

The cruise offered the perfect opportunity for the delegates to reflect on the action-packed program we have experienced this week: from sessions, workshops and roundtables focusing on different tourism themes and issues; to an African culinary experience; to visiting the mighty Victoria Falls; to social events and networking opportunities and so much more…one sentiment was shared by all: appreciation of our experience and excitement to work together in the future to promote travel and tourism to and across Africa.

Today’s host country day also marked the end of ATA’s 37th Annual World Congress in Victoria Falls.

ATA African Culinary Experience

22 May

ATA Congress delegates were treated to an exciting and delicious experience today at the first ever ‘ATA African Culinary Experience’. As the delegates entered the dining room, they washed their hands, as is customary in Zimbabwean culture. Then, they were treated to an African feast prepared collaboratively by Zimbabwean culinary students from the Bulawayo School of Hospitality and  Tourism Studies and  chefs from Victoria Falls, along with guest chefs Pierre Thiam and Eric Simeon.


Delegates washing their hands in preparation for the feast

Chef Thiam is the author of Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal; he also has his own catering company in New York (  Chef Simeon is the Executive Chef at E&E Grill House in Times Square ( They also spent time speaking to the Zimbabwean chefs exchanging ideas on ingredients and culinary innovation. Chef Simeon actually had the opportunity to visit local markets and organic farms with the local chefs to learn more about local ingredients and food processes.

Chef Eric Simeone with a local Zimbabwean Chef

Chef Thiam enjoying a local beverage

Dishes included cows hooves, sadza (thick corn porridge), rice, goat, whole bream fish, visashi  (green vegetable and pounded fresh groundnut), kapenta (small dried fried fish), mopani (worm, a local delicacy) and fresh local vegetables.

Zimbabwean chefs preparing food in the kitchen

Whole bream fish

Cow’s hooves

Honorable T. Mathuthu, Governor and Resident Minister of Matapeleland, North Province enjoying the feast with the delegates

ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman enjoying his plate of Zimbabwean food

Fresh local fruit for dessert

Delegates enjoying their meal

The US chefs prepared two dishes: chopped bean salad and crocodile ceviche. They also spent time speaking to the Zimbabwean chefs exchanging ideas on ingredients and culinary innovation.

Chopped bean salad

Crocodile Cerviche

Over lunch and with the rolling hills of the hotel and the mist of the mighty Victoria Falls as a backdrop, the delegates’ attention was drawn to the ‘Iron Chef’-inspired, first ever ATA African Culinary Experience Competition. Two teams of culinary students were presented with a challenge, explained by Chef Pierre Thiam: “to be as creative as possible and reinvent Zimbabwean cuisine”. Team A (Simba and Wayland) and Team B (Jabilon and Chiedza) were given 30 minutes each to prepare their dishes.

Team A prepared warthog chops, with peanut butter rice and locally grown chimonya (green vegetables). For dessert, they prepared pumpkin and baobob cream moose.

Team A’s finished dish

Team B prepared a mopani worm kebab appetizer and roasted warthog, millet sadza, butternut squash and local greens as a main dish. For dessert, they prepared African cucumber and melon.

Team B discussing their dish with Chef Eric Simeone

Team B’s finished dish

The competition was judged by Chefs Thiam and Simeon, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles A. Ray, Dr. Nancy Scanlon from Florida International University, Chef Christopher Gonzo, the Chief Executive of the Zimbabwean Culinary Association and Chef Johnson, Chief Technical Coordinator of the Zimbabwean Tourism Authority. Teams were judged on three categories: presentation, creativity and taste.

The judging process

Following the lunch and demonstration, the delegates returned to the conference room for the announcement of the winning team: Team B. Chef Thiam said that the reason team B won was their use of local and ‘risky’ ingredients and the fact that they had three courses.

The panel of contestants, Zimbabwean chefs and US Chefs awaiting the announcement of the winning team

Accepting the honor of being named ATA’s first Culinary Experience Champions, Jabilon and Chiedza expressed their thanks to ATA and the Zimbabwe Tourist Authority for giving them the opportunity to work so closely with such renowned chefs. Chiedza said that “since we are finishing school so soon, this experience and has given me the confidence to pursue my dreams”. Jabilon remarked that he will be the “envy of all of his classmates at culinary school” and that this was an “experience that I will never forget”.

Team B accepting their round of applause for winning the competition

Chef Thiam said that today’s experience was a “dream come true” for himself and for African cuisine.

Chef Simeon thanked the Zimbabwe chefs who he says taught him a lot about African ingredients. He said that  “working together, with more events like these, we can really put Zimbabwean cuisine on the map”.

ATA’s Photo of the Day

11 Nov

The Africa Travel Association (ATA) is excited to announce a new way to learn about our members. Photo of the Day. Check our facebook and twitter daily to see amazing photos from our member countries: Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The photos will give you a taste of what the countries offer by portraying a variety of their cultural, culinary, adventure, historical, and social products and services. If you’ve already been to one of our member countries send your top pick to with subject line “ATA Photo of the Day Submission.” Please include a description of your photo, your destination, and the photographers name.

This first picture is a photo of Rhumsiki Peak in Cameroon!



Africa Connection Tours Introduces ATA Team Members to Le Lac Rose

24 Jun

After a week of working hard to ensure that the 36th Annual Congress was a success, members of the ATA team were given the opportunity to join Africa Connection Tours (ACT) on a day-long visit to the Pink Lake, sand dunes, and a traditional Fulani village.

It was the team’s last day in Senegal and we were all excited to see more of the country. After a quick breakfast, we found our patient guide, Youssou, waiting for us in the lobby. We set out for the hour and a half drive from Dakar city to the Pink Lake. During the ride, Youssou thoroughly answered all of our questions about history, culture, and development in the country.

 Before driving around the Pink Lake (known as Le Lac Rose), the group stopped at a local hotel with clean facilities and comfortable hammocks in the shade. When we saw the truck we would be riding in, we were all excited to get going.

The finale of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Photo by Julia Firestone.

Driving around the periphery of the lake, we learned that an unassuming chunk of stone was once the marker for the finale of the Paris-Dakar Rally.

Mountains of salt. Photo by Julia Firestone.

As we continued around the lake, we saw giant salt piles gathered by salt harvesters from the lake which is—fun fact—10 times saltier than the ocean. One of our team members was determined to get us out on the lake and although we were all pretty opposed to swimming in the lake (which requires covering one’s body with shea butter because of the high salt content), we were willing to settle on a short boat ride around the lake with a local salt harvester. The salt harvesters, by the way, are primarily Wolof, so if you ever get the chance to take a boat ride with a salt harvester on le Lac Rose, remember to say “Jërëjëf,” pronounced jerry-jeff, which means “thank you” in Wolof.

Photo by Julia Firestone

When we arrived back to shore, local artisans had assembled their work for us. After some bargaining and discussions, we hopped back into the truck with newly acquired gifts for family and friends and continued around the lake and through local farms. We were surprised to see tomatoes and lettuces growing in a dessert-like setting and learned that the Fulani in the area are traditionally farmers and cattle herders.

Julia speaking with the Chief's brother. Photo by Robyn Deutsch.

The next stop was in a traditional Fulani village. The chief was busy and unable to greet our group, but his brother was happy to show us around and spoke fluent French, which permitted me, a humble ATA intern, to translate our conversations about tourism, farming, marriage, and Islam to the rest of the team. When I asked how the community feels about foreigners visiting their home, the chief’s brother told me that they see it as a great opportunity to learn, and to exchange ideas and stories. I whole heartedly agreed.

At the end of the visit, the chief’s brother showed us their community shop where they sell art, instruments, cloth, and dolls. The shop is a cooperative, meaning the money made from sales is put into a pool which then goes to purchasing school supplies, rice, and other community needs. As we left, we were sure to say “jaaraama,” meaning “thank you” in Fulani.

Sand dunes! Photo by Julia Firestone.

One of our team members had been waiting all day for a ride through the sand dunes that surround Le Lac Rose. Finally, we went flying over and around them. “THIS IS THE BEST ROLLER COASTER EVER!” one of the team members yelled over the roar of the engine and the simultaneous “WOOOOO”s from the rest of the group. When we hit the top of a hill, we realized the body of water ahead of us was not Le Lac Rose, but actually theAtlantic Ocean. The driver rolled down the hill and stopped the truck on the beach. With only one or two people in sight, we all went running towards the clear blue water.

Only one woman in the distance and our tire tracks. Photo by Julia Firestone.

Youssou gave us some time to enjoy the landscape and take in the moment before inviting us back to the truck se we could head back to the hotel where we first stopped.

ATA team members enjoy their stop at the beach. Photo by Julia Firestone.

 The hotel has a restaurant where we were served a traditional Senegalese dish, Poulet Yassa. While eating we were serenaded by local musicians playing the kora and djembe. I even joined in for a short jam session.

Photo by Julia Firestone

Sadly, we had to head back to the hotel to pack before our 8am flight the next morning but all of us will always remember this amazing day.

ATA team members with Youssou on the Pink Lake. Photo by Robyn Deutsch.

Many thanks to Youssou, our drivers, and Africa Connection Tours.

Youssou and our driver on the beach. Photo by Julia Firestone


ACT offers a wide array of tours. For more information about Africa Connection Tours or to book a tour, visit the ACT website here: