An Interview with Kathryn Monaco, Executive Director of APTA
For over 30 years, the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA) has provided travel professionals with trade shows, education programs, news and trips to foster tourism and to Africa. Through the years, APTA has become a key contributor in anti-poaching efforts, orphanage funding and services, goods and supplies donation and community development projects throughout the continent and its islands. Kathryn Monaco, the Executive Director of APTA, joined the organization in the early 1990’s and, after almost 20 years, still has a genuine passion for educating the travel community on Africa.
TRO: How did you become involved with APTA? Have you always had an interest in African tourism?
KM: As the daughter of an airline executive, I was fortunate to travel extensively while growing up. I developed a passion for Africa early on and even now, after more than 20 years in the business, I get excited about what awaits when I travel to Africa. I became involved with APTA over 15 years ago when I was looking for ways to introduce Protea Hotels to the US market. APTA was the only organization dealing exclusively with the travel trade and I exhibited in my first APTA Discover Africa Trade Show in Chicago. The APTA family welcomed me warmly and I received a crash course on the African market place in the US. Al Trycha (one of our founders) and his wife Carole played a major role in my involvement with APTA. I was amazed at how everyone worked together despite the fact that many were competitors. You will not find an organization with members who show such passion and commitment to Africa and her islands and accomplish so much despite the fact that the entire organization is made up of volunteers.
TRO: How has the organization changed since you joined (in terms of its mission and offerings?)
KM: Our mission statement reads, “It is the goal and purpose of APTA to promote tourism to the continent of Africa and its islands. APTA will seek to improve tourism to Africa through the education of its members.” This mission statement has not changed dramatically over the years; however, the infrastructure of the organization has evolved. Membership has grown and we now provide more tools than ever and a platform for our members to keep themselves updated as to the latest happenings in tourism to Africa.
TRO: Please explain some of APTA’s most recent initiatives in Africa.
KM: APTA’s current initiatives promoting tourism to Africa are our Discover Africa Trade Show series, the Focus on Africa program in conjunction with the New York Times Travel Show, APTA Pavilion at the New York Times Travel Show, our annual Indaba Educational and our annual National Forum. In addition, each of our thirteen chapters has ongoing meetings and educational programs for the travel industry.
TRO: APTA is hosting the 2011 South African Indaba fam trip this May. What do attendees experience on a trip like this and what does APTA hope to accomplish with them?
KM: This educational trip, similar to all of APTA’s initiatives, is structured to introduce agents to Africa and educate them on the destination so they will return able to confidently and effectively sell Africa. We also provide them with opportunities to meet and network with our corporate members. The agents are part of a structured program, which allows them to travel with an APTA national board member and fellow APTA members and gives them a good overview of the destination and products available to them at the largest Africa-only trade show in the World.
TRO: The organization’s relationship with the New York Times Travel Show is continually growing. What was offered to attendees at this year’s show?
KM: Attendees were offered a comprehensive program titled “Focus on Africa”, which APTA has organized for the past three years. Agents were updated on the latest happenings in the industry and introduced to all the major tourism boards and airlines servicing Africa, as well as specialty operators providing information on niche markets such as romance and safari, adventure travel in Africa, cultural specialties and wine and culinary itineraries. We incorporated a marketing and media session to give agents a better idea of the tools available to assist them with their sales and marketing efforts and our airline sponsors donated airline tickets to and within Africa that were given away in a drawing.
TRO: The National Geographic documentary “The Last Lions” is creating quite a stir in the travel community and APTA has been promoting the film for some time. Why is this topic so important to your organization?
KM: Wildlife is a vital component of tourism to Africa and the increased attention to and awareness of the lion population in Botswana because of the documentary is a new development. The film created new marketing opportunities in cinema advertising and events featuring the film for agents and their clients that can be organized.
TRO: How can travel agents get involved with the organization?
KM: By joining a local Chapter and visiting us on www.apta.biz
TRO: Is there anything else you would like to share with the travel agent community?
KM: Africa is a huge growth market for US travelers and there is a big opportunity for agents to grow their businesses by offering trips to the destination. APTA provides the resources and information for agents new to the African continent, as well as seasoned veterans, to learn more about expanding their businesses and growing their commissions.