Updated: Jun 5
Here is how Fatimatou, started a hospitality hub for Africa.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get the travel bug?
My name is Fatimatou Diallo, a Guinean born and raised in France.
I like to define myself as an entrepreneur. All the projects that I have aim to enhance Africa.
I created Sleep in Africa in 2018. A platform that features unusual and unique places to stay in Africa. I am also the Co-founder of "Lokodia", a brand that offers handmade home decorations made out of traditional African fabrics.
I have always had the travel bug. In my youth, I used to travel with my family to different destinations. It was very important for my parents to take us to our home country, Guinea. The first time I went there I was four years old. Two years later, I took my first trip to Ivory Coast and I remember that this trip was really different from the one to Guinea. We did a lot of sightseeing. In Guinea, we were mostly there to spend time with our family. While in Ivory Coast, however, my cousins took us everywhere: Abidjan, San Pedro, Yamoussoukro etc.
I keep clear memories of my first two trips in Africa although I was very young. I think that’s because travel has a huge impact on me.
2. What inspired you to pursue your career and how did you get there?
I would say that my love for our continent is what inspired me to pursue my career.
I created Sleep in Africa after realizing how easy it was to travel the world and find enough information about destinations and accommodations. But when it came to Africa, planning was more difficult. Simply because there were not enough resources to help us organize our trips.
I was convinced that I had to do something! I thought it was essential to create a community where travelers could exchange recommendations, get advice, and give feedback on where to stay in Africa. I also wanted to show the diversity and authenticity of Africa by sharing unknown destinations and give a glimpse of African vibes through unique places.
In January 2018, Sleep in Africa was finally born. At first, it was a Facebook page named "Where to Sleep in Africa?". A few days after its creation, I launched the Instagram page: @sleepinafrica where I posted daily pictures of different accommodations taken by travelers.
This had several objectives:
The first one was to build a community around a common interest; the second one was for me to discover an impressive collection of accommodations spread all over the continent and to share them with travelers.
Every African city has international hotel chains that everyone knows, but I wanted my page to highlight unique and atypical places that will guarantee travelers an unforgettable experience. I wanted to put forward places where travelers will have the feeling of being totally disoriented and will have at the end of their stay the impression of having spent an unforgettable moment.
I think that traveling is about meeting others, discovering a culture that may be different from ours. Simply, an escape; that's why I always look for accommodations that have a soul. Something that the others don't have and that makes their authenticity and their charm.
When you have slept in a lodge in the middle of the bush in Ivory Coast, you must be able to remember it for life.
My second ambition with Sleep in Africa is to create a booking platform where each traveler will be able to book their next home away from home. I also have the ambition to offer group trips and custom trips on the continent.
3. If you could curate your dream travel experience, what would that look like?
For me, a dream trip is a combination of different factors:
-Culture and history: traveling to another country allows us to encounter cultures different from ours. Each place has a story to tell. When I travel, I like to hear those stories.
-People: traveling is also about meeting the local people. In my opinion, the travel experience can be totally different depending on who we meet.
-Food: traveling is not the same without a good meal. I love to eat, so I always enjoy trying the culinary specialties of the city I am in.
-Nature: I particularly like to be able to spend time outdoors. Being immersed in nature, being able to admire different landscapes, fauna and flora is a must.
-Weather: nice weather is really important. The ideal weather is neither too cold nor too hot. Some sun, some rain.
-Adventure: I wouldn't say I'm the most adventurous person in the world, but I do like to try to outdo myself when I'm abroad.
-Relaxation: it is important to build relaxation time into our schedule when we travel.
4. What's your secret to finding awesome black owned holiday stays for your website/ blog?
The secret is… a LOT of research online. I spend a lot of time trying to find black-owned stays. As you know, there are not a lot of them on the continent. That is why we created our black-owned hotels and rentals list with Sara Jabril, so that anyone can refer to it and find them easily.
5. How has covid-19 and the cost of living crisis impacted global and your personal travel?
Covid-19 was a blow to the travel industry. While most countries were locked down, travel halted too. I know of many hotels that had to take a long break and lay off workers during Covid.
Today, things are slowly starting to return to normal and countries are welcoming travelers again. Many companies lost a lot of money and this is reflected in the current prices in most economies. For example, some airlines have increased the price of their tickets.
In addition, the cost of living is getting higher everyday. Ultimately, I'm sure many people will not be able to travel until they can buy their food.
Post Covid, I have made two trips: one to Greece in 2021 and another to Senegal in 2023. I will definitely be careful about how I travel in the coming months/years.
6. Do you still feel excited about booking flights for yourself and taking a break from your routine?
Of course! The saying goes that “money doesn’t buy happiness, but I think that travel does.”
7. What are your top 3 countries to visit & why?
It is really hard to make a top three, because there are so many countries I would like to visit. But based on the criteria I listed in the third question, I would say:
8. What are your favorite activities while traveling?
My favorite activities are pretty simple:
-Walking in the streets. For me, the best way to discover a city is to walk and get lost in the streets. I have a very bad sense of orientation so I literally get lost everywhere I go! :-)
-Boat/Pirogue Cruise: I can't swim, so this is my only water activity :-)
-Visiting museums or historical monuments
-Attending cultural celebrations
-Shopping in the markets (food, art...)
9. What are your top 3 safety tips for black women solo travelers?
-Check online for other black women solo travelers' experiences. Get information on if the country had already been a problem for other black women in the past. Check if there are any current safety risks happening in this particular location.
-Always tell somebody where you are, what are your next plans.
-Do not tell people that you are traveling alone or where you are staying.
10. What are your top 3 tips to travel more in 2023?
-Look for special offers: Many hotels, airlines and travel agencies offer discounts and special deals. You can also choose your destination based on the cost of the flight.
-More staycation : We tend to overlook our own country, but it can hold many gems. Traveling is not always about getting away from home, but it is also about getting to the next town.
-Choose a destination where it is easy to get to the neighboring country. For example, in Kenya, you may be able to fly to Tanzania - South Africa to Zimbabwe; in Benin, you can easily drive to Togo, Ghana or Nigeria; and from Senegal, easily commute to Gambia etc.
There is for you, a beautiful and passionate African making travel and tour in Africa more accessible; there is too, an entrepreneur determined to promote hospitality through the incorporation of African prints in home decor.
Contribute to her efforts today by suggesting a hidden gem in Africa that needs to be propagated to the world. Join the community on instagram @sleepinafrica.
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