Episode 184:

Jillian Blackbeard’s passion lies in Africa Tourism and Conservation. She has been leading the industry for over 10 years in various marketing roles, first for a Southern African hotel and resort chain, followed by five years as director for marketing and product development at Botswana Tourism Organisation, and Director for Africa for The World Travel and Tourism Association.

Jillian is now the CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first purely private sector driven organisation representing the entire KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) which is undertaking an ambition destination marketing strategy and campaign at all levels of the tourism supply chain. Jillian’s passions extend to conservation, managing the Tlhokomela Endangered Wildlife Trust for five years and continues to support projects that link tourism with conservation.

She has spoken at international conferences and events on the importance of Intra-African Travel and opportunities and challenges for the sector across the African continent.

On our podcast, we are joined by Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first private sector-driven organisation representing Africa’s KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). During our discussion, Jillian shares how her association is creating a powerful, collaborative network to promote the many travel destinations worth visiting throughout the region.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How Jillian’s career led her to travel and tourism, and how she helped form The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association
  • How female mentors within and outside of the industry have had a profound impact on Jillian’s career
  • Why women in the travel trade, especially in Africa, face unique challenges and obstacles
  • Why networking and forming relationships can create remarkable new opportunities
  • Why Jillian’s organization was formed to address a deep need in Africa’s KAZA region
  • How collaboration among many groups has become the backbone of Jillian’s organization
  • How the network has helped members more efficiently reuse their limited resources
  • How the association takes a multi-destination approach to the region at all levels of the supply chain
  • How broad reach and participation is helping position Africa as a desirable travel destination

Creating a Powerful Collaborative Network

Jillian Blackbeard, CEO of The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association, the first purely private sector-driven organisation representing the entirety of Africa’s KAZA region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and the region’s many enticing travel destinations. During our discussion, Jillian shares how her association is creating a powerful, collaborative network to promote the many travel destinations worth visiting throughout the region.

One Region, Many Destinations

As Jillian explains during our conversation, one of the integral elements of her association that sets it apart from others like it is its focus on promoting the entire African region rather than one or two specific destinations. The association works to involve businesses at all levels of the supply chain to help cross-promote them and to help them share and repurpose their content and limited resources. By working together, each business is able to amplify its reach and minimize its marketing costs, while still reaping profound benefits and helping to elevate the entire region and its many destinations.

The Power of Networking and Collaboration

A theme that Jillian comes back to time and again during our discussion is the power of collaborative and mentor-mentee relationships. As she explains, women in the travel trade often face challenges different from male counterparts, especially in developing regions. Working together and forming a network of partnerships and mentorships can benefit everyone involved, as Jillian illustrates when she shares the profound impact other women mentors within the industry have had on her own career and opportunities. So too, forming a strong network of collaborators has helped The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association and its individual members pool resources to develop a unified message highlighting the region’s many attractive qualities.

Episode Transcript

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