Some speculate that it may be the language barrier. Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde. In my view, language has absolutely nothing to do with it. After all, millions of Americans vacation in foreign lands where English is not the native tongue. Like Mexico. And I'd be willing to bet that the only Spanish word known to 99% of the Americans visitors is "Cerveza!" Guess what? That works well enough in Kriolu too! Say that in any Cape Verdean bar and you'll have a cold Strela or Super Bock in about 10 seconds flat. Plus a few newfound Cape Verdean friends who will at least try to talk to you in broken English. There are lots of multilingual Cape Verdeans!
So why on earth don't Americans vacation in Cape Verde more often, if at all? Now I'm not going to count Americans who are of Cape Verdean descent - they have a natural reason to visit ... friends and extended family.
Here are the top 10 reasons based on my own personal experiences and observations:
- Cape Verde is invisible to Americans. There is very little outreach! Even in the US states where Cape Verdean Americans live, the vast majority of their American counterparts are unaware they exist. Mind you, it is not that Cape Verdeans do not contribute in a major way to their American communities. But the communities are quite tight knit. It took me seven years to discover the wonderful Cape Verdean community in my state. Of course, it takes two hands to clap. But my point is that if Cape Verde wants to be discovered, Cape Verdeans must initiate the outreach to Americans.
- Americans are already familiar with island vacations - in the Caribbean. Most of the Caribbean nations are heavily dependent on tourism and have been in the tourism business far longer than Cape Verde. They have mastered the art of promotion to Americans and the world for that matter. Every American - including those who do not travel - is familiar with the expression, "Yah, man!" Can you guess where it's from?
- There are many vacation destinations that are much closer, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. Heck, Americans don't even have to leave home - there are lots of vacation destinations within the USA itself!
- Cape Verde does not promote itself to US travel agents and small businesses that provide travel services to American vacationers. America is a huge place and it's hard to reach vacationers directly on a retail basis. Most of the business of promoting vacations to US consumers is conducted by travel agencies who arrange and offer the travel packages. This is true in Europe as well, but there are much fewer travel agencies in Europe than in America. So in Europe, you may find that a few large travel agencies, like Thomson travel in the UK, can have a massive influence on where travelers go. Not so in the US.
- In the US, Cape Verde appears to promote itself primarily to Cape Verdeans! It's a remarkable, puzzling thing. For example, if you travel from the US to Mexico for a vacation, you'll find the airplane full of Americans, not Mexicans ... yet if you travel from the US to Cape Verde, you'll find the airplane full of ... Cape Verdeans! There's nothing wrong with that at all - it fact, it usually makes for a more "interesting" voyage, if you know what I mean. LOL. But it underscores that Americans are missing in action.
- The airfare is quite expensive. It costs around US$800 for a return ticket to Cape Verde for a short vacation. And the only airline flying direct to Cape Verde from the continental US is TACV, the government owned airline. TACV also has a limited schedule. But relying on the national airline should not be an obstacle to competitive pricing. Just take a look at Caribbean Airways (which is also the parent company of Air Jamaica). It is owned by the government of Trinidad and Tobago and services many of the Caribbean islands. They even face stiff competition from large US and other international airlines. Yet, they make it work. TACV needs to step up to the plate in the US.
- The Cape Verde government needs to think of promoting the islands to US travelers as an investment in marketing the brand where the return will be realized when US travelers "buy" by visiting Cape Verde. The governments (Tourist Boards) other island destinations promote their countries directly to Americans using advertisements in US media. Here is an extremely well done example =>> Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. So where is the equivalent link from the Cape Verde ministry of tourism? If you know of it, leave me a comment!
- A large number of Americans take cruise ship vacations to visit their destinations. A cruise from the US to Cape Verde would be out of the question because the maritime distances from the US to Cape Verde do not permit it. However, most US cruisers fly to the destination from which the cruise ship departs! It is possible to create a package where the US traveler flies to a cruise ship port to catch a cruise that includes Cape Verde. The pitch would be a combination vacation in the city where the cruise originates plus the cruise itself that includes Cape Verde. Americans engage in these types of vacations today.
- Some think that Cape Verde is too far to attract US vacationers. That is far from true (pun intended). Cape Verde is no further than many destinations popular with American tourists. They just need a good reason to go there ... so it comes down to marketing Cape Verde.
- Cape Verde does not package itself well enough for American consumers. The best way to promote Cape Verde is to show how close Africa could be. Yes, I said Africa! Pushing "the island thing" as the primary marketing theme is unlikely to work because as I said earlier, the real Caribbean already claimed that throne with Americans. LOL. Cape Verde is located just off mainland Africa and Americans think of Africa as an exotic, desirable destination. They just don't think they can get there. Plus they perceive Africa as a relatively unstable place. But, I would be willing to bet that if Americans knew they could get to enchanted African islands in one of the most stable democracies in the world about as quickly as they could get to some parts of Western Europe, they would go in droves ... for a price competitive with traveling to Europe.
So those are what I think of as the reasons for the absence of Americans from the Cape Verde tourist scene. I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you think I missed a big reason or if you disagree with me. Leave a comment or a reaction below.