Friday, May 27, 2011

What Americans think about vacationing in Cape Verde

I conducted an online survey of US residents to determine their attitudes about vacationing, and in particular, about Cape Verde as a potential vacation destination.

I looked at attitudes in the following areas:
  1. Where do American's go on vacation?
  2. Knowledge and Awareness of Cape Verde
  3. Perceptions about Travel Time
  4. Perceptions about Cost of Travel
  5. Impact of Available Vacation Activities
  6. Influencing Factors
The survey is still ongoing and I will collect at least 100 responses before I finalize the survey. In the meantime, I thought I would report on the results that I obtained so far.

You'll find the intriguing results and conclusions by clicking on "Read more" below.

A Study in Americans' Attitudes about Tourism


Among tourists who vacation in Cape Verde, Americans are not a representative group. Cape Verde's biggest source market for tourists is Europe. Americans comprise less than 5% of tourists visiting Cape Verde. Even so, the majority is Americans of Cape Verdean descent who may have other reasons to visit. Changing the attitude of Americans about Cape Verde as a vacation destination represents an incredible opportunity for Cape Verde to boost its already rapidly growing tourism sector.

I conducted a 10-question survey in May 2011 to better understand why Americans do not vacation in Cape Verde in meaningful numbers and to determine what factors might influence them to change. While the survey is not completely scientific and the sample size is small, it certainly sheds some light on a several intriguing possibilities for capturing a bigger share of American tourists.

The survey was conducted online. Thirty (30) people took the survey. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the respondents were in the age group 40-64. Fifteen percent (15%) were under age 40, and ten percent (10%) were retired (age 65 or older). This age distribution is focused on Americans in their peak earnings years - perhaps one of the demographic sweet spots for tourism.

1. Where Do Americans Vacation?

Among the 30 respondents, 25 (or 83%) had vacationed in the Caribbean, 25 (or 83%) had vacationed in Europe and 19 (or 63%) had vacationed in Mexico. These are the top 3 traditional vacation destinations for Americans. Only 6 (or 20%) had visited Africa, the Middle East or Asia. Other destinations included South America and Australia. None had visited Cape Verde as intended by the survey.

2. Knowledge of Cape Verde

Even though none of the survey respondents had vacationed in Cape Verde, seventy percent (70%) had heard of Cape Verde through word-of-mouth (30%), Cape Verdean culture (20%), a TV/magazine/news paper article (10%), or familiarity with the Cape Verdean community (10%), But not one had heard of Cape Verde through travel agencies, and not one had discovered Cape Verde online.

On the surface, this result suggests that Cape Verde can increase awareness as a travel destination by engaging more effectively with American travel agencies and via online efforts. An example of online advertizing by an island destination is the Bahamas. Many Americans (and maybe even Europeans) are familiar with the slogan, "It's Better in the Bahamas." This is the result of concerted marketing efforts by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Here is an example of an online production by the Bahamas Government on YouTube that incorporates the tourists themselves: It's Better in the Bahamas!.

3. Perceptions about Travel Time

Almost half (47%) of the respondents believed that Cape Verde was about the same distance or closer than Europe from their location. However, almost half (47%) believed it was slightly further or much further than Europe. The fact is that Cape Verde is a 6 1/2 hour flight from Boston. This is further than some parts of Europe but closer than other parts. This lack of clarity about how far Cape Verde is from the US may hurt chances of attracting Americans. But make no mistake about it, Americans travel to vacation destinations that are much farther than Cape Verde. For example, in this survey, twenty five percent (25%) of the respondents had vacationed in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, all of which are decidedly further.

4. Perceptions about Cost

When informed that Cape Verde is about the same distance as Europe, about seventy three (73%) expect to pay about the same or less than a European vacation package and thirty seven percent (37%) say they would be equally likely or more likely to vacation in Cape Verde than in either Europe or the Caribbean. In other words, Americans vacation so often in Europe and the Caribbean they are open to another vacation destination like Cape Verde provided the price is comparable to a European vacation package. This is another apparent indication that there could be a significant opportunity for Cape Verde to capitalize on the US as a source market for its tourists.

5. Impact of Vacation Activities

Besides beautiful beaches, Cape Verde offers a range of activities in which tourists can engage. This includes: hiking; boating; sports fishing; diving; wind and wave surfing; triathlons and ultra marathons; and eco-tourism activities. When presented with this suite of potential activities, seventy three (73%) of survey respondents said that they would be equally or more likely to vacation in Cape Verde than in Europe or the Caribbean! The conclusion is that a for a package price that is about the same as a European vacation, Americans would be very likely to venture to Cape Verde if these types of vacation activities were presented to them. It is clear that while sun-and-sand vacations appeal to Americans, they may have already been over-saturated with such possibilities in the Caribbean, Mexico and the US itself (Florida, South East and West Coast destinations).

6. Ranking of Influencing Factors

When asked to rank the factors which would influence them to definitely vacation in Cape Verde, a very interesting picture begins to take shape. The factors ranked were: the location of Cape Verde in Africa, travel time, cost, choice of hotels and resorts, choice of activities, and personal safety.

The most important factor that would influence the survey respondents to choose Cape Verde as a vacation destination is their personal safety. This was chosen by seventy six percent (76%) among the top two factors that would influence them. Next was total cost of the vacation package chosen by sixty three percent (63%) of the respondents among the top two factors. Travel time was the third most important factor with fifty four percent (54%) ranking it among the top two factors. The choice of hotels and the vacation activities available were important factors but less so. Finally, the fact that Cape Verde is an African state was the least important factor, yet for 23% of the respondents, this factor was in their top four influences.


The results of this survey provide some potential indicators for what the Cape Verdean government could do to influence a much greater penetration of the market for US tourists.

First, more should be done to increase awareness of Cape Verde and what it has to offer as a vacation destination. For example, a tourism video that is professionally done and posted online can be extremely effective. But this would have to be complementary to other advertising of Cape Verde as a tourism market. The slogan, "It's better in the Bahamas," was advertised in the US television markets for many years. Advertising works.

The US travel agency industry must be courted by Cape Verde. A travel package (airfare plus hotel) that is competitive with a European Vacation might be quite attractive to Americans. A range of hotel and resort choices as well as a choice of pre-arranged activities would also be an effective part of what travel agents should have at their disposal for clients. The exotic locale is also a consideration.

Perceptions of personal safety are critical. The fact that Cape Verde is among the safest destinations in Africa should be emphasized.


Anonymous said...

As an American who lived in Cape Verde from 2005-2009, I rarely ever met another American who was in Cape Verde solely for the purpose of tourism. As you article suggests this could be seen as an opportunity. Here are the reasons I would suggest this will not work.

1. Cost of Marketing: For Cape Verde to penetrate the American market of mass tourism or even alternative or cultural tourism the Cape Verdean government would need to spend much more money than they have or are willing to spend.

2. Flights, While flight time is only 6 and 1/2 hours from Boston what about if you live in California, or Washington D.C, or any other major city? This increases time and costs. Secondly once you arrive in Praia, you must fly to other islands. This again adds time. Yes S. Vicente has an international airport but they are only serving Europe. The real issue is that there is only one dysfunctional airline that travels from the States to Cape Verde non stop. TACV which is not equipped to deal with increased tourism from the States.

3. Customer Service: Cape Verde has incredibly friendly people and horrible customer service. If you have ever been to the Bahama's or the Caribbean you will know that you are treated very well. People smile and are happy to help you in restaurants, bars, and hotels. Cape Verde is great but it is not so great that they can get away with arrogant service (mostly European inspired).

It is my contention that Cape Verde should forget about the American tourist. They have spent their marketing budget on European and it has worked. Why take the very small amount of money the country has to use on marketing and try to get traction in the most expensive advertising environment on earth.

Cape Verde has a lot going for it. I love the country beyond belief. I am only concerned with the focus on tourism as the sole means to economic prosperity. The country cannot rely on tourism because as we have witnessed the global economy effects even isolated Cape Verde.

Lastly the environment of Cape Verde is not prepared for an huge influx of visitors. While I hope Cape Verde continues its positive development the country must truly do some create a truly sustainable model for tourism expansion. If we sell all the land to make resorts, the culture and uniqueness of the country is gone. Then Americans really won't travel to Cape Verde because they can get that any island experience closer to home and cheaper.

Angelo said...

You make some excellent points. Yet, you are describing a catch-22 or chicken-and-egg type situations.

For example, it's not the government that would advertise but private US Travel agencies. The CV government didn't advertise in the UK, it is Thompson Travel that did. Why? Because Thompson saw a great product (Cape Verde sun & sand in Sal and Boa Vista), packaged up that product, and added it to their suite of vacation offers because they knew that the British vacationers would go there for the right price. Once it was discovered, the word was spread and now the rest is history.

Another example of the catch-22 is TACV. That is Cape Verde's national airline. They only have TWO aircraft to do all their international trips. But it's not TACV that brings the throngs of European tourists. It's the European airlines and charters! TACV is too small. Same thing would happen here in the US once the destination is discovered and there is demand. It's no different than what happened in the Caribbean as well. Once there is a huge demand for a destination, many airlines jump in if they see that they can profitably serve that market.

Customer service? You're absolutely right. Cape Verdeans have not been taught the customer centric models of service that the service industries in the Caribbean and Mexico have learned over decades. For Cape Verde, it's new. But they can learn. They've even opened a new Hotel and Tourism school.

I think that CV has a lot of room for additional tourism. In terms of relative size, there is room to triple the tourists visits (to about 1.5 million) without adverse effects from tourism. This won't require selling all the land. Remember, there are 9 islands. Boa Vista and Sal alone can support 1 million tourists (i.e. double the current visits) without any impact to their natural beauty. And the other islands could absorb the rest. The problem from a development standpoint is that less than 20% of the tourists travel to the other islands, so the positive economic effect hardly reaches them.

At the same time, it is necessary to achieve a better balance in the CV economy to effectively raise the standard of living of the CV society. Tourism alone cannot do it. The government is well aware of this and is taking active steps to try to strike a better balance. For a more in depth discussion of the economic and investment opportunities in CV, visit my other blog, "Invest in Cape Verde" at

Anonymous said...

I found this article to be very informative. I think Africa in general, needs to have more airlines that service the US. People shouldn't have to go through europe, to get to africa. Senegal, for example, could have airlines that made stops in CV.

I also would welcome more info on retiring in CV, and Africa in general. I think africa offers a great climate, hospitable people, lots of activities, beaches, and surpasses other continents in so many areas.

Anonymous said...

i am the individual that published the message on 3/10/13, concerning cv. i would welcome anyone with info on areas i spoke on, to contact me presonally, because i really want to travel to cv, and possibly retire their, or in one of the other pure countrties of africa. this purity judt doesn't exist on any other continent. i have traveled to 6 continents. my name is rathael fambro. i can be contacted at

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