Reinventing tourist experiences in Botswana
Cynthia Mothelesi is blazing a trail and carving out a unique space with bespoke experiences in the tourism landscape of Botswana.
She is somewhat of an ‘evolving soul’, constantly seeking out ways to deepen her life experiences and provide an opportunity for others to do the same with her travel agency, Happy Soul Adventures.
Trained as a graphic designer, she spent three years lecturing before deciding to expand her horizons. She applied for a job at the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), where she served as Marketing Manager for seven years.
Her experiences at BTO were an opportunity for her to travel, sharpen her marketing and PR skills and forge valuable relationships.
She then realized that there was a gap in the tourism sector, which became the catalyst for her foray into business.
Cynthia Mothelesi uses her creativity and business savvyness to create bespoke experiences that allow her guests to engage with the soul, beauty and people of Botswana in an unimposing, intimate way.
What inspired you to go into tourism?
I saw so many opportunities and I realized that there were a lot of gaps in the industry that we were not tapping into.
While I was at BTO, I followed the AirBnB culture because I love hosting. Then in 2017, I decided to venture out on my own because I realized that I could grow. It could be enough for myself and I could do more with the experience and passion that I have.
How did you come up with the idea for Happy Soul Adventures?
I began by focusing on my Airbnb listing, and every week I would have guests from all over the world coming to stay with me. Most times, I would host them at my house, but I didn’t just want to give them accommodation.
I wanted to tell them my Botswana story, especially in terms of our people. Not wanting them to just see Botswana as wildlife and safaris, but rather for them to come away knowing that we were more than what the Western media depicts us to be.
That experience taught me a lot and I decided that I would focus 100% on Happy Soul Adventures.
What kinds of tours / experiences do you offer?
Sometimes I take my guests on a city tour. It would include going to nightclubs like Zoom, or to a local pub, George’s, for karaoke night. We may go to Kilimanjaro, which has a place that sells really amazing local food.
I also have clients who come to learn how to milk a goat or bake bread the traditional way. Guests can learn how to do pottery or make a tapestry. It really goes to show that we have a beautiful story to share and that there is value that can be found in it.
What do you keep in mind when you design your tours?
I really want my guests to immerse themselves in our stories. I feel like we Africans can do more to celebrate who we are as people. We tend to shun our own culture and I want to rather celebrate what makes us unique.
Happy Soul Adventures also engages with communities. I don’t want to run a company that is only about me making a profit. So it is more of a collaborative effort.
With collaboration, we are able to build and grow more. Happy Soul Adventures is about connecting people.
What is the most important thing that you want your guests to take away from your tours?
I want my guests to be able to experience this. I realized that people are looking for something new for the soul. People love simple, soulful and enriching experiences and I am happy that the responses have been great.
What does Botswana have to offer the world that is unique?
I realized that what we at home think is ‘backward’ or ‘unsophisticated’ is actually something that is unique about us. The fact that we take things slow, and keep things organic is something that people actually love about Botswana.
Guests who visit Mogobane village for example, really love the peace and quiet because it isn’t something that they get to experience often. They really get time to connect with themselves.
So, the most unique selling point about Botswana is that we are very peaceful, quiet and laid-back. It gives people the opportunity to reconnect with their soul and really get to love themselves even more.
Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.