Once he set foot on the African continent, Charles Witlox not only fell in love with it, he wanted to share the real Africa with others. So he started his own travel agency 7 years ago – taking travellers off the beaten track, enriching them with Africas’ culture and people. Charles, known as Charlie, shares the journeys he and the travellers make in his own films (check ‘m out!). Be careful though, because once you have seen one of his films, you immediately want to pack your bags. We were curious about Charlie’s story and asked him a few questions about his not-so-cliché- yet sustainable agency.
What inspired you to start Charlie’s Travels?
About 15 years ago I went on safari with my parents in Tanzania. Not long after that I did an internship in Kenya. I fell in love with the country, with Africa, its culture, the people and their way of living. I wanted to live the way they did and not just be the dumb tourist. Kenya is so much more than a tourist circus. So I started my own travel agency – this way I could show people the other side of Kenya. My biggest motivation was to surprise people, showing them something different. I wanted to let people experience how beautiful the countries and the people are, and in contrast to what many people may think, not dangerous at all. I believe we can learn so much from these countries.
In what way is Charlie’s Travels different from a normal agency?
Many agencies on the ground, for example in The Netherlands, simply buy products from touroperators here in Africa. The touroperators here, run locally, often don’t exactly know what the traveller wants nowadays. But the travelagency has less influence on the products – because those are right here. Charlie’s Travels is on the ground in Africa, knows what the traveller wants and we have lots of travel experience. We live our product, our journeys – I myself still live here as well. We also have a different approach regarding social branding. I make small films myself which makes the brand really strong. Really being here on the ground makes it able for us to create and develop our own true brand.
In what way do you contribute to sustainable travel?
We want the tourist impact to be divided equally – fair amongst the population. Not just the economic impact but the ecologic impact as well. Our goal is to not deplete areas. Off the beaten track means far away from mass tourism. We also believe everyone deserves a fair income. Besides that, we compensate the CO2 emmissions. But we also find it very important what cultural impact the trip has had on your way of looking at the world. So in a way it has to educate both traveller and receiver.
What’s your mission with Charlie’s Travels?
Showing a different side of Africa. Being able to offer a wonderful trip, showing people a new way of travelling which will contribute to both traveller and locals.
What are you most proud of so far?
The fact that we’re all doing this together. I’m very proud of the team – everyone’s contributing, so many people who are helping us out. They’re all giving 100% for the people, countries, products and they’re all very much enganged with the traveller. It’s special to see what we’re sharing and that everyone’s driven and doing it full of passion. Being able to do this together, to create something wonderful, is amazing.