Sherwin Banda

Sherwin Banda, President, African Travel Inc.
Sherwin Banda has spent more than 20 years in the international hospitality industry and is renowned for his highly personalized approach to customer care, empowering managerial style, and passionate devotion to all things Africa. Born and raised in Cape Town, Banda’s impressive resume includes various positions in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and United States. A native from South Africa, Sherwin’s passion and love for his birth continent his contagious. African Travel, Inc. offers guests authentic immersive experiences in Africa while supporting local communities and wildlife conservation.

MailPound: Sherwin, can you share a little about your professional background?

Sherwin: I have spent the last 18 years working in international hospitality all over the world. I started managing hotels first in South Africa (where I am from), then in the United Kingdom, Los Angeles, and back in South Africa. While working as the General Manager of the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town I was recruited to the role of president of African Travel, Inc., and I headed back to Los Angeles once again! I am so thrilled that for the last three years I have been able to work in a role that keeps me connected to my roots and lets me showcase the continent that I love.

MailPound: What inspired you to choose the travel industry?

Sherwin: Actually travel found me, rather than the other way around. My love for the industry started at a very young age, when I traveled with my family by rail all over South Africa. I knew then that I was going to work in travel in one way or another. I started in hotels and ended up as the president of an African tour operator. I am living the dream – my job affords me opportunity to travel around the world and promote Africa.

MailPound: What trends in the travel industry do you foresee in the near future? What about the long term?

Sherwin: According to various studies, travelers are searching for self, authenticity and meaning more and more. They want to be immersed and transformed by their travel experiences, not just tick off a list of “must-sees.” Along these lines, they say that they will spend more for an experience that is customized just for them. That is why at African Travel, Inc. we aim to strive to help travelers fulfill their travel dreams and discover how life-changing African can be in the best way possible.

MailPound: What are the most difficult decisions that you must make?

Sherwin: It’s hard to not promote some destinations in Africa. Many places are fascinating and interesting, but not all match the average US traveler’s needs and expectations. Our heart is in Africa and I think everyone should experience it, but it’s a fact that some places will not get business from our customers. Sometimes that’s hard to swallow as a company that’s so invested in elevating the people of Africa.

MailPound: What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?

Sherwin: Becoming the president of ATI makes me profoundly proud because I honor legacy of my parents and ancestors in sharing the beauty and diversity of a continent that is misunderstood. Also, the ability to take care of my family doing something that I truly love and am passionate about is the most rewarding experience of my life – the ability to share Africa with the travelers of the world is a blessing, and amounts to true joy. Very few can say they found true meaning in their work. I found mine!

MailPound: In the classic saying, “I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger,” what are some things that you wish you had known ahead of time?

Sherwin: I wish that I had known at 20 years old that the future world would be a more inclusive, tolerant place where being black, gay and Jewish didn’t matter. I would not have struggled to fit in so much and tried so hard to be perceived as “normal.” I wish I had had the self-awareness at age 20 that I have now. But, that would make the reward less sweet. I know now that the struggle was part of the journey.

MailPound: Earlier this summer you launched African Travel University, inviting agents to “Join the African Travel Herd”. What can the agents expect from the new eLearning program?

Sherwin: This innovative eLearning initiative allows travel agents to gain in-depth knowledge of African Travel, Inc.’s diverse range of itineraries, marketing incentives and special offers, enabling them to maximize their product expertise and unlock greater earning potential. With the successful completion of African Travel University, agents become certified African Travel Specialists.

MailPound: If someone has not yet experienced Africa, what are some key insights you would like them to be aware of?

Sherwin: Many people still perceive Africa as one country, but it’s a huge, diverse continent of 56 nations, thousands of cultures, and many hundreds of different types of experiences. Of course there are incomparable wildlife experiences to be had, but there is also incredible cuisine to try, chic cities to explore, mountains to climb, oceans to scuba dive in, and exotic islands to discover. Africa is a place that allows guests to be totally immersed and forever changed.

MailPound: African Travel, Inc. is strongly tied to TreadRight and WCS. Can you please share a little about these foundations?

Sherwin: Our parent company, TTC, operates the not-for-profit TreadRight Foundation, which supports sustainability projects all over the world. One of TreadRight’s partners, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), works to ensure the planet’s most at-risk wildlife populations are protected. Through our work with the WCS Big Cat Fund, we are helping protect iconic cat species in African such as lions and cheetahs from habitat destruction and poaching. As apex predators, big cats play an instrumental role in the wild: they not only regulate the food chain, but also serve as a key indicator of ecosystem health. This is important work because we want to ensure the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come.

MailPound: What are some fun facts about yourself?

Sherwin: I love being goofy with my 6 year old son, singing in Hebrew, and cooking exotic dishes such as bobotie, a South African classic. I have a collection of 50 bow ties. I wear more African dress outside of Africa than in Africa! Within next five years my family and I hope to visit every state in the USA.