Tomorrow's Travel Leaders: 30 Under 30: Thomas Armitt
In collaboration with TTG Digital, the ITT and Guoman Hotels, C&M Travel Recruitment set out to discover the 30 most inspiring and dynamic people in the travel industry aged 30 years and younger - the 30 Under 30.
Here we profile Thomas Armitt, founder of West Africa Discovery.
Q: Why did you want to get involved in the travel industry?
A: "I'm taking it from a different point of view than most people who are in the 30 Under 30; I am taking it more as the realisation that tourism can be used as a tool to provide more opportunities to communities in developing countries. To generate a sustainable income from the industry and, from all that, create alternative livelihoods around entrepreneurship possibilities surrounding tourism in that destination.
"I am the only person who has a web portal like West Africa Discovery at the moment. A lot of people are concentrating on ethical tourism and the global, but less focused, side. I am really focused on the region of West Africa because I feel that it is the last frontier for travel."
Q: Where do you hope to take the company?
A: "By November 2013 at the World Travel Market, we are re-launching the website to concentrate on a more sustainable business model. Up until now it has been more of a hobby - I was just working on it in my spare time and it was more of a passion than a business. But I have come to the conclusion that I want to continue this full time, so I am going to have to make it a sustainable business and then create something that we think will generate enough income to be able to continue working on this full time."
Q: How did it feel to be in the Tomorrow's Travel Leaders final 30?
A: "I was a bit dubious at first because I didn't really realise what it was all about. I had literally been told about it and then I wrote a ten-minute blurb to nominate myself and didn't think anything else of it. I am the kind of person who when they see a marketing opportunity, will take it.
"Suddenly I got an email saying that I was chosen. It's great. I have been working on this project for three years and I have put a lot of effort into it and it is good to be recognised for some of the efforts that I have put in."
Q: Has the recognition had any impact on your business or career?
A: "Yes. For example, I have been to a couple of networking events and met a lot of people who have been genuinely interested in what I am currently doing. Having my face and name in the TTG was great and has also helped with my reputation within the travel industry.
"It is not only for my career, but also for what I am working towards which is creating more awareness for the travel possibilities in West Africa - that was my main aim from the beginning. In terms of personal recognition, that is just a bonus.
"I am doing a Masters in responsible tourism management and my tutors were over the moon that I was in the TTG magazine considering that I am the only person concentrating on responsible tourism, whereas the others are mainstream corporate organisations."
Q: What advice do you have for other young people looking to make their mark in the travel industry?
A: "There is a really inspiring quote that I like from a guy called William James who was a psychologist from the US and he said, ‘Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.'
"I think that it is to do with plugging away bit by bit, but keep your dreams in mind and you will achieve them if you keep on working towards them."