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Indaba 2011 preview: Phantom Forest Eco Reserve

Indaba 2011 preview: Phantom Forest Eco Reserve

The Phantom Forest Eco Reserve, on the southern Cape coast of South Africa, lies at the heart of the magnificent Garden Route. It possesses a very special magic, with endless views, shared only with an abundance of wildlife. BTN speaks to Managing Director, Kit Stewart, about why it was voted “Africa’s Leading Green Hotel” at the World Travel Awards.

BTN: What does it mean to be named “Africa’s Leading Green Hotel” at the World Travel Awards?
KS: This is a serious accolade to what we have tried to achieve over the last 10 years and is a great honour to receive.

BTN: What commercial benefits if any has this title (Africa’s Leading Green Hotel) brought to the property?
KS: The World Travel Awards are voted by the travel trade at arms-length and are therefore very prestigious, creating awareness of Phantom Forest.

BTN: Can you tell me about some of your green initiatives?
KS: We are responsible as members of a Trust in preserving and maintaining a piece of Knysna’s green heritage, in excess of 137 hectares bordering the Knysna River. This private Nature Reserve comprises three biospheres, namely Cape Coastal Fynbos, Estuarine wetland and Afromontane Forest. Over 160 bird species have been sighted and the rare Nerina Trogon is breeding here.

BTN: How have your occupancy levels been for 2011 and how are forward bookings for the rest of the year?
KS: This is a challenging time for all in the tourism industry, with a world recession and strong Rand, so perceived value for money is an essential ingredient. Forward booking trends have changed to shorter lead times and clients are definitely “shopping” for good deals.

(Jenny Stricker-Greeff, Marketing Manager, The Phantom Forest Eco-reserve, South Africa David Falcon, Senior Vice President, World Travel Awards 2010 when Phantom Forest Eco Reserve picked up “Africa’s Leading Green Hotel”)

BTN: What differentiates the Phantom Forest from its competitors?
KS: Phantom Forest occupies a unique location, offers unique ‘tree-suite’ accommodation and ‘touches the earth lightly’, filling the senses and restoring the spirit.

BTN: What new developments can we expect to see at the property in coming months?
KS: We have developed some new walking trails which will be opened shortly, allowing guests to experience more of nature’s wonders.

BTN: What are the main challenges you are currently facing and how are you tackling these?
KS: As social networking has become a world phenomena we need to rise to the challenges of these mediums and create the instant, more casual communication that potential and returning guests may require.

BTN: Which new markets are you looking to tap into and how will you do this?
KT: Becoming more interactive on the internet to create more awareness and information of Phantom Forest, as more and more companies and individuals are solely utilising the net to find and plan their destinations.

BTN: What can visitors experience in Knysna that they won’t find elsewhere?
KT: The magnificence of the Knysna Estuary, with the stunning Knysna Heads standing guard over this amazing liquid landscape; the Afromontane forests with their elusive elephants, the timeless procession of the Southern Right Whales coming to give birth to the next generation of gentle giants. In short a profusion of nature’s bounty to be enjoyed and preserved for all.

BTN: How are visitor figures for Knysna and what are your predictions for travel to the destination over the next few years?
I believe in any difficult times for tourism that marketing is essential and that we can never take for granted that Knysna is an iconic destination in South Africa.