Breaking Travel News

South Africa looks to bright tourism future

Following the undisputed success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, tourism leaders in South Africa have good reason to be optimistic about the country’s future as a leading destination for visitors from all over the world.

Here Breaking Travel News speaks to some of South Africa’s tourism heads to find how they plan to stay ahead of global competition and what lies ahead for this world-class, multi-award winning destination.

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister of tourism for South Africa, tells BTN about some of the biggest trends which are impacting on South Africa.

In consultation with the National Department of Tourism (NDT) and South African Tourism  (SAT), he revealed: “South Africa offers unsurpassed infrastructure in big, friendly cities with amazing nightlife, shopping and dining.

“South Africa has become one of the most desired holiday destinations in the world today and we are working hard to ensure it maintains that status year after year.”

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa minister of tourism, argues the country is one of the most desired holiday destinations in the world

van Schalkwyk explains the impact of shifting global travel patterns: “The shift in the global economy and the rise of emerging markets has certainly had an impact on South African tourism.

“Our traditional feeder markets – which include the UK, Germany, USA, France, Netherlands and Italy - are holding steady in difficult global conditions, while India, China, Brazil and African markets have emerged as markets with great tourism potential for South Africa.”

Sports tourism – now considered the fastest growing sector of the global travel market – is also playing a role in South Africa.

Minister van Schalkwyk revealed: “If we couple our experience in big event hosting and our infrastructure and capability with a solid strategy and strong collaboration between the local sports and tourism industries, which the inaugural SETE  seeks to achieve, then there’s no reason South Africa can’t become a major player in global sports tourism.”

With this infrastructure in place, South Africa is also focusing on diffusing its message around the world, particularly through online mediums.

With many e-marketing initiatives already underway, Minister van Schalkwyk added: “With the role of e-marketing assuming greater significance, we are increasing our capacity in this area to continue to ensure South Africa is top of mind globally and easily accessible.

“On the sales side, we have joint agreements with the three biggest travel platforms – Expedia, TripAdvisor and”

Unity in South African Tourism

In response to an overall challenging year, SAT - which is currently recruiting for a new chief executive - is determined the country should continue to respond to customer demand and react to new travel trends, ensuring that it is an accessible destination for anyone who should wish to visit.

The country is planning to target Chinese travellers in their native Mandarin, while Brazilian guests are to be courted in Portuguese and German travellers wooed in German.

Jabu Mabuza, chairperson, South African Tourism Board, recently called on the industry to come together and promote South Africa as a value for money destination.

He said: “In these challenging times, it is now even more important for us as the tourism sector to work even harder as a cohesive, co-ordinated collective to analyse and react to tourism trends and aggressively promote our destination locally and internationally as a value-for-money destination, given tourism’s significant contribution to our country’s economy and sustainable job creation.”

In 2010 South Africa Tourism was recognised as Africa’s Leading Tourist Board for the fourth consecutive year at the World Travel Awards.

South Africa Tourism chairperson, Jabu Mabuza, has led the organisation to recent successes

But many strengths are already evident.

Johannesburg personifies urban chic and sophistication, while Cape Town is a city of inspiration, hope and freedom with a rich cosmopolitan culture set against the backdrop of unprecedented natural beauty. Meanwhile Durban is diverse; a leading port city that exemplifies warmth and tradition.

Durban.Mobi, Johannesburg.City.Mobi and CapeTown.Mobi are already on line, offering up to the minute information on what to do and eat, where to stay, the weather and everything in between.

Closer cooperation is also paying dividend.

Cape Town Tourism, Johannesburg Tourism Company and Durban Tourism recently met during Tourism Indaba 2011 to initiate a joint city marketing agreement, designed to allow the tourism hubs to collaborate on maximizing development and marketing.

New Booking Portal for Johannesburg

Johannesburg Tourism Company - previously named as Africa’s Leading City Tourist Board - continues to innovate and has been nominated as the World’s Leading Tourist Board at this year’s prestigious WTA Grand Final.

Johannesburg has taken its place as a global hub

Hot on the heels of an official visit to New York, intended to rekindle the strategic partnership between New York and Joburg - Lindiwe Kwele, chief executive, Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC), explained to BTN the latest priorities for the JTC: “It is JTC’s mission to attract visitors to our city, encourage them to stay longer, spend more, improve seasonality patterns and the spread of visitors across the City. 

“JTC remains focused on positioning Johannesburg not only as the continent’s leading business hub, but also as an exciting, vibrant year-round destination for signature events, lifestyle, the arts, culture, fashion, sports – and of course, mega-events.”

Lindiwe went on to reveal e-marketing is now a priority for JTC, with a new booking portal set to launch next month.

She explains: “In September 2011 JTC will be launching a booking portal on our website

JTC chief executive Lindiwe Kwele, is confident the city can maintain its current run of success

Kwele concluded: “We are very excited about the launch of this additional marketing channel, as it provides a powerful touch-point to connect consumers globally with the variety of products, leisure options and activities available in Joburg.”

Cape Town Launches New Global Campaign

Mariette du Toit-Hembold, chief executive, Cape Town Tourism , believes there is still untapped potential in Cape Town.

Talking to Breaking Travel news she explains: “Cape Town probably does not induce or receive a quantum of visits, anywhere near its potential.”

In order to tap into this potential, Cape Town is rolling out its brand new campaign over the next few months, designed to maximise visitor spend and leverage the events calendar better.

Mariette du Toit-Hembold is spearheading the launch of Cape Town’s global campaign

Cape Town Tourism, with a number of partners, has developed a comprehensive plan which fuses all the elements of the visitor industry (business, conventions, meetings & events, students & tourism with a single destination brand position).

The plan is focused solely on achieving economic growth and creating jobs, and will be launched locally in October and internationally in November.

According to Joey Pather, chief operating officer, Cape Town International Convention Centre, all the necessary facilities are in place in Cape Town to make the destination a world class sporting location.

He revealed: “South Africa is a long haul sporting destination and because we successfully hosted the World Cup, is at the top of everyone’s mind.

“We have the infrastructure, the services, the track record and the venues to host international sporting events.”

Joey Pather believes Cape Town could be a world class sporting location

Meanwhile the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange (SETE) has just concluded its inaugural event in Cape Town International Conventional Centre on a high note.

Carol Weaving, managing director of SETE organiser Thebe Exhibitions and Projects, commented: “This inaugural SETE showcased South Africa as a capable and enthusiastic host of international sports events that will attract large numbers of tourists to the country over the long term.”

She added: “International speakers from all corners of the globe attended the SETE conference to share their knowledge of the sports tourism industry and assist us in planning the way forward for sustaining South Africa’s legacy as a world-class sports event host.”

In recent years the integration of spectator and participation sport tourism has seen the sector become the fastest growing in the industry and this ‘rising giant’ is now worth in excess of $600 billion annually, or an astonishing 14 per cent of overall travel & tourism receipts.

South Africa has long been associated with rugby, but in a move to diversify its tourism offering even further, the country has set itself apart as a leading sporting destination.

The FIFA World Cup, which was considered to be the ‘most successful world cup ever’ put South Africa in the spotlight in 2010 and contributed to the eight million tourist arrivals and an unprecedented 15.1 per cent growth in tourist numbers compared to the previous year.

Despite announcing in May that it would not bid for the 2020 Olympics, saying it had more pressing priorities, it has since revived a bid, and filed the preliminary paperwork.

Durban is considered the most likely South African bid city, although Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth have not been ruled out.

Durban is seen as a major centre for tourism

Durban, South Africa’s second largest city, has seen a large increase in tourism arrivals in recent years, becoming one of South Africa’s most visited tourist destinations, with its warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches.

Home to Africa’s busiest harbour, Durban - which was named Africa’s Leading Destination at this year’s World Travel Awards, boasts a scenic location around Natal Bay. The Golden Mile features a host of entertainment, including seafood restaurants, nightspots, high-rise accommodation and modern shopping centres.

Durban has become a tourism hotsport featuring extensive beaches

The destination will soon receive a further boost as new airlift takes off between London Gatwick and King Shaka International Airport in Durban.

The new London-Durban route between is expected to commence next year and will be operated by South African carrier, Comair, but the details have yet to be established.
Comair joint CEO Gidon Novick said: “There is now a huge amount of work ahead of us to get all the regulatory approvals to start flights to London”.

“This includes getting permission from British Airways to possibly use their brand in operations to Gatwick. There are other options, like using our low-cost brand, but British Airways would be our first choice on that route,”

There are currently no direct non-stop flights between London and Durban – BA, SAA and Virgin serve routes from London Heathrow to both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Durban’s King Shaka International Airport opened in before the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Emirates is one of the few carriers offering international services from the airport, with a daily service using A330 aircraft.

Comair already operates 23 daily flights into King Shaka Airport, making it the biggest user of the airport and the largest local private airline. The agreement follows strong efforts by KwaZulu-Natal government to boost tourism and trade to the region by improving airlift.

Didi Moyle and INDABA team are presented Africa’s Leading Travel Exhibition award by Graham Cooke, President, World Travel Awards

INDABA was named Africa’s Leading Travel Exhibition at the World Travel Awards

Next year, Durban Exhibition Centre will play host to INDABA, one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar, spanning 27,000 square metres. The exhibition, which showcases the widest variety of Southern Africa’s best tourism products and attracts 13, 000 visitors and media from across the world, was named Africa’s Leading Travel Exhibition for three years running at the World Travel Awards.


Extreme 19th at Legend draws worldwide attention

The Legend Lodges Group , established in 1999, has captivated the hearts of travellers worldwide – with a portfolio that ranges from safari lodges, to coastal escapes and urban hotels that encompass South Africa’s culture, nature and breath-taking scenery.

Within the portfolio, the inspirational Legend Golf & Safari Resort is one of Africa’s most talked about leisure venues, described as a ‘dream’ golf course. It was recently named Africa’s Leading Golf Resort and Africa’s Leading Sports Resort by the World Travel Awards.

The awe-inspiring 18-hole Signature Course was designed by 18 different golfing legends, including Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, K.J. Choi, Retief Goosen, Justin Rose, Trevor Immelman and Vijay Singh.

The course’s “Xtreme 19th” hole is the longest par 3 in the world - accessible only by helicopter, with the tee set 400m up on the majestic Hanglip Mountain and played to a green the shape of Africa some 400m below.

The Xtreme 19th hole at Legend Golf & Safari Resort is accessible only by helicopter

A Legend Golf & Safari Resort ‘facebook fan’ recently posted: “The Legend is without a doubt, the MOST Magical golf resort on the planet”

In recent months, the group has seen a shift in travellers as visitors from new and emerging markets are returning to Legend resorts.

According to Pete Richardson, head of public relations, Legend Lodges, Hotels & Resorts, explains: “Numbers from some countries have declined but others have taken their place. Ten years ago we would never have seen Iranians and Indians but today they are returning time after time.

“Perhaps less Irish and Italians come but they will be back when their economies pick up and they once again yearn for the unique bush experience.”

Pete believes the World Cup has brought positive longer term benefits to the destination.

He explains: “I think the success of the World Cup had a more positive long term, psychological effect than the statistics and studies would show.

“People in countries that previously believed the little they saw in the media about South Africa now know the truth - that this is a wonderfully warm and open country.

“A place with both modern five-star accommodation and infrastructure, and with the spirit of Africa we all want to enjoy.”

Retrief Goosen taking a shot on the Xtreme 19

Legend Lodges plan to tap into social media having recently created a specialist department.

Pete explains: “Our aim is to drive awareness and ease the booking process for tour operators, conference and event organisers and independent travellers alike.

“We are fully aware of the trends across the travelling world to make use of the internet, mobile devices and other technological advancements to ease travel and access all the information possible to make buying decisions and we aim to capitalise on this as best we can.”

Reflecting on what might lie ahead for Legend Lodges, Pete revealed: “The market is changing. But tour operators we worked with 15 years ago are still sending clients to us.
“New operators have such a wide variety of choice across the globe and we know we have to compete in an extremely competitive market place.”

As the group continues to innovate, the Legend Golf & Safari Resort has once again been nominated by the World Travel Awards in 2011 in the categories of Africa’s Leading Golf Resort, Africa’s Leading Sports Resort, Africa’s Leading Tourism Development Project and South Africa’s Leading Golf Resort.

Saxon Boutique Hotel leads the way with virtual website

The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa, nestled in the exclusive Sandhurst suburb of Sandton, is the very setting where former President, Nelson Mandela, edited his autobiography – ‘Long Walk to Freedom’.

Former guests have posted comments on Tripadvisor such as ‘The best’, ‘one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed at’ and ‘unbelievably amazing.’

It is hardly surprising that the property was named World’s Leading Boutique Hotel at the World Travel Awards in 2010.

George Cohen, managing director, Saxon Boutique Hotels, Villas & Spa, explained to BTN the property has bucked typical June bookings this year:

“June and July 2011 have been exceptional months for the Saxon, with this positive trend growing into August.”

He added: “Apart from our traditional UK & US business markets, we are targeting the rest of Africa, South America and the Middle East.”

Caption: Saxon Boutique Hotel
The Saxon Boutique Hotels, Villas & Spa - known for luxury, comfort and supreme service

In a recent innovation, the group has unveiled, enabling visitors to look around the property before they travel using high definition virtual tours.

Mantis is synonymous with quality, excellence and distinction

Mantis Group, a mini empire of 40 game reserves and luxury boutique hotels around the world, was founded by Adrian Gardiner in 1990 – when he famously created the Shamwari Game Reserve from degraded farmland in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

The South African properties within the Mantis portfolio have weathered a tough year, as the economic crisis continues, fuel prices continue to climb and unemployment rises.

Paul Gardiner, son of Adrian, and group marketing director at Mantis - itself named South Africa’s Leading Game Reserve Brand, and Africa’s Leading Boutique Hotel Brand at the World Travel Awards - explains: “It has been a tough couple of years for South Africa, we have had it extremely difficult, post the World Cup – we are still waiting for that wave of business that just has not yet arrived.

“The factors that have caused this include: the recession which is seemingly going to be a double dipper, the strength of the rand to the euro, pound and dollar, the cost of flights to South Africa and the post-World Cup hangover – add all of this together and you can very quickly understand that the going is tough,” added Gardiner.

Caption Mantis – Shamwari, where it all began

However, it is not all doom and gloom.

Looking to the future, Gardiner commented: “I am sure though that things will begin to improve in the forthcoming summer, we are beginning to see our forward bookings improve and the country has had some very positive PR in the past couple of months.

“The airlines along with the properties in SA are pushing out some very favourable packages to the public, so I am sure we will see things improving.

“I think that energy from the private and public sector needs to be poured into the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) – this is where a lot of the wealth lies today.

“During these difficult times we’ve seen incredible support from our own citizens in SA towards many of our properties.”

Fairmont Zimbali makes history

Owned by Dubai based IFA Hotels & Resorts, The US$250m Fairmont Zimbali Resort, which opened in 2009, has made history as the largest investment in tourism by a foreign company in the country.

The stunning five star beach resort is the first of its kind on the South Africa Coastline, bringing North America’s largest luxury hotel management company, Fairmont, to
Zimbali Coastal Resort.

Already named Africa’s Leading Tourism Development Project by the World Travel Awards in 2011, the development has been nominated in the same category this year in addition to a nomination for Africa’s Leading Golf Resort.

Located on the Dolphin Coast, the Fairmont Zimbali features an ultra-luxurious resort hotel, a championship Gary Player designed golf course with clubhouse and golf academy, full-service Willow Stream Spa, Signature Beachfront Villas, Golf Chalets, Apartments and Villas, as well as a Fairmont Heritage Place Private Residence Club.

The Fairmont Zimbali ultra-luxurious resort

The strategic alliance between IFA and Fairmont started on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah Island and further extended into Africa in a joint venture – with Kingdom Hotel Investments - with the acquisition of a Kenyan hotel portfolio.

This exciting development has reinforced the reputation of the Zimbali Coastal Resort as the Premier Resort Destination in Southern Africa. Fairmont Zimbali – combining the service excellence of the west, the vision of the east and the beauty of Africa - the best of all worlds.

Sun International - where the love affair begins

Sun International hotels include a full safari spectrum, from verdant subtropical beach forests to ‘big five’ bush wilderness, to the élan of Cape Town and the vast untamed beauty of Zambia.

The group aims to maintain local character and individuality in each of its hotels, whilst combining service excellence, adventurous sport and leisure activities, with meeting facilities.

The group’s Table Bay Hotel was recently nominated in the categories: Africa’s Leading Hotel, Africa’s Leading Meetings & Conference Hotel and South Africa’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards.

Sun International’s five-star Table Bay Hotel on the historic V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

Ian Anderson, marketing director at Sun International explained: “Sport tourism is incredibly important for South Africa and definitely forms part of their tourism strategy.

“Sun International has benefited from all the major events that have taken place and we will always align ourselves with these events to maximise the opportunity.”

Meanwhile Ian is confident that South Africa will always sell itself: “Some challenges will continue to test us in the future but the secret is to keep demonstrating how choosing the destination is beyond doubt a holiday of a lifetime and quite simply the beginning of a life-long love affair.”

Emerging markets - a bright future for South Africa tourism

In addition to its ongoing foray into the world of sports tourism, South Africa’s Tourist board has rolled out a powerful marketing campaign ‘20 Experiences in 10 Days’ that could help account for South Africa’s recently reported growth from new and emerging markets.

While the UK is still South Africa’s largest market, a damaged economy has resulted in changing traveller patterns worldwide.

Growth in departures from Europe to South Africa was up by 4.5 per cent earlier this year, with 458,479 tourist arrivals recorded from January to April 2011.

North America was up 16.8 per cent (with Brazil alone up 38.4 per cent), while Asia was up 29.3 per cent (with India up 51 per cent and China up 25.6 per cent) and Africa grew by 7.3 per cent (With Nigeria up 27.6 per cent and the DRC up 21.2 per cent).

Echoing these statistics, leading hotel groups; Sun International, Legend Lodges and Mantis Collection have revealed to BTN that India and China are becoming increasingly important markets.

Gardiner explains: “Mantis is investing heavily in India.

“We are putting a great deal of spend into this sector of the market and we are now beginning to see the results.

“China is certainly on the horizon for Mantis.”

Ambitious as this may seem, the fact remains that South Africa is an extraordinary, unique and diverse destination, which continues to lure new markets in addition to its loyal following of repeat visitors.

South Africa Tourism has announced plans to increase visitor numbers and hopes to create 225,000 jobs while sustaining existing ones.

With the support of new e-marketing initiatives, competitive pricing and collaborative efforts, the collective tourism industry seems set to reach its goal.

Find out whether South Africa Tourism triumphs again at the World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony, set to take place in Sharm el Sheikh on September 16th.