Currently progressing as one of the world’s fastest developing economies, South Africa is now offering more ways than ever to experience its tourism product. TTG uncovers the secrets behind this rise to stardom and how MENA is fuelling such growth.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the globally recognised South African bishop and activist, once described his country as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ to illustrate post-apartheid South Africa. Former president Nelson Mandela also welcomed the term and famously said in his inaugural speech: “Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
With 8.4 million tourists visiting the country throughout 2011, up by 3.3 per cent on 2010, it seems that Mandela’s words are echoed by international tourists who appreciate the country’s diversity as a destination.
From that total figure, 285,336 arrivals were from the MENA region according to South Africa Tourism. More specifically, 43.7 per cent from the region visited for leisure, 43.8 per cent for business, 1.4 per cent for medical tourism and 11 per cent arrived for other purposes. Guests from the region stayed for a lengthy 16.5 average nights, 32.6 per cent were between the ages of 35-44 years and 39.9 per cent of the total figure visited the country for the first time. This represents a clear indication that marketing efforts throughout the region are bearing fruit.
“We have recently seen that there is growth mainly from Saudi Arabia,” commented director –
Africa and Middle East, South Africa Tourism, Phumi Dhlomo to TTG.
“South Africa as a destination is very attractive for various reasons for many people. We have great wildlife which is something the visitors from the Middle East really like. Also, our people and cultures are unique and this in itself becomes an attraction. The vastness of our country and the natural beauty is also something that attracts visitors to the country.”
Amongst the nation’s most popular destinations, and widely accepted as one of the African continent’s touristic jewels, is Cape Town. Various regional carriers have connected the city to the region with well-established flight routes ensuring that the market grows.
“Cape Town has a long-standing reputation for religious and cultural tolerance, making the city a very attractive destination for Middle Eastern visitors,” added CEO, Cape Town Tourism, Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, when talking to TTG.
“Making use of events such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the stopover in Dubai, we promote Cape Town in these destinations and work at cultivating strong trade partnerships in these markets. In addition, this market also shows great potential for business travel to the Cape as the city offers world-class meeting facilities with great upmarket leisure activities at competitive prices.”
Attracting travellers from the region into the country is national carrier – South African Airways.
Currently, the airline offers services to the Middle East via its codeshare agreements with Egyptair and Emirates Airline. With Egyptair, daily services from Cairo to Johannesburg are offered while, with Emirates Airline, three flights per day from Dubai to Johannesburg, and two flights per day from Dubai to Cape Town, as well as daily service from Dubai to Durban are available.
“South African Airways keeps a very positive outlook on its business in the Middle East. We are confident of this market's growth potential and as such we make sure that we stay abreast of our customer requirements for network connectivity beyond our hub into the rest of our network,” outlined regional general manager, global sales – Africa and Middle East, South African Airways, Aaron Munetsi to TTG.
“We have made a commitment to provide the best service to our customers via our hub in Johannesburg and our gateways in Durban and Cape Town which are adequately served by our codeshare partners.”
Travelling between the region and South Africa is not just restricted to the air, despite its distance. Travellers will soon be able to journey via train as Rovos Rail has revealed plans to launch a Cape Town to Cairo, Egypt route from January 17 to February 13, 2014.
This exclusive five-star journey is a 28-day expedition that is to carry an elite band of intrepid adventurers through the heartlands of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, the Sudan and Egypt.
Exclusively revealing more details to TTG, as to how the company is aiming to further increase their presence throughout MENA, marketing and sales representative – Middle East, Turkey and the UK, Rovos Rail, Estee Badenhorst added: “We intend to increase our marketing activities in the Middle East by attending travel and trade shows and by visiting our agents and tour operators to give presentations to familiarise them with our niche product. We want visitors to our country to discover the beauty of Africa, and on Rovos Rail, the world’s most luxurious train, they can begin their journey to Southern Africa’s most spectacular destinations – and enjoy fine cuisine in five-star luxury.”
Such hospitality is well regarded from many MENA travellers and South Africa’s hospitality scene can similarly cater to such needs.
The Mantis Collection, a company that provides privately owned boutique hotels and eco escapes, has witnessed particular interest from the region to its Lawhill Luxury Apartments property which offers 28 apartments and two penthouses.
“This clientele enjoys the location; they enjoy the fact that they can self-cater at this property and make full use of the dining facilities of the adjacent One&Only Cape Town and other well-known restaurants that adorn the waterfront. They are an extremely important market for us at this particular property,” outlined international marketing director, The Mantis Collection, Paul Gardiner to TTG.
Additionally marketing manager, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Reserve, Louise Barlow, who stated that both private reserves located within Kruger National Park are hugely popular with MENA guests due to their exclusivity.
“The Middle East is an extremely important market for us and we have always enjoyed great support from this region. It has shown great growth and it is a market in which we have invested and shall continue to do so,” Barlow told TTG.
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve provides four individual luxury lodges and mainly welcomes honeymooners to the well-seasoned travellers and families.
“Particularly with the family sector we have seen a huge increase due the wonderful EleFun Children’s Centre at Bush Lodge,” Barlow continued.
“The best thing about this, apart from the children being entertained in a fun environment and learning about the bush, is that the parents can relax knowing their little ones are being taken good care of in a safe haven. We have also introduced our ‘Photographic Safaris’ which have received great feedback from this market.”