Known primarily for its incredible wildlife and fascinating safaris, Africa has become so much more, cultivating and honing its varied tourism product to appeal to a range of travellers. Natalie Hami writes.
Africa’s vast landscape calls out to be explored, inviting visitors to its shores to immerse themselves in cultures and experiences that are not their own.
A heady mix of wild, modern and historical, tourism stakeholders of this eclectic continent’s various destinations are ensuring that visitors can customise their trip, experiencing the parts most relevant to them, be it safaris, a train journey, shark cage diving, playing golf or a visit to a museum.
Speaking to TTG, communications manager, Rovos Rail Tours, Brenda Vos revealed that the company has launched an exciting new route called Trail of Two Oceans. With its maiden voyage set for July 2019, Trail of Two Oceans will take guests on a 15-day journey from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Lobito, Angola.
Vos told TTG: “It will be the first time in history that a passenger train will travel the east to west copper trail. Highlights of the sojourn include a game visit to the Selous Reserve, a fly-in safari to South Luangwa National Park – where two nights are spent, a city tour of Lubumbashi in the DRC and opportunities for short walking tours detailing Angola’s recent history. The journey is also available in reverse.”
Meanwhile, managing director, Tamrich Tours, Madeleine Hetem highlighted that every guest is unique in their requirements and interpretation of a one-of-a-kind activity. “The beauty of the Tamrich service is that the combinations of each guest experience is tailored to their interests, whether it be a private meeting with Nelson Mandela’s prison warder or a celebrity chef, we do what’s needed to bring that ‘wow’ experience to each visit.”
Hetem noted that Tamrich Tours has witnessed an upsurge in visitors wanting to indulge in ‘adventure activities’, from bungee jumping to paragliding and shark cage diving, to milder canopy tours and whale watching.
“Other activities, such as art and gastronomy, have gained huge traction and guests have options on our ‘Live like a local’ tours to cruise the galleries, cook bobotie (a local dish), hang out at a Shisa Nyama (barbecue) or sample the cooking art at our craft kitchens.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, owner, Azura Retreats, Stella Bettany explained that modern travellers are not only in search of one-of-a-kind activities, but a sense of freedom when they travel. “[Therefore] we have structured the activities we offer at our hotels to give them what they want. For example, at Azura Selous Game Reserve, we’ve done away with scheduled morning and afternoon safari drives, preferring to allow our guests to explore the vast Selous Game Reserve at their own pace, on and off road, on foot and by boat.”
Indeed, one of Africa’s many strengths lies in its ability to cater to both the adrenaline junkie and the culture and art lover.
General manager, Mont Rochelle in Franschhoek, South Africa, James Basson noted that due to the French influence in the area, guests can enjoy the art galleries and museums, while active travellers can indulge in a spot of golf, cycling and hiking routes.
“We even have horse riding and scooter tours for those looking to try something new,” he added.
Meanwhile, visitors who are looking to immerse themselves in South Africa’s history can visit the Origin Centre at Wits, the Apartheid Museum at Golf Reef City and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. These many attractions have also been bolstered by infrastructural enhancements, such as the Gautrain the Rea Vaya BRT and the City Sightseeing Bus – Johannesburg’s first hop on, hop off tourist bus.
Favouring innovation and convenience for its guests, at Newmark Hotels, Residences, Reserves & Lodges clientele can combine experiences at different properties, according to managing director, Neil Markovitz.
“We are growing our portfolio with ‘likeminded properties’ where we are able to vertically sell experiences, for example, selling the Serengeti Explorer Camp, Chuini Zanzibar Beach Lodge, Motswari Private Game Reserve and our Cape Town properties to the same customer. In essence – unlike other hotel groups – we pair experiences at different properties in our portfolio together.”
As ties between certain destinations within continental Africa continue to grow, demonstrated by Emirates Airline’s Johannesburg-Dubai route, a number of properties have followed suit in ensuring that they are at the ready to cater to the needs of the unique and lucrative MENA market.
Referring to the long-standing relationship between the two regions, head – Africa and Middle East, global sales, South African Airways, Aaron Munetsi told TTG: “Africa has always maintained very close ties with the Middle East dating back centuries ago, and our people are intricately in tune with each other.”
According to sales and marketing director, Fancourt Hotel and Estate, George, South Africa, Peter Dros, the Middle East is a growing market for South Africa, especially within the luxury travel industry. With a view to attracting the MENA market, Fancourt has been regularly exhibiting at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
“We are definitely experiencing an increased interest from the MENA market, and it makes perfect sense. There is a lot at Fancourt that is geared towards family-orientated fun. The rooms are configured to suit the needs of those who are travelling with their families, with the family rooms able to accommodate two adults and two children,” said Dros.
CEO, Legend Hospitality Group, Mart Cilliers also remarked on an increase in interest from MENA travellers, specific to Legend Golf and Safari Resort.
“We believe that this might be due to the fact that this is one of our most luxurious properties, and travellers from these markets have the option to book a main suite alongside their rooms or even a villa, which ensures privacy,” she told TTG.
Cilliers explained that Legend Golf and Safari Resort is able to easily accommodate the dietary requirements of MENA clientele with a full-time halal chef onsite.
“We have received numerous groups from MENA countries in the last two years and are in the process of exploring how we can further entice these markets to our other properties as well,” she concluded.
Africa’s many destinations continue to develop their individual tourism industries with pride, determination and skill.