Destination South Africa

South Africa

Ripe with a myriad of rich and varied travel experiences, South Africa is further enhancing its tourism offering with on-trend initiatives. By Emily Millett.

South Africa is a destination that has it all; stunning natural landscapes, beaches, urban hubs, rich culture, action, adventure and gastronomy. And as the international travel market shows increasing interest in this African nation, the destination is taking steps to further its potential.

“There’s continued interest in the country as an ideal place to explore the African experience, so you could come to large cities and enjoy culture and heritage, or head to the bush for an authentic safari adventure,” area director of sales, marketing and revenue management, Protea Hotels by Marriott, Danny Bryer told TTG. “Affordable luxury is still relevant for international visitors. Once you’re in South Africa, you can access world-class food and wine, exciting activities and relaxed splendour. I’d like to think that we’re a friendly, welcoming nation that pays personalised attention to our visitors.”

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This widespread appeal is seeing South Africa welcome visitors from a broad spectrum of diverse market segments, as CEO, Cape Town Tourism, Enver Duminy explained to TTG: “We get all kinds of visitors from single younger backpackers, to couples, families, business people and package tour groups – it’s really about what you want to experience, whether that means arts and culture, food and wines, beaches and attractions – we have it all.”

According to Duminy, most of Cape Town’s current international visitors are from Germany, the UK and the US, with 50 per cent of these visitors falling into the youth travel sector (between 18-34 years of age). The most common travel party size is two people, with 40 per cent of visitors travelling in pairs of two.

“Our research shows that 77 per cent of visitors come to the city for a holiday, nine per cent for business and six per cent to visit friends and family,” Duminy continued. “What many international visitors don’t know about Cape Town is that we have a large Muslim community here, with an extensive cultural heritage. With that in mind, we’re driving awareness around the Muslim traveller’s needs such as Halal food offerings and prayer rooms at hotels, airports and other public facilities. Essentially, building the foundations so that we can encourage Muslim-friendly tourism.”

MAKING EXPERIENCES COUNT

Experience-led offerings have been making waves across the travel and tourism industry over the past couple of years, and South Africa is no stranger to the growing trend.

“Authentic and original experiences are what travellers are looking to gain from their holidays in South Africa,” brand manager, The Diamond Works, Aimee Lentz told TTG. “Travellers are hungry for convenience, but with the option for tailored selections or exclusive one-of-a-kind products and services.”

Catalysed by a desire to experience the destination through the eyes of a local, the South African experiential travel movement is now shifting towards a desire for immersive encounters, as Duminy explained to TTG: “Visitors are looking for experiences that are unique and off-the-beaten track. Experiences that take you deeper into what you’re seeing. ‘Immersive experiences’ is what’s being talked about at global tourism forums, almost a redefinition of the ‘Travel like a Local’ trend that has been around for a few years.”

According to sales and marketing director, Fanourt, Peter Dros, there are three main trends creating inroads into the travel market in South Africa right now. “These include experiential travel, where guests are looking to experience locally-sourced menus from the surrounding areas of the hotel. Travellers are also becoming much more socially-aware and want to experience more, to fit more into their travel time.”

Fancourt is responding to these trends by adapting hotel offerings, introducing a variety of different tours along the Garden Route and introducing the ‘country basket’ F&B offering, which incorporates local produce, from farm-to-table.

“For experiential travel, South Africa is a destination of choice, and Fancourt is the perfect place at which to base oneself while exploring the country,” added Dros.

2017 saw the Fancourt estate undergo a high investment renovation, including new golf carts, putting greens and a refurbished Henry White’s restaurant in The Manor House, which operates according to the ‘country basket’ initiative.

“The refreshed design and new facilities speaks to the modern Fancourt guest. Working with the various renovation teams, we have reimagined the guest experience, while still providing the signature Fancourt service,” said Dros.

MODERNISING THE OFFERING

Another area that is seeing exponential growth within the travel sector is the increasing shift towards digitisation, as Duminy commented: “We are seeing rapid digitisation in the travel industry for visitor convenience and ease. The Radisson Red Hotel in the V&A Waterfront that launched in September this year, doesn’t have a check-in desk. Guests download an app, check-in on the app and get a QR code as their key. However, what they have got right is the balance; they have automated without losing their personal touch.”

As business increasingly moves online, South Africa is also witnessing an influx of younger travellers, who actively seek out these digital add-ons.

“Our market is adapting, we have a younger generation of explorer-travellers, so that requires us to up our game, adding value where we can for guests and ensuring that their expectations are met,” said Bryer. “Younger guests want to explore more as travellers on journeys of adventure, while remaining connected and online, and it’s anticipated that the demand for connectivity is only going to increase. For hotel groups, that means developing slick app interfaces that aid in researching hotels, booking and paying for stats, and then providing useful in-stay accompaniments such as keyless entry, online check-in facilities and more.”

Fuelled by a more informed, more digitally native new generation of tourist, the South African travel industry is slowly shifting, changing shape to accommodate the now famous Millennials and emerging Millennial-minded travellers.

“We are dealing with a ‘new tourist’ who is knowledgeable, well-travelled and knows exactly what they are looking for. They are not afraid to speak out should they not be happy with the service offered,” said marketing director, Pretoria National Botanical Garden and board member, Tshwane Tourism Association, Lihle Dlamini. “Millennials are also at the top of the list of travellers changing the perception of travelling, since they travel in small groups with friends or their partners. [They want] to explore as much as they can while they are still young and also feature these experiences on social media, which is essential to Millennials.”

With a finger firmly on the pulse of current industry trends, South Africa is working hard to hone its rich tourism offering, keeping in mind the new and evolved traveller and their increasing demands for sustainability, digitalisation and authentic experiences.