With a growing tourism industry, South Africa is reaching out to the MENA region and beyond with an eclectic blend of exciting experiences. Panayiotis Markidesinvestigates.

Successfully combining a fascinating mix of wildlife with a modern city vibe, South Africa has traditionally gained more attention from its domestic market, bolstering this further by a campaign, spearheaded by South African Tourism.

However, the destination’s stakeholders have begun to focus on showcasing South Africa’s distinct experiences – suitable for adrenaline seekers to shopping and wellness enthusiasts – to both MENA and international markets. The growing value of South Africa’s tourism industry has been highlighted in Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2014 – South Africa report, published by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

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President and CEO, WTTC, David Scowsill commented on its significance: “According to WTTC forecasts, travel and tourism in South Africa is due to add almost 350,000 jobs in the next ten years. South Africa has a fantastic opportunity to be a world leader in one of the world’s great industries.”

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With this mighty destination evidently taking steps to not only further this lucrative industry but promote it to a range of markets, TTG reached out to South Africa’s key stakeholders to discover what memorable experiences can be had and uncover its target audience.

EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE

Once upon a time, a trip all the way to the tip of Africa, albeit to experience something that can only be described as extraordinary, might have filled some leisure travellers with trepidation. However, in recent years leading airlines have not only been expanding their network to include major South African cities, but have been upping the frequency of these flights. One such example is Qatar Airways’ recent addition of Durban to its network and its increase of weekly frequencies to Johannesburg.

With that in mind, the destination’s main tourism bodies elucidated on the most coveted experiences to be had for those heading to this impressive destination.

Homing in on the wellness segment was executive marketing manager, Cape Town Tourism, Velma Corcoran,who commented on how the city caters to spa enthusiasts. “The Mangwanani African Spa offers a unique spa package at night, to ensure ultimate relaxation. The evening includes entertainment, three decadent treatments, a delicious dinner and chocolate tasting.”

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Further elaborating on Cape Town’s spa offerings was marketing manager, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, Jill Wagner, who was keen to emphasise the latest offer from The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa: “The ‘Once Experienced, Never Forgotten’ package, features every single highlight The Twelve Apostles has to offer, from a helicopter flight and high tea, to a fine dining evening and a spa treatment.”

And not forgetting shopping enthusiasts who can visit Cape Town and indulge in The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront, which according to Corcoran boasts over 150 stalls selling more than 365 brands, from ceramics to furniture and textiles, fashion and jewellery, as well as featuring the Jubilee Exhibition Hall.

Meanwhile, PR and communication manager, Joburg Tourism, Laura Vercueil spoke to TTG about how Johannesburg can be a paradise for the more adventurous visitor. “From quad biking, cycle and walking tours to bungee jumping off the Orlando Towers and bird watching in Soweto – Joburg boasts travel experiences as diverse as its population.”

Commenting on this very diversity of the city’s tourism product, she added: “The development of the tourism scene in Joburg over the past 20 years has seen a dramatic increase in the number of precincts, museums and attractions to highlight the city’s fascinating story. Vilakazi Street in Soweto, the Maboneng Precinct to the east, as well as Braamfontein further north, are just some of the lively neighbourhoods and precincts which have come into their own over the past decade.”

The variety of experiences on offer was also remarked upon by group communications executive, Mantis Collection, Robyn Elford, who explained to TTG : “South Africa has such a wide choice of highly selective properties and experiences to choose from for all types of traveller.

“Our cultural offering and the variety of options therein is remarkable with 11 different cultures in one country. The current international exchange rate makes it highly affordable.”

CONFIDENT AIM

With an invaluable list of fascinating activities available to visitors, focus quickly shifts to promoting South Africa’s destinations to both the MENA market in addition to a global audience.

Describing the appeal of Cape Town’s wellness offerings for MENA travellers, Corcoran explained: “[it is ideal] as the MENA market as a region is the fastest growing wellness tourism market in the world, at 16 per cent annually, according to the Global Wellness Tourism Congress.”

Appealing to the keen shopper, she also boasted that the abundance of shopping centres in Cape Town also act as a draw for these markets: “The MENA market loves shopping for designer items and this is the perfect spot to buy some new and unique décor or jewellery items.”

However, success undoubtedly comes from targeting multiple source markets, as Elford noted. “Our key markets are the UK, the US, the Germanic region, Brazil, Scandinavia and Benelux. MENA is one we are starting to move into.”

With a clear view on who the destination is keen to attract, South Africa’s tourism bodies have also been forthright in how they plan to market the destination.

Vercueil told TTG that the aim is to promote Johannesburg as a global, year-round destination for business and leisure. “We achieve this through promoting our diverse calendar of signature events via the media and industry familiarisation trips we host, as well as the South Africa Tourism roadshows and exhibitions we participate in throughout the world annually.”

Cape Town however has set its sights on also boosting its low season, as Corcoran informed: “Cape Town Tourism is working on a domestic market winter campaign that will be launched in April/May, to try to encourage weekend breaks.”

With an array of unforgettable experiences on display, South Africa is keen to reveal its authentic beauty to an international audience.