|Heavy investments in lifestyle tourism in Johannesburg and elsewhere continue to be a global priority for South African Tourism.|
Since South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the country has become a must-visit for all kinds of travelers—from those exploring the wildlife in the massive Kruger National Park to those enjoying the urban excitement in cities like Cape Town or Johannesburg.
This past fall, South Africa’s Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said that the country’s tourism numbers continue to rise above the record-breaking arrival numbers in 2010 with a 19.2 percent increase overall since January 2012. Heavy investments in lifestyle tourism continue to be a global priority for South African Tourism, and the country was on track to meet its goals of 15 million worldwide visitors, augment tourism revenue to $75 billion a year, and create 225,000 new jobs by 2020. Sthu Zungu, president of South African Tourism, North America, said that positivity and awareness of South Africa “is at an all-time high.”
Agents are also having an easier time marketing the country to their clients. Donna Evans of Team Travel, an Andavo affiliate (and one of Travel Agent magazine’s Top 25 Agents of 2011), points out that South Africa’s camps and lodges seem to be making a bigger effort to reach out to agents for direct bookings. “There could be more lift within the country and its southern neighbors to increase tourism to all regions, but for now the changes have been minimal,” she says.
In terms of hotels, Evans notes an increase in luxury hotel development. “It seems like, finally, there is a focus on luxury in Africa that has never really been addressed in the past. Tented camps were expected to be like camping, so people preferred to be booked in lodges. It has been tough to get past that hurdle, but with more attention to Thakadu River Camp, Ant’s Nest, and Ant’s Hill [bush homes], Jaci’s Safari Lodge [Madikwe], Little Garonga and others, the luxury aspect of the tents has become better known to the consumer. We still have the luxury suites at Camp Jabulani, Singita Lodges and Ulusaba Lodges that everyone knows about, but the tented camps are becoming a great option.” Evans also notes an increase in awareness of camps in anti-malaria zones. “This will allow more people to travel who have been apprehensive about taking the malaria medication. I am going to explore some of those camps next month, myself.”
When she travels to Africa, Evans likes staying in the luxury tented camps “for the real feeling of being in Africa and being able to enjoy the stars and the night sounds. I want the authentic safari experience with game drives and adventure. The tents just add the additional African touch.”
The country has seen some notable hotel development from major brands, as well: In November, Hilton Worldwide opened the rebranded and renamed Conrad Pezula Resort & Spa in Knysna, the first Conrad-branded luxury property in sub-Saharan Africa.
Hilton also rebranded Cape Town’s former Upper Eastside hotel as the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cape Town-Upper Eastside. Meanwhile, South African hotel brand Sun International Hotels & Resorts opened The Boardwalk Hotel and Spa, a five-star property in Port Elizabeth.
South African Airways has been increasing its codeshare agreements over recent months, making it easier than ever to get from the Americas to South Africa. In December, SAA and US Airways announced a new bilateral codeshare agreement after receiving approval from the Department of Transport-South Africa and U.S. Department of Transportation. This will give SAA expanded access to and throughout the U.S., and will give customers traveling on US Airways new access to destinations throughout South Africa and to Dakar, Senegal, with the new codeshare.
SAA and Air Canada also recently launched a codeshare agreement that will make it substantially easier for customers to travel between South Africa and Canada. SAA will codeshare on Air Canada-operated flights between London and Vancouver, London and Toronto, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Toronto (including flights operated by Air Canada Express). Air Canada will in turn codeshare on SAA-operated services between London and Johannesburg, New York and Johannesburg, and Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Customers connecting between the carriers in London will be able to book a single itinerary and have easier connections. In addition, the two airlines are members of Star Alliance, which will let customers benefit from reciprocal frequent flyer miles accumulation or redemption and provide lounge access for eligible customers. Connections through New York will be added in the near future.