Travel Agent's Kirk Cassels meets South Africa Tourism CEO Thandiwe Sylvia January-McLean
South Africa Tourism welcomed new CEO Thandiwe Sylvia January-McLean in January. So she may not be so new to them right now, but New York got to meet her for the first time this week at The Metropolitan Room at the Four Seasons in Manhattan.
Formerly South Africa's Ambassador to Portugal, January-McLean's success in the role continues today as trade relations between the two countries has improved 45 percent during the last three years. Now, it's time to transfer that talent to the country's tourism industry. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup now over, she shifts her focus from domestic travel to international visitors.
According to January-McLean, $312 million was spent during the World Cup on Visa cards alone. Imagine what the final numbers will be?! The country will make its final arrival numbers soon, but January-McLean was confident that they will excede their original expectations.
"The vuvuzuela made it impossible to forget us," January-McLean said, making light of the boisterous horns that were so loud during the games that viewers at home could here it from another room on their TV.
So now that the World Cup and the vuvuzuela have brought so much attention to South Africa, what's next? The country's five-year plan is to get 12 million visitors by 2015. Expect them to target travelers from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil and France who, respectively, were the top visiting markets during the World Cup. But the World Cup wasn't need to spark a boost. According to January-McLean, there were signs of significant recovery in U.S., UK and Germany markets well before June.
The investment in South Africa's infrastruture now makes it a potential boon for business travel, as January-McLean said the country seeks to be one of the top 10 meetings destinations of the future. In addition, expect tourism in the region to leverage the new stadiums to generate interest in sports travel.
When it comes to the U.S. market, the new CEO is well aware of factors that may inhibit a boost in travel. "Most of our U.S. product offerings are high end," she said. "But we promise there will be more choice for the traveler."
As for the "high perceived cost of airfare," January-McLean affectionately cited South African Airways representatives in the audience and noted they are "working on that."
Once it's easier for clients to head to South Africa, and as these new product options which January-McLean mentioned emerge, the country is bound to become even more of an up-and-coming hot spot. Our own Jena Tesse Fox can speak from experience. Check out her blog coverage of her journey to the country in the links to the right and see for yourself.
South Africa Tourism CEO Thandiwe Sylvia January-Mclean; Marc S. Cavaliere, executive vice president, North America, for South African Airways; and Sthu Zungu, South Africa Tourism president.