Updates from Africa's Biggest Travel Show

How We Got There

Travel Agent flew to Indaba in South African Air’s Premium Business Class. The airline’s premier cabin offers flat-bed seats that include a massage setting, video-on-demand service, and meal services featuring South African wines and local ingredients. It was so comfortable the 14+ hour flight flew by in a flash.

Indaba means “meeting” in Zulu, and for one week this past May Durban’s International Convention Center (ICC) was abuzz with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees meeting to see what’s new and what’s in store for travel in Africa in the coming year.

The hottest news? Well that would be World Cup 2010, coming to South Africa next June, the first time the event has been held anywhere on the continent. Mark Williams, regional director for South African Tourism in the US and UK, calls the soccer equivalent of the Olympics: “The single biggest marketing opportunity for South Africa.” The event, which will take place from June 11 to July 11, 2010, is expected to bring several million visitors (the total number expected for 2010 is 10 million), create 800,000 jobs, and have a television audience in the billions.

South Africa is especially focused on their massive infrastructure projects that will be rolled out in time to greet World Cup audiences. What’s in the works? One thousand buses on the country’s roads. A first-of-its-kind commuter train in Johannesburg. Dozens of new hotels throughout the country. And a number of new state-of-the-art stadiums, including the 90,000 seat Calabash in Johannesburg, which upon its completion this summer will be the largest venue in Africa.

Attending World Cup 2010

If you have clients who are interested in attending this historic sporting event, note that FIFA (the governing body of international soccer) has only given the rights to sell World Cup packages to three operators in the United States. Agents should contact one of the following if they wish to book World Cup 2010 package trips (which include tickets): Destination Southern Africa; Great Atlantic Travel and Tour; and Cartan Tours Inc.

Although there are stadiums throughout the country, Johannesburg will be the hub of World Cup operations in South Africa. Even though game draws haven’t yet been announced, according to Julian Harrison of Premier Tours in Philadelphia: “You can reach more than half the stadiums in a day trip if you stay in Jo’burg. For clients who are interested in seeing the United States play, we’re putting them there since the odds are best.”


South African Tourism

Are Americans going to South Africa? Mark Williams says the United States has grown the most of its core international markets, with double digit growth every year, in the range of 10 percent (although that number is down for the first quarter of 2009). What’s been drawing the US market? Among other things, “South Africa offers more value for the dollar than Europe,” says Williams (the current exchange rate is R8.4 per US$1).   “It’s both an adventure destination for the young as well as a wine, food, and luxury destination,” added Sthu Zungu, president of South African Tourism in North America.

Zungu goes on to say that the US market had its highest comparative growth rate when it ran a $1,999 package the beginning of 2008. Numbers during that time were up 17 percent. “Look for it (a similarly well-priced package) a little later in the year,” says Zungu, possibly to “launch in October for travel in January, February, and March 2010.”

South African Air

The national carrier of South Africa, SAA is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In time for its diamond anniversary, SAA has rolled out some exciting new services, the highlight of which for the US market is the launch of nonstop service from New York’s JFK to Johannesburg’s Tambo Int’l Airport (JNB). Along with the nonstop flights, the airline has changed to an earlier departure time on this route, 11:20 am. This development means travelers arrive in South Africa mid-morning and can continue to their safari destination the same day (previously, an overnight in Jo’burg was de rigueur). In addition, SAA has added jet service into Gabarone, Botswana, another boon for safari goers. The airline is also “focused on keeping our pulse on the market and rolling out deals to the public,” says Elizabeth Ninomiya of SAA. To this end, agents should keep an eye out for special deals, such as the luxury, $2,299 “Summer in Style” package currently on offer (www.flysaavacations.com)

Recession Friendly Deals

There are other deals for savvy travelers as well. For example, Wilderness Safaris is offering from one (at North Island in the Seychelles) to four nights (in Namibia and Botswana) free at their camps depending on length of stay for trips booked before the end of June 2009 (although this may be extended). Singita is offering four nights for the price of three at its Kruger National Park properties and six night for the price of five at its Tanzanian lodges for the duration of its 2010 price sheets (agents can check live inventory for Singita at agents.singita.com; username: agents, password: singita ).

Future Trends

Other trends spotted at Indaba: an increase in travel opportunities in Zimbabwe in light of sanctions being lifted by the United States; a trend toward high-end lodges and hotels creating family-friendly programs; and community service initiatives, and companies who specialize in sustainable tourism, featured prominently in African travel.

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