What's Your Big 5? Traveling to South Africa


South Africa
The vineyards of Stellenbosch are a highlight of Western Cape wine route tours.


In the news section of our May 6 issue, we talked about South Africa Tourism’s new marketing campaign “What’s Your BIG 5?,” which was designed to show off South Africa’s tourist attractions beyond the classic safari. The campaign incorporates advertising, year-round public relations, trade marketing, and consumer-driven events throughout the year. And for agents, SAT will host its first-ever (but not last) mega-fam to introduce more industry professionals to what the country has to offer.

Sthu Zungu, president of South African Tourism North America, said that the campaign would focus on four “tent poles” of South Africa’s tourism industry.

Safari & Nature: South Africa is not trying to move away from one of its most popular attractions, but simply expand beyond what people already know. Apart from safaris, there is impressive scenery like the Garden Route outside of Knysna, Boulders Beach in Cape Town with a colony of penguins, or the Sudwala Caves in Mpumalanga.

Entertainment & Lifestyle: Attractions in and around South Africa’s cities can include art galleries in Johannesburg and the Rosebank Rooftop Market, which sells crafts from throughout South Africa and even across the continent. In the North-West Province, Sun City is a casino resort with four hotels. Must-see events include the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival in March. Food and wine experiences can include a Western Cape wine route tour or sampling South African cuisine like a braai (“our version of a barbecue,” Zungu explained) or visiting Mandela Square to shop and dine. 

Culture & Heritage: With a wide diversity of people from all over the world, South Africa has a strong fusion of cultures. (For example, Durban has the highest concentration of Indian people outside of India itself.) “People who want to go back as far as the earliest history of mankind can go to Cradle of Humankind and see some of the world’s oldest human fossils,” Zungu said. “You can go to Soweto and learn about Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu.” Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, has been preserved to honor ex-President Mandela, one of its most famous former inmates. The Phoenix Settlement, established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1904, is on the north-western edge of Inanda (less than 20 miles outside of Durban). History buffs can go to Zululand and learn about Shaka Zulu or visit small towns like Lesedi Village, a cultural center outside Johannesburg.

Romance & Relaxation: “A lot of people who come here want to relax,” Zungu said. “They want to take in the scenery and go to specific lodges—maybe like Lion Sands, which has a bed in the middle of the bush. There’s no tent or house; you just sleep out in the bush in a tree house under the stars.” In KwaZulu-Natal, the Fordoun Hotel and Spa has worked with a native healer to combine traditional medicine with western products for spa treatments. “It was all developed by this man who has a gift for pulling together indigenous herbs,” Zungu said. “It’s a unique experience.”  

As the campaign takes shape, one of the biggest steps South African Tourism is taking is to introduce more industry professionals to the destination by bringing 30 hosted buyers—many of them tour operators—and 60 travel agents to Indaba, the annual trade show in Durban. Most of these agents will be touring the country for the first time. “We are taking them to show them South Africa and let them learn how to put together packages,” Zungu said. 

Virginia Dionisio, South African Tourism’s Manager of Trade Relations-Leisure, said that when the tourism board realized that their best return on investment was to bring agents to South Africa rather than meet for a few hours in an office or at a tradeshow elsewhere. “You can try to inspire them to sell the destination, but if you take them there, it’s a better opportunity,” Dionisio explained. “It lets them see the distances—how to get from one city to another by flying, for example.” SAT will also offer smaller fams throughout the rest of 2013, and will repeat the mega-fam in 2014.