Today began with a breakfast hosted by South African Airways (and with speeches by representatives of same), followed by a media panel with several members of the SAA team.
Siza Mzimela, CEO of SAA, was excited about the airline’s growth, and mentioned two new routes that the airline will be flying (she wouldn’t say where, however, until the deal s were inked), the new planes they would be getting, and the new partnership with JetBlue. (This partnership means travelers can check their luggage in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Seattle and pick it up when they arrive in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. Pretty cool.) Staff and crew are being increased (especially in preparation for the World Cup—had you forgotten about that yet?), security is being improved across the board (especially in the baggage departments, we heard), and plans are in place to expand into South America.
When the airlines meetings were finished, we headed back to the trade show floors for one last spin. A few highlights:
* Namibia recently received an impressive grant to boost their infrastructure, and several million of that has been earmarked for tourism. A comprehensive Namibia Tourism web site (www.mcanamibia.org.na) is in the works, and should be complete in a year. A new Hilton is scheduled to open around September in the capital city of Windhoek, and a new Kempinski will start construction later this year. Beyond that, Shareen Thude of the Namibia Tourism Board (www.namibiatourism.com.na) said, existing hotels are upgrading and renovating their rooms in hopes of becoming the hot new destination.
* The word “safari” apparently means “journey” in Swahili (my hotel has awful internet access, otherwise I’d look it up and confirm, so I’ll just take Kenya Tourism Board rep Anne Kanini’s word for it). In Kenya, there are lots of different kinds of safaris, and—from the pictures Kanini showed me—some pretty impressive sights to see while on them. The country sits on the equator, and certain species—like giraffes--are divided by the line. Visitors can see the “Big Five” within a four hundred-meter drive, she added, especially at the Maasi Mara. She also mentioned the “Obama Effect,” with tourists coming to the village where President Obama’s Kenyan family still lives. Serena Hotels are popular throughout the country, and there is a Fairmont in Nairobi. (www.magicalkenya.com)
* Cullinan Diamonds offer tours of their diamond mines as well as completely unique and exclusive jewelry designs. (And when they say exclusive, they mean copyrighted. You’ll never have to worry about someone else showing up to the party wearing the same necklace!)
* Here’s a unique option for animal-lovers who want a different kind of safari: Dr. Peter Brothers runs African Vet Safaris, which brings visitors out into the wild to help tag and care for endangered species. There are different kinds of trips available for different people, from casual interest to veterinary students looking for hands-on experience. The guests’ funding of the trips, Brothers said, helps the company’s conservation efforts, and the excursions offer a new perception on the issues facing the environment and the animal kingdom.
Tomorrow, we head off to George, Knysna, and the Views Hotel.