Top Hotel and Tour Updates From Africa

Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, located in the shadow of Table Mountain, has two outdoor, heated swimming pools.
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, located in the shadow of Table Mountain, has two outdoor, heated swimming pools.

Although tourism in Africa has been a bit of a challenge in the past year, there are so many options and experiences that can draw clients in who are looking for a unique experience in a beautiful setting. Keep a map handy to show clients that most of the popular tourism destinations in the world’s second largest continent are far removed from areas that have been in the news for negative reasons.

In what is perhaps the most intriguing development on the Africa tourism front, visitors to South Africa seeking out sites and attractions associated with the country’s late president and global icon Nelson Mandela, will now have all the information they need at their fingertips thanks to a new mobile phone app. Developed by South African Tourism in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, this new app commemorates the 25th anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison.

The app is based on the “Madiba-inspired tourist attractions” map that was launched in 2014 to encourage tourists and South Africans alike to walk in the footsteps of Mandela, whose traditional Xhosa clan name is Madiba. It features tourist sites as well as general places of interest in the four main provinces that defined Mandela’s life. These range from the UNESCO World Heritage site, Robben Island, where he was imprisoned, to his post-presidential office at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where he is laid to rest.

The GPS-enabled app uses location-based services to establish which attraction the user is visiting and provides real-time data to enrich their experience. This includes written information on the site, audio describing the attraction and other relevant information including contact details, map previews and photo galleries.

The app also gives users their proximity from other Mandela-related attractions and includes an itinerary builder, helping to make it easy for those wanting to visit numerous attractions to best plan their route. It also makes it simple for visitors to share their experience on social media and features a rewards system linked to visitors’ social media activity.

Hotel Upgrades and Openings

Let South Africa-bound clients who are interested is visiting Cape Town know that the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, located in the shadow of Table Mountain, has recently reopened its Helmsley Wing and Garden Cottages after a redesign. The new looks were created by the design team Champalimaud. The Helmsley Wing is decorated in earthy tones with dark windows and doors, while the cottages have a blue and cream color scheme. 

The 484-square-foot Helmsley Suites are a short walk from The Cottage Pool and pay homage to the Cape-Dutch presence. The rooms have hardwood floors and geometric patterns. Guests looking for a private setting (or a romantic hideaway) should opt to stay in one of eight 538-square-foot Garden Cottages, which share a secluded pool. Each cottage sits behind a rose garden and is surrounded by a picket fence, adding to the privacy element. On the inside, there is a separate living and dining area, as well as a mini-library and enclosed patio.

For those traveling with family, the Classic Suite is a good fit. With an open lounge, kitchenette, a walk-in dressing room and a private balcony, there is plenty of space for everyone.

On the East Africa hotel front, the Park Hyatt Zanzibar recently opened on the sunny isle of Zanzibar off Tanzania’s coast. Nestled on a beach in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the new hotel occupies two buildings: the purpose-built Zamani residence and Mambo Msiige, a Zanzibari mansion dating back to the 17th century.

There are 67 guest rooms, including 11 suites equipped with balconies overlooking the Indian Ocean. Designed in a contemporary style with local touches, the rooms come with free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, illy coffee machines, and separate rainshowers and soaking tubs in the bathrooms.

Facilities include the Anantara Spa with three large spa suites, a 24-hour fitness center, a number of dining concepts, and an oceanfront infinity pool with a Pool Lounge. The concierge can arrange a host of activities for guests to immerse themselves in the local culture.

In North Africa, the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech will is getting ready to open with 54 Moroccan-inspired villas, each equipped with a large garden, open-air shower and heated pool. The seven suites will have rooftop pools overlooking the Atlas mountains, while the two spa suites will each have an infinity lap pool. The hotel is set on a 50-acre estate on Route du Golf Royal.

The goal is to create a luxurious destination that can rival Marrakech’s numerous swanky hotels, so there will be five F&B concepts — featuring both Moroccan and international cuisine — plus an expansive spa. Covering more than 19,000 square feet, the spa will have a yoga studio, fitness center and indoor pool, in addition to four treatment rooms and two couple’s suites.

Clients planning a trip to Morocco this coming winter may be interested to know that the Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca is scheduled to open before year’s end. It will offer guests views of the Atlantic Ocean and have 183 rooms and suites. The property will occupy a place on the city’s oceanfront promenade. It will become part of Anfa Place, a luxury mixed-use development near the Corniche District.

The master plan was designed by architectural firm Foster + Partners and occupies a total area of approximately 25 acres. The interior design developed by GA Design International is described as fresh, modern and layered with elements from the local culture. The hotel’s top floor will be transformed into a French brasserie and bar and its spa will offer guests a mix of Western and local therapies, including a traditional hammam experience. Four Seasons also has a hotel in Marrakech.

Park Hyatt Zanzibar has 67 guest rooms, including 11 suites equipped with balconies overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar has 67 guestrooms, including 11 suites equipped with balconies overlooking the Indian Ocean.

In Egypt, the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski Cairo is scheduled to open this summer. This new property is near the Cairo International Airport. The Excelsior Ballroom will be able to hold 2,300 guests (this makes it the largest ballroom in Egypt). The Royal Maxim Palace also has touches like a private theater that seats 60. This will be the second Kempinski property in Cairo — the first was the Kempinski Nile Hotel in Garden City.

Tour Programs

On the tours front, African Travel, Inc. recently launched their Safari Vacation Packages, a collection of deluxe locally hosted expeditions that optimize the advantage of group travel rates, with set departure dates beginning this spring. Most itineraries include additional à la carte experiences, allowing guests to customize each journey to satisfy both their budget and their bucket list. Each itinerary includes accommodations, and accepts a maximum of 12 people per journey to help ensure personalized attention. Departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of two passengers, allowing guests to book at relatively short notice, and many packages even include international airfare.

Of interest to your multigenera-tional clients, Abercrombie & Kent’s small group programs include the services of a Children’s Activity Coordinator, who travels with the group and organizes age-appropriate activities. Some of these have an educational slant, such as a visit to a local school or a tree-planting project.