At INDABA 2015, the largest tourism tradeshow in Africa showcasing Pan-African tourism products and services, the new Honorable Minister of Tourism, Derek Andre Hanekom, thought it fitting to recite a quote from former President Nelson Mandela: “When he [Nelson Mandela] opened the first INDABA in a free South Africa, this is what President Mandela said, ‘It is in tourism that nature and humanity meet most equitably and profitably. It also provides the resources for the conservation of our natural heritage. Furthermore, tourism is making an important and valuable contribution to the South African economy.’ Now, 20 years later, those words still echo throughout our sector.”
In Destinations from Zambia to Botswana, as well as local cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg were in attendance; and international hotel brands, safari camps & lodges, and African-based tour operators set up their booths to present their products to the hundreds in attendance—all with the ultimate goal of increasing tourism to Africa.
International tourism to Africa increased to 56 million last year and is expected to increase by up to 5 percent in 2015, as “more and more people are venturing out to discover new places, leaving the familiar behind to seek new experiences; to meet new people and discover their culture,” said Hanekom during INDABA’s opening ceremony. Projected numbers have Africa welcoming 85 million international visitors in 2020 and 134 million in 2030.
What might some of these new (or returning) travelers experience while in Africa? Here’s a look at a few new offerings in Africa’s hotel and tourism scene straight from INDABA.
Mandela App: The biggest buzz at INDABA 2015 was the newly launched Madiba’s Journey app, an interactive app that features 27 tourist attractions and sites in South Africa that reflect the life of Nelson Mandela (Madiba is Mandela’s clan name); the 27 sites represent each year he spent behind bars as a political prisoner. The app allows users to view the destinations on a map with directions on how to get there; create their own itineraries; share the experiences on social media; and listen to audio that describes the site and what its significance means to Mandela.
New Lodges & Camps: A mix of voluntourism and boutique camping is what makes AfriCamps an interesting new product, especially for those clients who are big into experiencing a destination and getting to know the locals, too. Set on local farms in South Africa, AfriCamps are homey, canvas tents able to accommodate four to five guests. The tents come with a separate living lounge, bathroom, and two bedrooms, and situated on working farms. Your clients will be welcomed by the landowner and the family while learning about their farming business and experiencing outdoor activities such as hiking, whale watching and horseback riding. Agents, this is commissionable, and owner Jeroen van Rootselaar is eager to work with North American travel agents.
Recently opened in Kenya is the luxury safari lodge, Angama Mara. Located in the Maasai Mara game reserve, the new property is set in two separate camps with 15 tented guest suites. The lodge’s pavilion features a fitness center, swimming pool, and an art gallery showcasing works by local artists. Another luxury camp that recently reopened after renovations is andBeyond Benguerra Island, set on the second largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago off the coast of Mozambique. The property is made up of 10 casinhas (homes), two cabanas, and a 3-bedroom villa for a large group; onsite guests can scuba dive, take a dhow cruise, or enjoy a picnic on the beach.
a taste of durban
On assignment for a travel tradeshow, there wasn’t much time to experience the host city, one that The New York Times ranked as the No. 7 city to visit in 2015, or South Africa in general. Nevertheless, I was able to experience some aspects of Durban; and as a first-time traveler to South Africa, I was enticed to come back for more. Here are a few notable highlights:
The Golden Mile: The Golden Mile promenade is made for walkers, joggers and cyclists; on a Sunday we saw many families settled down and enjoying the day while barbecuing. The eastern edge of Durban is hugged by the Indian Ocean, and here the shore is wide and inviting with piers jutting out into the ocean every few hundred feet or so. The best part about Durban is watching the surfers, and during our time in the city, the surfing was abundant.
Moses Mabhida Stadium: The Moses Mabhida Stadium dominates the Durban skyline and is host to sporting events and music festivals. At the stadium, visitors can rent a Segway or bike and take a tour around the venue. For those looking to see Durban from above, there is the 550-step walk up to the stadium’s white arch, which provides sky-high views of the city; the stadium also features the world’s tallest bungee swing at 347 ft.
Rovos Rail: Five-star service harmonized well with the five-star cuisine served on a Rovos Rail train we boarded in Durban. The 4-course dinner, paired with the best of South African wines, was sponsored by South African Airways—and although we didn’t travel too far from Durban’s city limits, or get to see much of the countryside since the dinner was held at night, the experience was lovely. Rovos Rail trains carry a maximum of 72 passengers in 36 cozy and well-appointed suites, but the real experience when traveling on a Rovos Rail train is the scenery outside its large windows as the train traverses through Southern Africa. Your clients can choose a slew of unique itineraries that cross into countries like Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania—all in the lap of rail luxury.
First-Class Service on SAA
One sometimes wonders what goes on behind the first-class curtain on an airplane. Well, big (big!) thanks to South African Airways for flying media in first class for both the arrival and return flights to and from South Africa—now I know all about the pampering, luxury and comfort first-class passengers receive behind the curtain. From the welcoming airline staff serving us orange juice, sparkling wine and water to the hot towels and spacious seats that transform to beds, the experience was definitely memorable. Delicious meals are served on white crisp linens and accompanied with savory white or red wines; and the entertainment options are abundant offering films still in the theater or not yet out on DVD. The business lounge in Johannesburg is spacious and offers travelers a chance to shower, connect to the cmplimentary WiFi, and enjoy a morsel of food and a full service bar before their flight.
andBeyond Benguerra Island: andbeyond.com or trade.andbeyond.com
Angama Mara: angama.com
Rovos Rail: rovos.com
South African Airways: flysaa.com
South African Tourism: southafrica.net