South Africa Set to Score Big in 2011

But the new company already has a large inventory and one of its programs, the 10-day Cape & Kruger, exemplifies that “experiential” emphasis the company’s aiming for, including the opportunity to dine and spend some time with a Cape Town family, as well as a 5-day game viewing program in two areas of Kruger National Park.

“What we’ve done with that trip is we’ve put in three levels of accommodations. That trip is very much the framework of what the majority of Americans do when they go to South Africa for the first time. They go to the Cape, they go to Kruger National Park, and then there are the extensions they would go to from there or they can do that trip in 10 days and many people do. But you can extend it and take in Botswana, Victoria Falls, Namibia.”

Herbert explains that the three accommodation categories are divided into three pricing programs: the Classic (from $3,735), the Luxury (from $5,695) and the Premier, the upper-end luxury program from $10,485. In the Premier program, clients will be staying for two nights each at the ultra-lux Royal Malewane in the North Kruger Park Private Reserve and the luxurious Singita Safari Lodge in the South Kruger Park Private Reserve. While in Cape Town, they spend three nights in the five-star One&Only in the waterfront area.

“That is a trip. One of the reasons we’ve steered away from trying to cut corners, even our Classic, we’re using Cape Cadogan Hotel, which is, at any description, a luxury lodge and a very fine boutique hotel. We just find that when people’s trips exceed their expectations, it feeds referrals. So that’s why we stick with good products and not gone for price and try to provide some good value.”

african travel, inc. Over at African Travel, Inc., Richard Haas-Winkelman, marketing and product development, says business is good and the market has given some strong indications that it’s still climbing. “We’re expecting double digit growth this year,” Plus, he points out, “95 percent of what we do is FIT. They budget on how high they want to go and other interests. However, on the South Africa program, the majority of the clients will be first-time travelers and they all do the same circuit—some sort of variation of Cape Town, Kruger and the Falls. So then, you pitch that and that’s usually a starting point and from there, it’s how high they want to go with the amenities.”

But in terms of luxury product, Haas-Winkelman says, South Africa has a big advantage because it was the first destination in Africa to put a focus on that market and they’ve got the infrastructure to support it. “South Africa took the ball, easily 10 years ago, if not longer than that. They threw the gauntlet down,” he says. “Kenya is starting to follow the model. Tanzania has a number of places now that they’ve come up with an upline model—you’ve got AndBeyond in there and of course Singita is out there now on the Serengeti.”

With South Africa, though, there has been a dip in some of the luxury product that has nothing to do with performance, but with timing. On the South Africa rail programs, for instance, he says, “It’s a beautiful product and we used to sell considerably more than we presently do and I actually think that’s more a matter of relating to the work pattern in the U.S. If you’re taking the family with you and the kids are out of school for a short period, or both parents are working and coordinating time away and with a day-and-half to get there and a day to get back, leaving you with just eight or nine nights on the ground, can you justify spending two nights out of your vacation to sit on a train? I think that’s the mitigating factor in our drop in sales of that particular product. “

Still, he adds, “Rovos Rail is a phenomenal product and certainly over the years they’ve been in business, they’ve looked at their product, they’ve kept it top of the line, they’ve expanded their routes and they do specialize. I mean, look at their Cape to Tanzania program, which I think they now run three or four a year—hey, I’ll sell a couple of those, it’s a good little ticket and it’s a beautiful product.”