“Tourism is riding the crest of a wave. In South Africa, on the African continent and the world, tourism continues to perform strongly and the forecast for the future is positive,” said South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma during INDABA 2017’s opening ceremony in Durban. Just take a look at the numbers. Africa is growing at a rate of two times the global average. “It is most encouraging that more and more world travelers are discovering our continent,” Zuma said. “It means they see it as an exceptional destination for holidays and business events.”
But out of the global market for international tourism, which comes in at 1.2 billion people, South Africa’s market share is less than 1 percent. “We see room for growth in that space. If we want more people traveling to South Africa, where are we going to get them from?” asked Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism, during a media roundtable in May at INDABA, Africa’s largest travel trade show.
While tourism is up by 13 percent in South Africa, Zuma plans on attracting five million more international arrivals within the next five years, aiming to make South Africa one of the top 20 tourism destinations in the world. Here are five emerging tourism trends in South Africa that are sure to help these numbers continue to climb.
“We have to collaborate to compete,” Ntshona said. “The world still sees Africa as one country.” Since travelers are making the long-haul flight to South Africa, they want to make the most out of their time here. With Johannesburg’s airport serving as the busiest on the continent, travelers can easily tack on a trip to neighboring countries like Mozambique, Namibia and Botswana.
Most people know only three provinces in South Africa—and there’s nine of them. “We want to amplify and bring the other ones into the mix and make sure they have the infrastructure and experiences that add to the bouquet of what South Africa has to offer,” Ntshona said. One way is by highlighting “hidden gems” from each of the nine provinces across the country, from African day spas to township restaurants and horseback riding trips through scenic spots like Maloti-Drakensberg Park, which sits along the border of South Africa and the kingdom of Lesotho.
For a while, baby boomers dominated the American travel market heading to South Africa. The demographic has switched over the past five years as younger travelers in their late-twenties to forties (typically traveling solo or as a couple) have made their way here looking for a wide variety of activities in close proximity, as well as a variety of price points. South Africa is no longer being seen as a five-star luxury destination, although your well-heeled clients can definitely have that. With the growth of three- and four-star properties, even millennials are comprising a significant segment of the market, staying at hip new boutique hotels like Hallmark House in Johannesburg’s up-and-coming Maboneng Precinct.
2Big Five of the Ocean
You may have heard of the safari “Big Five”—elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions and buffalo—but there’s also the “Marine Big Five”—bottlenose dolphins, southern right whales, great white sharks, Cape fur seals and African penguins. Luxury lodges like Grootbos, a 2-hour drive from Cape Town, are honing in on this growing trend with marine biologist-led coastal safaris.
“We are trying to extend tourism to smaller businesses, to go where the people of South Africa go,” said Bangu Masisi, South African Tourism’s North America president. Instead of a boxed tour, travelers are interested in more personalized experiences that allow them to be immersed culturally, such as township tours or living with a Xhosa household for a week.
For more information, visit indaba-southafrica.co.za.