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November 21, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa: A Meeting and an Adventure – The Best of Post-Show Escapades

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South African sunsetAsk any seasoned traveller and they will immediately, without hesitation, share their favourite holiday experience. They will share the secret haunts they found, the places they received the best bargains, and of course the most exciting parts of the trip. Tourism is particularly pertinent to South Africa’s business-events industry, specifically from an incentive or a pre- and post-event tour perspective. Minister Derek Hanekom told delegates at the 2014 World Travel Market in London that R100-million was earmarked for the tourism sector, saying, “With commitment from the industry, this should make a very significant contribution towards addressing challenges in the National Development Plan. Our message here is that travel to South Africa is fun.”

Although the Minister has been wooing European tourists, there has also been a push towards regional and domestic tourism. “We opened an SA Tourism office in Nigeria recently and we want to open one Angola and Kenya in the not too distant future. We are also intensifying our marketing efforts in the African continent,” Hanekom told The Event a few months ago, “The immediate impact would be to bring people to South Africa, having people come to the country during the off-peak seasons and spreading the tourism inflow throughout the year.”

What many don’t realise is that conferences and exhibitions help create the kind of influx that the country needs. Delegates really enjoy time away from their regular conference schedules and the sharing of their tourism experiences are often immensely beneficial to driving business in the sector. As Yolanda Woeke-Jacobs, Director of Sales and Marketing at Dragonfly Africa, a leading travel company in southern Africa, says, “It is important to create a number of optional programmes with a range of destinations to suit every pocket. Often delegates will bring their families along to enjoy the destination, so this, too, must be taken into account.”

She goes on to say that these days it’s becoming increasingly important to offer experiential holidays. “This is not just a buzzword anymore but an actual requirement. In addition to enjoying a great holiday, visitors now also want to learn and understand,” Woeke-Jacobs explains, “Our heritage sites are very important because they offer guests an in-depth insight into where we have come from and, even more important, where we are going to. South Africa alone has four cultural, three natural and one mixed Unesco World Heritage Sites which afford visitors a really diverse and fascinating experience. For example, a private walking tour of the city of Cape Town can be arranged highlighting the history and diverse cultures.”

South Africa’s tumultuous history is now beginning to receive recognition following the passing of Nelson Mandela, with a special interest in historical and heritage sites. Quinton Mtyala, PR and Communications Manager at Robben Island Museum, says that the island is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country. “Robben Island is important because the island was used from the days of Jan van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape to banish those were considered a threat to the Cape Colony, and later during apartheid rule in South Africa. Once home to some of South Africa’s most famous political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, Robben Island is one of the country’s most visited tourist attractions. The island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and over the centuries has been used as a prison, a hospital and a mental institution, and a military base.”

But visiting the World Heritage Sites in South Africa is just one of the country’s many MICE travel options. “In cities such as Cape Town, we have varied activities – from shark cage diving, ziplining, abseiling and sandboarding to helicopter flips and Harley Davidson tours,” says Woeke-Jacobs. “Travellers can enjoy a Big Five safari (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo) as well as other interesting pursuits, like walking or horse-riding safaris, hot air ballooning and even rhino tagging – a unique activity that has made big inroads into saving our ever-dwindling rhino population. For those seeking less adrenaline-inducing activities, high tea in the townships is a refreshing option. Alternately, a uniquely local Cape Malay cooking class provides visitors with a perfect opportunity to expand their culinary repertoires.” She goes on to say that Corporate Social Responsibility projects are in great demand right now. “We can organise visits to numerous projects and schools throughout Southern Africa. Very popular is our sponsor-a-child-for-a-year scheme.”

Something that’s recently taken off and is growing in popularity is GetMyBoat. “The idea for GetMyBoat was created about a decade ago when co-founders Sascha Mornell and Raf Collado were sailing in the Atlantic and noticed a tremendous amount of boats sitting idle in the marina,” says Kira Maixner, who heads up Digital Communications for the company. “As a boat owner, Raf knows the high cost associated with boat ownership, and there they spawned the idea that is now GetMyBoat.” Through its online platform, the company offers boaters in any location the opportunity to book a journey on the high seas. It currently has over 23 000 boat listings in 110 countries and 2 300 locations, as well as various on-the-water experiences. These listings grow by five boats an hour, making the company the fastest-growing boat rental and charter marketplace in the world.  “Boaters in any destination can simply launch the app for Android or iOS and, using GEO location technology, all available boats nearby will be displayed,” Maixner says. “GetMyBoat is definitely a holiday idea for local, national, and international tourism markets…and gives people the opportunity to experience boating without the cost of ownership or club membership.” Current hot spots in South Africa are Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, with approximately 100 listings to choose from including cage diving with sharks in Van Dykes Bay, sailing in Durban and scuba diving in PE.

All these wonderful options can be daunting to choose from, especially when you’re a conference delegate that’s pressed for time. This is where Destination Management Companies step in to help smooth out the process. “It is important to first develop an understanding of delegates’ profiles – this is the starting point in putting together optional pre and post programmes,” says Dragonfly’s Woeke-Jacobs. “Delegates can then choose to buy into one of our ready-made programmes, or make use of our bespoke service, which provides tailor-made itineraries to suit their exact requirements. We are fortunate to have a dedicated travel team managing this whole process.

“The general pre- and post-event tour trend is for guests to go on safari after attending a conference in a major city such as Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban. Typically, this would take the form of a two-night experience at any of the amazing lodges on offer, but another great option would be a self-drive holiday along the Garden Route, exploring the charming seaside towns and staying in cosy boutique hotels. Other popular pre- and post-destinations include Victoria Falls, Botswana and beach breaks in Mozambique, Zanzibar or Mauritius.”

The Best of South Africa

  1. Fancy a train safari? The Blue Train offers luxury rail travel across the country with five-star interiors, excellent service, world-class cuisine and exquisite souvenirs.
  2. Hot air balloons are all the rage, with exciting routes available in Limpopo, the North West and other places. Hop on and explore the beauty of SA from an unforgettable vantage point.
  3. For those seeking an adventure, try rafting the rapids of the Orange River near Hopetown. The adrenalin rush is just as great as shark cage diving, abseiling and bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bungee in the world.
  4. With summer just around the corner, a beach holiday is ideal, especially with so many glorious, Blue Flag beaches to choose from. Whether you’re a sun-worshipper, a water sports fanatic or simply looking for an ideal family vacation, we have the perfect beach for you.
  5. Get down and dirty with SA’s vibrant culture when you go on an authentic township tour in Soweto. Not only will these give insight into the anti-apartheid struggle, but the welcoming residents are sure to surprise and inspire. Citysightseeing Buses or Canal Boat Rides are also ideal for exploring the cultural riches of Cape Town from a different perspective.
  6. Take a load off after a busy conference schedule at one of the many casinos and resorts in South Africa. Sun City, the most famous, is situated in the crater of an ancient volcano!
  7. Ostrich ride anyone? Visiting an ostrich farm in the Little Karoo will give you a chance to do just that, as well as feed them, pet them and pick up some fabulous ostrich leather goods.
  8. Theme parks are a great option for both families and businessmen who haven’t yet grown up. Places like Gold Reef City in Joburg offer some of the most thrilling rides in the southern hemisphere.
  9. Opt for a bit of beauty and take a scenic road trip along the Wild Coast or the Garden Route. Here there are a myriad of water sports including surfing, as well as horse rides along the beach and much more.
  10. South Africa’s biggest tourism driver is its National Parks, so why not book into a luxury lodge and see the famous Big Five? St Lucia is the only town in SA surrounded by a national park and offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with their favourite wild animals.

An African Adventure

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the number of foreign tourists that visited the African continent hit 65.1 million in 2013. The continent is brimming with opportunity in this sector, with the most popular destinations being Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Here’s a countdown of the best spots to holiday in Africa.

  1. Luxor, Aswan and Cairo are popular historic and cultural holiday destinations for South African visitors. According to Egypt’s Tourism Development Authority, they hope to attract upwards of 100 000 SA tourists during the 2014/2015 fiscal year.
  2. Try a romantic rail route with Rovos Rail, one of SA’s finest luxury trains. The superbly restored Edwardian coaches travel from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, Dar es Salaam and Cairo.
  3. Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo offer excellent corporate travel tours for small groups. The nations specialise in mountain gorilla safaris and birding safaris.
  4. For those wishing to explore the sultry beaches of Zanzibar or the bustling beach town of Dar es Salaam, Air Excel offers unique chartered flights to holiday destinations in Tanzania.
  5. Madagascar and the Seychelles offer incomparable island adventures. Seychelles is a popular holiday destination, while Madagascar offers canoe, catamaran, sailing, camping and helicopter adventures in remote and pristine parts of the island. 

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