Tourism Continues to Grow in South Africa

Western states play a larger role in South Africa’s growing tourism rates By: Jim Calio
Roshene Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, South Africa Tourism // (c) 2011 South Africa Tourism
Roshene Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, South Africa Tourism // (c) 2011 South Africa Tourism

West Coast Connections

 In addition to shortening the flying time between New York and Johannesburg by eliminating a stopover in Dakar, Senegal, South African Airlines (SAA) has entered into a code share agreement with JetBlue that gives SAA connections to 20 U.S. cities served by JetBlue. Also, SAA Vacations has launched a new travel partner portal that allows travel agents in North America to earn 12 percent or more in commissions. 

The Details

South African Tourism

Indaba, the Zulu word for “important meeting,” is also the name of the largest travel show in Africa. For four days, from May 7-10, the region’s leading buyers and suppliers gathered in Durban, South Africa, at the city’s spacious International Convention Center. The numbers were impressive: More than 11,000 visitors, 1,610 exhibitors and 661 local and international media were in attendance. The top five exhibitor categories included accommodation, tour operators, game lodges/nature reserves and tourist attractions and transport businesses. The emphasis was on travel within the region, but it was also clear that reaching out to non-African markets was equally as important. At the conference TAW spoke to Roshene Singh, South Africa Tourism’s chief marketing officer, about her efforts to promote South Africa travel within the U.S.

What marketing efforts are being made to lure tourists from the Western U.S. to South Africa?
The West Coast remains a core market for South Africa, and our marketing efforts are routinely focused on Los Angeles and other cities in the region. Over the past year, we have run substantial advertising programs in this market to educate consumers and build awareness of the destination. These campaigns (most recently this past March) have been composed of television and radio ads in Los Angeles, Houston, Texas, and Seattle. On the trade side, we conducted trade roundtables in L.A. at the end of 2010 and will return for another round in August. We will also be in L.A. for the first annual “Ubuntu Expo” which will be a roadshow of South African-based products touring the U.S. educating travel agents and tour operators. The L.A. event date will be Aug. 11. 

What percentage of tourists to South Africa were from the U.S. last year? 
In 2010, 282,377 Americans visited South Africa. Total foreign arrivals in South Africa during this time were 8,073,552. This would make the U.S. contribute what seems to be a small percentage of foreign arrivals; however once you remove the Africa mainland arrivals, the U.S. is the number-two source market outside of the U.K.

What percentage came from the Western U.S.?  
As far as Western states go, it's hard to measure exactly; however, according to the most recent airlift origin report (Paxis September 2010) 19 percent of U.S. traffic arrives from New York followed by 12 percent from California. Other Western states on the report include Texas at 6 percent and Washington at 3 percent. All other western states combine to account for between 1 and 2 percent of the total U.S. arrivals. However, it is good to note that this is the point of origin for travel to South Africa and not necessarily the residence.

What are the primary markets in all of the U.S. for South Africa tourism?   
New York, Chicago, L.A., Miami, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. have traditionally been our primary markets due to airlift gateway locations and number of travelers coming from these places. What we have seen over the past year or so is much more opportunity coming out of cities such as Seattle, Houston and Denver, Colo. These cities are becoming more and more important to us as source markets, and we are putting resources behind them to help educate agents and entice consumers.

Is Canada a factor in promoting South Africa tourism?
Absolutely. Arrivals to South Africa from Canada grew 21.9 percent in 2010.

Is there now an emphasis on promoting individual regions of South Africa instead of the country as a whole? If so, which regions are at the top of the list?
Basically it is our mandate to promote the country as a whole. As the trade and consumers become more and more familiar with Cape Town and Kruger and Johannesburg, it is our responsibility to then assist them in expanding the known offerings into places such as the Eastern and Northern Cape.

Does the oversupply of hotel rooms after the World Cup translate into bargains for travelers?
It certainly can during off-peak times of year. The cities that hosted matches have benefited from a wonderful expansion of accommodation options — especially at the five-star level. 

How was the logo "It's Possible" decided on?  
The notion was that South Africa is a country where tourists find unexpected surprises. For example, it’s possible in South Africa to find two Nobel Peace Prize winners on the same street in Soweto; to be alone under the stars in a close encounter with a lion that is not interested in you; or be visited by a school of dolphins while swimming at local beach. All these things — and lots of others — are possible in South Africa, thus the logo “It’s Possible.”  

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