Giving African tourists to SA a whole lot more

African tourists are flocking to South Africa, their numbers have increased by 7% between 2010 and last year, according to figures released at last week’s tourism indaba in Durban.

South African Tourism’s regional director for Africa, domestic and the Middle East, Phumi Dhlomo, said this could, in part, be attributed to an intensive cellphone marketing ­campaign targeting specific countries on the continent.

“We have looked at how we should position ourselves as a value-for-money destination and have started to use mobile marketing with which we are reaching quite a lot of people,” he said.

“Every single radio advertisement, billboard or printed advertisement we put out there drives people to our mobi site where they can select from packages and make a booking. So we say to people ‘Here is what this destination offers and here is how you can book it’. We have done this in Angola, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.”

According to Dhlomo, packages are tailored according to the specific preferences of various nationalities. “When we host people we take them around to different destinations so that we can establish what specifically their market is looking for and structure packages accordingly. We are doing a lot of market research where we ask people to tell us what they need as tourists.”

Curating the curious

The growing trend towards destination-tourism marketing — a collaborative strategy embarked on by an area’s tourism stakeholders — has made South African Tourism’s task easier, he said. “With the products getting more organised it is so much easier to say to tourists ‘This is what you can do’.

“It is no longer about individual products — we are looking at grouping certain experiences so that people go [directly] to that particular destination and experience all the products in that area,” he said.

“We want to make sure that when people are here they get to spend a ­little more and stay a little longer and we also want to encourage repeat ­visits.”

The move towards marketing destinations as opposed to individual products could also have a positive effect on domestic tourism, he said.

“Some of the research we undertook indicates that South Africans are saying they have no reason to travel. If we can highlight specific experiences, which are enriching [at specific destinations], they will have an opportunity to do a whole lot more than what they were used to doing.”

Andy Visser, chairperson of the N3 Gateway Tourism Association, which was formed to market the region running from Heidelberg in southern Gauteng to the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal, agreed. “Destination-tourism marketing is about taking a tourist into an area where they can experience more than just one thing and marketing that entire area and not just one product to a broad spectrum,” she said.

“It is not centred around going to a particular hotel but around what people can do. People want a place to stay, but ultimately they want to do things — hiking, adventure, running, canopy tours, shopping, eating. The advantage of having routes such as the Drakensberg experience, which is part of N3 Gateway, is that you have got everyone connected. A hotel can say to a tourist, ‘If you want to do this, this is how you can go about doing it’.”

Breaking down barriers

Lood Boshoff is a retired tour guide who owns Willow Grange, a two-star establishment on the R103 between Mooi River and Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal. He also doubles up as the vice-chairperson of the Drakensberg experience route, which encompasses the northern and central Drakensberg and includes the towns of Estcourt, Winterton, Bergville, Weenen and Geluksberg.

Boshoff said destination-tourism marketing has benefited his establishment and that an increasing number of cyclists were booking in en route. “We have the attitude that there are no boundaries in tourism and no opponents. Tourists are not interested in boundaries; they come to see the country. We work together as cousins, selling tourism, not our individual products.”

Across the border in Zimbabwe, destination-marketing campaigns such as Wild Zambezi, Go to Victoria Falls and Herd of Wangi are also in vogue.

“Zimbabwe has gone through 10 years of really turbulent times socioeconomically and politically,” said Daniella Ponter, marketing manager of the Amalinda Collection, one of 11 safari operators that are driving the Herd of Wangi destination-marketing campaign aimed at bringing recognition to Wangi National Park. “Safari operators who should be competitors have pulled together as one entity to bring people back to this beautiful destination,” said Ponter.

One of the main components of Herd of Wangi is a website that carries information about seasons, distances, access, game counts and properties. “It has everything that one needs to know about a wildlife destination,” said Ponter. “It is aimed at showing what an ecologically diverse destination Wangi National Park is and in this way we do not just get recognition from tourists, we also get a lot of PhD students and nonprofit organisations that come specially to research the fauna and flora.”

“We have had such a rubbish time that people are no longer in competition with each other. We feel a real sense of pride and happiness when we hear our competitors are 90% full and that people are seeing Zimbabwe as the world-class safari destination that it is.”

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