It’s a destination that has suffered from something of an image problem among Australian travellers in recent years.
But one of South Africa’s top tourism officials has challenged those Down Under not to believe everything they have heard about his country.
In an interview with Traveltalk at Africa’s Travel Indaba 2022, Mr Themba Khumalo, Acting CEO of South African Tourism, urged Aussies to come and learn the truth.
“We believe that as more Australians travel to South Africa, they will find that a lot of the narrative that they might find out there might not exactly be true,” he said.
“Travel to South Africa and find out the truth for yourself so people cannot tell you any different.
“South Africa is a great country but like any other country it has its challenges that we are dealing with head on. Australians are welcome in South Africa on any given day. I embrace them both as visitors and sporting rivals.”
Mr Khumalo said the Australian market remained “vital” and that it was crucial for more South Africans to visit so they could become better hosts to tourists from Down Under.
“We are more similar than different, when you look at the climate, the culture and the infrastructure. Visiting one another should be a natural thing to do.”
The tourism boss revealed there was a marketing strategy in place to attract more Aussies, including a push to promote lifestyle tourism choices in response to the demand for environmentally friendly and community-conscious travel.
“From a lifestyle standpoint, which is sport, fashion, music, conservation, sustainability, wildlife, all the things we really care about, these are the areas that we should be using for us to really connect our various markets. For me, that is a platform that we are going to drive into the Australian market.
“This is not about saying we have a beautiful beach or a great hotel. This is about very fundamental issues that people care about and that is how I believe we are going to grow tourism together, Australia and South Africa.
“I believe that when Australians travel to South Africa and South Africans travel to Australia, we will find that we will grow more as people.”
Looking ahead to a post-COVID world, Mr Khumalo said discussions were taking place with the Star Alliance airlines to improve connectivity to South Africa. He also believes travel agents will be vital to the recovery of the tourism industry.
“Whereas a lot of direct online bookings were happening going into the lockdown, we’re seeing a reverse of that trend. Travel agents are going to continue to be core to how people travel, especially now going forward.”
Asked to recommend some of his favourite spots, Mr Khumalo picked the Western Cape for relaxation and the Northern Cape or Free State for solitude.
“If I want a deep, cultural experience I either come to KwaZulu-Natal here in Durban or go up to Limpopo. When you get there, those parts of the country have been able to really preserve the original ways of life.
“The cultural way in which the people carry themselves and engage is very tangible.
“South Africa has got pockets of different things that you can do in different spaces. I’d really encourage people to travel to South Africa for purposeful reasons.”
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