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South Africa Tourism is one of the most dynamic destination marketing organizations in the world. It has helped to raise South Africa from a country that was practically off the tourist map 20 years ago to one of the top tourism destinations in the world, and the preferred first landing point in Africa for many Americans.
The agency's success working with its market is reflected in its being voted by a majority of travel agents as the Best Country Tourism Bureau in Africa and the Middle East.
For Nelson Mandela's vision of a Rainbow Nation to be realized in the long run, economic empowerment is needed by the people of South Africa to lift them out of the stark limits of the apartheid past. There is no better hope of that empowerment than through tourism.
The South African government knows that tourism is the best way for developing countries to get a leg up and build economies that benefit the whole range of their people, so it has made tourism one of the top five sectors of the economy that it invests in to create jobs and transformation. Tourism is essential to realizing the dream of South Africa.
South African Tourism uses every tool at its disposal to get the word out about South Africa, and it gets maximum mileage from each channel. Through creative use of social media and public relations, and through wise exercise of public relations principles, SAT has maximized the power of the media channels to spread the magic of South Africa and get the stories of South Africans out to the world.
SAT has mounted a series of creative promotional campaigns, such as the ongoing "What's Your Big Five" campaign. SAT partnered with the U.S. Tour Operators Association in its "Travel Together" promotions. The tourism board has forged strategic alliances with major retail consortia, which have produced measurable results. It has monitored trends carefully in order to maximize the positive effect on tourism of different demographic categories.
SAT partnered with travAlliance, the owner of Travel Pulse, to create the Fundi Specialist Program, an educational program to help travel agents sell trips to South Africa.
Judging from growing visitor numbers, SAT has done an excellent job at helping to channel the world's fascination with the new South Africa into meaningful results.
In 1994, the year of its first democratic elections, South Africa received 74,743 visitors from the U.S. (South Africa did not differentiate between tourists and visitors back then). By 2012 the number had risen to nearly 327 000 tourists, a growth of 337.0 percent in less than 20 years.
Since the 2010 World Cup, South African tourism has grown by more than 20 percent, a great feat for any country, especially since most country's see a decline in tourism following a major international sports event like the World Cup. South Africa bucked that trend and has shown continuous growth before, during and after the World Cup.
Year after year South African Tourism has come up with creative and effective ways to market South Africa and to get the message to the world that South Africa is one of the overall most well-rounded tourism destinations in the world. Since virtually everyone in the world knows that South Africa's wildlife is amazing, SAT has focused on getting the word out about warmth of the country's people, its multicultural richness and the joy of liberation and freedom.
South African Tourism keeps colorful and imaginative campaigns in front of the public at all times. The bureau operates an attractive and informative website full of well-organized and accessible information that is useful for consumers as well as travel agents. The agency gives strong support to its domestic suppliers and performs a service to American wholesalers and retailers by helping to facilitate connections between the trade and the destination.
David Cogswell is executive editor covering tours and packages, Africa and the Middle East.
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