Africa, Middle East
Visa relaxation and the work of Ethiopian Airlines to develop Ethiopia as a regional transport hub have been the catalyst for a massive 48% increase in international visitor arrivals, making it the fastest growing tourism market in the world in 2018.
Adventure World Travel’s destination expert for Africa, Ryan Kendall, has recently returned from a reconnaissance in Africa and shares his top three insights:
1. Two weeks of driving through Namibia brought new highlights such as tracking black rhinos at the Desert Rhino Camp in Damaraland, star gazing over the Namib Desert, and climbing the ‘Big daddy’ sand dune in Sossusvlei. ‘Little Kualala is a luxurious desert retreat in the Kulala Wilderness Reserve and each of the 11 climate-controlled thatched kulalas there have a private plunge pool and a roof-top star bed’ Kendall tells of one of his camp stays in Namibia.
2. He also reports on a rebirth of Zimbabwe as a safari destination: ‘I noticed several new lodges and significant investment going into the tourism opportunities says Kendall about changes in the region. Ryan participated in a walking safari in Hawange National Park with Imvelo Safari Lodges. ‘Imvelo are leaders in eco-tourism and if you’re looking for a remote and exclusive destination, one that actually makes a difference to local communities and wildlife, Zimbabwe’s Bomani Tented Lodge is a great choice’ he says.
3. A third insight came from a visit to Cape Town where Kendall attended the ‘We Are Africa’ conference. ‘I was able to get a deep understanding of the diversity of product and stories coming out of Africa but also, that Cape Town is open for business. A tourist really won’t notice any changes due to the water crisis, the area and issue is being well managed so that there is no impact on a tourist’s experience.
Africa’s 5% share of global travellers (62 million of the world’s 1.2 billion tourists) could be doubled in the next decade with the right collaboration, policies and investment. That’s according to South African Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona who was promoting ‘Brand Africa’ at the Africa’s Travel Indaba recently in Durban.
‘Africa’s tourism sector grew 8% in 2017, 1% above the global average,’ says Ntshona. ‘The forecast is for continued growth – no other continent has as much potential to grow.’ The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reports tourism is already an economic force on the continent – contributing a total of 8.1% to the GDP and employing 6.5% of the workforce in 2017. ‘Tourism can take us from poverty to prosperity, specifically women and young people in rural areas,’ says Ntshona who highlighted the number of small, local operators exhibiting at Indaba. ‘Today’s travellers want authenticity, and Africa covers that.’
South Africa itself has an ambitious growth plan for the next five years – to increase its visitors by 40% to 10 million. ‘South Africa has something for everyone, every wallet and every generation,’ says Ntshona. ‘We are seen as a five-star destination but we’ve got three- and four-star. Kruger is as big as Israel and you can observe the same lion from a backpacking tent to six-star luxury.’ Ntshona is also encouraging visitors to combine South Africa with another African country. ‘We are shining the spotlight so that everyone gets to benefit. Instead of spending 10 days in South Africa, how about 20 days in the region?’
Rovos Rail fans will have to wait until 2020 for a berth on the new Trail of Two Oceans journey from Tanzania to Angola. When the July 2019 departure was launched in January this year, it sold out in three weeks. It now has a waiting list and the 2020 trip is filling up. ‘We are surprised at how quickly it has sold out,’ says Estee Badenhorst, marketing with Rovos Rail. ‘It’s been mainly repeat clients who have booked the journey,’ explains key account manager, Alicia Taljaard. ‘For ‘country tickers’, the train travels through four countries – Tanzania, Zambia, southern Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.’ The once a year journey leaves Dar es Salaam on 19 July 2019 and, after a three-day turn around leaves Lobito for the return journey on 2 August (this leg is also booked out).
Taljaard says the changing scenery in Angola includes a vast watershed scattered with fisheries and where the railway line is built up on the water. ‘You then travel through green, lush jungle, baobab forests and dry arid dunes. In the Congo it’s remote. There’s jungle and copper mining but the thing I remember most is the warmth of the people.’ When the journey ends in Lobito, guests stay one night at the new Terminus Hotel. ‘We recommend guests then add a side trip to the capital Luanda, flying from nearby Catumbela,’ says Taljaard. In Luanda, points of interest include old forts and the trip incorporates a game drive and river cruise in nearby Kissama National Park.
– Trish Freeman
Photography isn’t the niche activity it once was, and agents should be encouraging clients to sign up for photography tours, urges one leading photographic safari operator.
According to Cape Town-based Pangolin Photo Safaris, these days everyone's a photographer and clients interested in the activity need to know photography safaris are no longer just for the pros.
‘There are two things that stop budding photographers from signing up for these kinds of tours – knowledge and equipment. If we can provide them with some training and set them up with the best equipment, everyone