South Africa literally has something for every traveler. Not only is it steeped in history, it also boasts romantic destinations, wineries, sprawling beaches, major business centers, top safari/game reserves and sporting locales. It’s no wonder tourism to that country is on the rise.
According to the latest statistics, foreign visitors spend more than $1 billion annually in South Africa. The country welcomes around 860,000 arrivals per month, of which about 210,000 are from outside the African continent. Tourism revenue equals between 1 percent and 3 percent of gross domestic product. And as 2010 nears, when the country will host the FIFA World Cup (soccer’s largest international tournament), tourism is expected to spike drastically.
To help ensure this, the country has planned a global marketing campaign to attract soccer fans from around the world to the event. In 2005, the country set out to host 10 million tourists within five years, and authorities say that the World Cup will more than put them over that mark. Besides the World Cup, South Africa just nabbed hosting rights to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, the FIFA Confederations Cup, the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa and the Miss World pageant.
To keep track of just how important tourism is to its bottom line, South Africa will launch this month (May) a tourism satellite account, which, for the first time, will measure the full contribution tourism makes to the South African economy. Other countries have seen a fall in tourism lately, but South Africa’s is up. According to Emirates and Cathay Pacific Airways, for example, passenger numbers on routes in other parts of the world have fallen, but those on their routes to South Africa have increased.
The country’s Black Economic Empowerment initiative has helped bring more Blacks into the industry. One of the most successful BEE tourism companies is the Protea hotel chain, which is 53 percent Black owned. Established in 1984, Protea is also Africa’s largest chain, with more than 100 hotels in seven African countries and four due soon in Dubai. In October 2000, 18 percent of its shareholding was sold to two BEE partners. By 2005, Protea Hotels concluded a further BEE transaction that resulted in a 53 percent BEE stakeholding. Today, South Africa is home to the majority of Protea hotels, but they have properties from Ghana to Zambia and range from three- to five-star hotels.
Meanwhile in Soweto, the Zuka African Tourism & Investment Corp. opened the first Holiday Inn in the area. Situated in Johannesburg’s Freedom Square, it is Soweto’s first four-star hotel. “The architecture is 1950s township, while rooms are decorated in African style, with warm colors complemented by local arts and crafts,” says Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, who leads Zatic. “Tables are oil drums reminiscent of coal braziers and the chairs are covered in black leatherette,” she adds.
The cuisine includes authentic South African dishes and the hotel offers tours around Kliptown and Soweto, as well as evenings of local jazz in the restaurant, featuring the band Jazz Maniacs.
Blacks are also taking ownership in bed-and-breakfast facilities, especially in Cape Town townships. Liziwe’s Guest House in Gugulethu, for example, is attracting major attention. Owned and operated by Liziwe Ngcokoto, the story behind the guesthouse is one of its draws. Ngcokoto and her husband lived modestly in a tin shack, all the while dreaming of building a house. Eventually, her husband did just that — brick by brick, with his own hands. Fifty thousand bricks and three years later, they had Liziwe’s Guest House, which they turned into a B&B. Using the power of the Internet, the enterprising pair got the word out and started hosting visitors.
“I feel great, happy and satisfied when I see the many visitors that come into my guesthouse not knowing what to expect and leaving my home with huge smiles as they learn about the journey I took to get where I am today and about our culture and our township,” says Ngcokoto, who serves home cooking in Liziwe’s Restaurant next door and offers entertainment to her guests via local poets and dance troupes.
Located in the Khayelitsha township, Kopanong Bed & Breakfast is run by Thope Lekau and her daughter Mpho. Established in 1999, Kopanong offers breakfast and traditional-style dinner. A registered tour guide (as well as a community economic development worker), Thope tells guests what it was like growing up in the apartheid era and allows them to experience the townships. Other popular guesthouses in Cape Town include Florence Bhunu’s Mbalentle Guest House; Vicky’s Township Stay and B&B, run by Vicky Ntozini; and Majoro’s Township Bed & Breakfast, owned by Maria Maile.
A number of Black-owned eateries target tourists. In Cape Town, one of the most successful is Marco’s African Place, a 280-seat restaurant in the Bo-Kaap area. Marco, chef and owner, is South Africa’s first Black restaurateur. In 1989, he opened his first restaurant with a partner and four years later struck out on his own at Marco’s Place. Today, the restaurant’s famed African cuisine and African music attract international patrons.
Blacks are also making inroads as owners of tour companies and as independent tour operators. One thriving company is Legend Tours. Established in 1994, Legend started as a tour operator and shuttle service in the greater Cape Town area. Now they have offices in Johannesburg, as well. Over the past 12 years, Legend has grown at an average of 20 percent per year.
Ezizwe Travel and Tours prides itself in being a boutique operation specializing in township tours. The wholly Black-owned enterprise arranges tours in and around Cape Town. Owner Thabang Titoti has been in the tourism business since 1993. Before launching the company, he worked as a South African Tourism-accredited freelance guide. During 2003, he took part in a mentorship program, which was a joint initiative by South African Tourism Association and the Department of Economic Development & Tourism to encourage more Black South Africans to participate in tourism. Today, he enjoys steady business.
The South Africa Tourism Office Cape Town publishes a list of Black-owned, tourism-related businesses in Cape Town. There’s no doubt that post-apartheid South Africa has taken its place as a major tourism destination.