27 August 2014

Meet South African Tourism’s ‘face of Africa’: Evelyn Mahlaba

Evelyn Mahlaba, or Evy as she is fondly known, is South African Tourism’s new regional director for Africa, and she can’t wait to start marketing the country as a prime destination for African travellers and the trade.

South African Tourism's Evy Mahlaba has an eye for Africa. 

I believe tourism is a crucial driver of the second economy – it is one of the pillars that can help address poverty. – Evy Mahlaba, regional director: Africa at South African Tourism

'While we tend to perceive the African traveller as different from the European, American or British traveller, and we assume they have specific travel requirements, our research tells us differently,' says Mahlaba.

According to Mahlaba, all visitors to South Africa want the same things: a destination that offers good value, great services and enchanting stories.

'An African traveller who visits South Africa – whether for business or for pleasure – wants the same things from their trip as everyone else and spends their money on the same things too.'

Part of Mahlaba’s day-to-day responsibilities will be working with the African travel market and gaining insight into which travellers are more likely to come to South Africa, and what will inspire and move them to do so.

'Using insights from our strategic research unit, I’ll define strategies to help grow our footprint into the continent and will engage with the trade in enabling them to sell our country in a manner that is preferred by consumers,' she says.

'I’m aiming to firmly establish our first standalone office in Nigeria, and I’ll be travelling to Lagos often to ensure that the team there is on a par with the rest of the South African Tourism family and has all the necessary tools it needs to sell South Africa.'

The next frontier is Africa

'We can’t underestimate the potential of the African travel market. The World Bank has indicated an expectation of rapid growth in Africa from now till 2030. My aim is to capitalise on that market share and drive development on the continent that sees travel become a currency among Africans,' she says.

With continental travel patterns that indicate movement all year round, and a local trade with the potential to deliver, Mahlaba’s vision of an intercontinental travel economy isn’t far off.

The national tourism budget has injected additional funds into marketing South Africa as a prime destination in Africa – the Tourism Department is serious about continental development.

'Our African core markets currently include Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and the DRC, with Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana as secondary markets,' she says.

Working with the trade

Workshops for product and trade to help deliver an effective African sales model are in the pipeline.

Provisional workshop dates (TBC):

  • Tanzania: 1 to 4 October at the Tanzania Expo*
  • Kenya: 8 to 10 October at the Magical Kenya Exhibition*
  • Angola: 9 to 12 October at the BITUR Okavango Tourism Trade Fair*
  • Nigeria: 26 to 28 October

* SA Tourism will be exhibiting at these events

For more information on the workshops please contact lindy@southafrica.net

'We rely on the trade to present the face of our country and fulfil the promise we make to markets. We want to assure them that we are engaging with our stakeholders to manage the current barriers to promoting tourism, which include issues around visas and airlifts and the recent Ebola outbreak,' she adds.

Mahlaba’s message is one of hope: 'My wish is for the industry to recognise the potential that travellers from Africa represent, in all forms. We currently have a few individuals who operate in the market – my aim is to grow the pool.

'I believe that developing the trade on the continent will help us mitigate economic risks, such as those being encountered in the Western world.'

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What inspires me?

Making a positive contribution to the betterment of our people and country.

My most-loved quote?

'Most people think about the job title, not how that title impacts the world,' said Edward Nardoza, editor-in-chief of Women’s Wear Daily.

My favourite restaurant?

Living in Jozi one is spoiled for choice with restaurants, however I enjoy cooking for friends and entertaining at home.

I can’t live without ...

Television

My ultimate travel destination?

The jewel of the Eastern Free State – Clarens, situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. This is where I get in touch with my roots as a Mosotho from Jozi.

The one person I love to follow on Twitter and Instagram?

Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of the American Vogue.