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SSouth Africa’s Strategic Showcase on global stages is critical

Destination marketing is a complex undertaking which requires collaboration and strategic thinking, writes Tourism Minister Patricia De Lille as she reflects on this year’s South Africa’s global marketing efforts and participation in various strategic events.

A statement by Aliko Dangote during a debate on Africa, at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos reflects his perspective on the misconceptions about Africa and the necessity for Africans to take control of their own narrative: "Our risks are mainly perceived and not real. Unfortunately for us in Africa, we are not really very good at telling our own story. But things are changing, and people are beginning to understand that things are going very well." Here Dangote was speaking about the continent’s economic growth prospects.

These words resonate with us in the tourism industry, particularly as we intensify our efforts to revitalise our sector by positioning South Africa as the ideal destination for prospective travellers worldwide.

Such work centres around reshaping narratives through telling our own stories and inviting travellers to come explore our country from a fresh perspective. Importantly, the success of our marketing initiatives depends significantly on the synergy within the industry.

I was gratified to witness this synergy on full display at the World Travel Market (WTM), which took place in London last month. Events like WTM offer critical platforms as they convene the crucial players within the tourism sector, including market influencers, buyers, exhibitors, business leaders, and policymakers, all under one roof.

During the same month, South Africa showcased at the combined East Africa Regional Tourism Expo and Magical Kenya Travel Expo in Nairobi, Kenya. The event hosted over 1000 companies within the tourism industry and there South African Tourism hosted ten South African Product Owners (SAPO) at the South Africa stand showcasing our country’s variety of tourism products and services.

South African Tourism together with Department of Tourism and other government partners also recently participated in a South Africa Tourism Dialogue in Kempinski Hotel Beijing Yansha Center, in China joined by joined by nearly 60 core Chinese media and travel bloggers, and 40 travel industry partners. This is one of the successful steps that South Africa is taking to ensure that even more visitors from this region choose to visit South Africa.

During these various events, our collective presence is a show of force and helps amplify our message of a country that offers various products and experiences suited for every traveller.

Synergy within the tourism sector, I am convinced, is what spurred the remarkable surge in visitors we’ve seen this year. From January through October, we welcomed upwards of 6.8 million international travellers to our shores. Platforms like these are even more critical as we are witnessing a surge in rivalry from other destinations which are offering comparable attractions.

Prospective travellers who are our target audience, are equipped with an extraordinary amount of information and options that eventually inform their travel choices.

They are bombarded daily with messages and advertising campaigns as various other destinations are equally determined to invigorate their appeal and take charge of their narrative to distinguish themselves as attractive destination brands.

Destination marketing as a nuanced and multifaceted undertaking requires attention to various elements crucial for drawing in visitors and providing an unforgettable travel experience. This involves not just tangible, aspects like infrastructure, facilities, natural attractions, cultural sites, transportation, and others. But there are also the intangible or soft factors such as hospitality and welcoming nature of the locals, culture, history, and heritage; high quality-assured service excellence - all of which add up to create memorable experiences and appealing destination brand image.

While tangible aspects provide the foundation and practical considerations for travel, intangible experiences and emotional connections often leave a lasting impression on tourists and inspire them to return or spread positive word-of-mouth about the destination.

We recognise that travellers are discerning and deserve comprehensive information about the various factors that influence their experience.

Different stakeholders in the industry shape these hard and soft factors; for instance, we, as policymakers, have a significant role in fostering accessibility through visa policies, while the owners of various products and services are responsible for excellence in their offerings.

It is incumbent upon all involved to collaborate and excel in our respective domains to ensure that our message, once conveyed, is substantial and resonates beyond mere slogans.

It matters how and where the message is delivered. Our sector is in constant motion, deploying numerous campaigns tailored to distinct audiences with messages crafted to resonate and fulfil the strategic objectives we’ve set. These campaigns underscore our resolve to spur economic growth within a sector renowned for its job creation and economic potential. Prime examples are the Sho’t Left Campaign to promote domestic tourism offerings and encourage South Africans to explore their own country and the global “Live Again” campaign that was launched by South African Tourism inviting visitors to come to South Africa as the world re-opened following the COVID-19 pandemic.

South African Tourism’s partnership with Siya Kolisi as the destination’s global advocate served as an effective and highly relevant campaign to promote South Africa in a Rugby World Cup year.

A more recent example is the newly unveiled global campaign featuring South Africa’s world-renowned comedian and media personality, Trevor Noah - a project driven by the tourism industry and entirely funded by the private sector.

As we collaborate across our greater tourism sector, destination marketing becomes more a synergy of effort than a challenge. The campaigns we have launched, the partnerships we have fostered, and the stories we have shared all contribute to a reinvigorated perception of our tourism destination brand.

As we enjoy our vibrant summer holiday season, we invite and stand ready to welcome visitors from around world to our shores. Through our actions and hospitality, we continue to ensure that the campaign messages are more than mere slogans.

ENDS

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