Southern Africa is one of the hottest regions for events and incentives in 2019 according to our recent inSPIRE survey. We caught up with Mike Waller, CEO of DMC Dragonfly Africa, to get the lowdown on why its so popular….
Why do you think Southern Africa is so popular at the moment?
Southern Africa continues to offer exceptional value for money when you look at the undervalued Rand. Food and beverage, activities as a whole, even accommodation are all very affordable against the major currencies. Admittedly, some of the bigger names are quoting rates pegged against the Dollar, but this is largely to protect against possible further devaluation of the Rand. South Africa is also politically neutral territory and whilst we have our own challenges around unemployment and crime in certain areas, we are not exposed to the terrorism threads or political concerns affecting much of Europe and other popular tourist locations.
Cape Town, off the back of a tough year, as a result of the scare tactics deployed by Western Cape Government to encourage residents to be extremely frugal with water usage, has rebounded very well, with many of the dams and reservoirs considerably improved compared to this time last year. As a result, Cape Town bookings have picked up favourably. Cape Town continues to be voted Best City to Live In along with numerous other accolades pertaining to travel, design, trends and generally a wonderful place to visit. The diversity of activities, product available, scenic beauty and culture in a relatively small space, is difficult to match.
Which destinations are seeing the most interest?
Personally, we are seeing interest in more outlying areas especially safari reserves which were previously unexplored by international tourists. For example, Madikwe, Waterberg, Chobe and South Luangwa, as a result we believe, of the big-name safari lodges being full to capacity. Tour operators have become more creative and some of the smaller names that offer excellent value for money, but have generally been missed out, are now receiving well deserved interest and bookings.
Zimbabwe is also on the up, in particular Victoria Falls which has always been a microcosm of its own, not associated with the general disarray affecting most of Zimbabwe. Considerable money has been spent by long suffering hoteliers and service providers in Victoria Falls and that investment is paying off with a surge of interest in the region. friendly service, interesting product and great value for money can be had if one is prepared to explore some of the outlying regions in addition to Victoria Falls.
Safaris seem to be firmly back in vogue for incentives, would you agree?
Yes, safaris throughout Africa seem to be on everyone’s bucket list. Primarily, I think because the encroachment on wildlife habitat is increasing at an alarming rate. More and more species are being poached to the brink of extinction, not only rhinos, but now elephant, lion and numerous other smaller species.
Through increased awareness via social media, people are realising that there may come a time when they won’t see any of these magnificent animals or cultures and tribes or the wide-open spaces in quite the same form as they are now and so, the safari experience is being moved up their priority list. Safari experiences certainly have not become any less expensive, so demand we believe, is being driven by this awareness.
Are there any new destinations in Africa that are emerging for MICE?
Whilst not Africa per se, Madagascar is on the up, but it is still a challenging product due to the great distances and largely three- and four- star product. The few five-star resorts are extremely expensive, very niche and in some cases an option for only exceptionally wealthy clientele. However, with continued interest, we expect that landscape to change.
As a result, Mozambique has picked up marginally, but again the luxury lodges tend to be very expensive, on a par with the Indian Island resorts of Seychelles and Mauritius and whilst infrastructure and access has certainly improved, to much of the Mozambique coast, it is still some way off ideal. But the untouched beauty and warm climate are increasingly popular with return travellers and the adventurous.
What’s the big news on the hotel and venue front in 2019?
The spotlight is on Table Bay in the first quarter of next year, whose lease is up for tender and it is understood that a number of five-star hotel chains are pitching for it.
The AC Hotel part of the Marriott chain and sister hotel to the Westin, is also due to open in the early part of next year, which will add yet another luxury option to the Waterfront hotels. Once derelict, but now trendy and funky areas such as Woodstock, are also getting on the map with new hotels, the latest being The Stock Exchange set to open in March 2019.