Is the shoe now on the other foot? South Africa’s new tourism campaign push comes just as its industry begins to see green shoots of recovery ahead, in contrast to the uncertainty that now hangs over European destinations.
Live Again! That’s the new message to travelers from South Africa in its first major global tourism campaign since the Covid pandemic, signaling a turning point for the country after a harrowing two years.
The aim is clear: to encourage visitors to go hyperlocal, from diving into South Africa’s wide-open, diverse landscapes to immersing in culture. What stands out, however, is the storyline.
A young Black female is the main protagonist. Working remotely from a dim lit cafe somewhere in Europe, then from her dark and lonely apartment, she appears disillusioned which leads her to shut her laptop, pack a suitcase, hop into a Black taxi cab amid heavy rains — could this be in London — and board a flight to South Africa.
As soon as she lands in sunny Cape Town and exits the cab that takes her to the hotel, driven by a Black female driver, she lives through a series of intense connections. From safaris to spas, bonfire drum circles, lunch at wineries, surfing and hiking with fellow diverse travelers, she appears transformed by these organic nature and cultural experiences. “Come as you are, leave as you’ll never be again,” the video concludes.
“The goal is simple, albeit daunting under the circumstances — restore the sector to its pre-Covid 19 pinnacle and take it even higher,” said Lindiwe Sisulu, tourism minister for South Africa, at the campaign release. “The aim is to use this to catapult South Africa’s tourism sector to the forefront of the country’s economic recovery effort and position South Africa as a safe and secure destination.”
The push for supporting local businesses and for pulling in diverse travelers is clear. Sisulu’s recent statements also confirm the aim to rebuild will be ”at the local level where economic development is most needed,” and where efforts will be focused. Repositioning tourism to benefit host communities will be key, according to South African tourism officials, as expectations are higher of the industry to bridge economic inequity coming out of the pandemic.
Skift reached out to the South Africa and Cape Town tourism offices but did not hear back in time before publication.
The new campaign is a major bounce back signal from a destination that’s ranked among the most affected as a result of being branded by the West and major source countries as a source of Covid variants, a scenario further exacerbated by South Africa’s initial delayed access to vaccines. Approximately 48 percent of the population thus far is now fully vaccinated, up from 23 percent in November 2021.
The marketing push also comes as countries are facing increased pressure to take a stand in the Ukraine war. South Africa ranks among 35 countries that have abstained from the UN General Assembly’s resolution condemning Russia.
Despite the hurdles, the tables are now seemingly turned as travel restrictions ease and South Africa might seem a lot more inviting to younger international globetrotters than summer favorites such as Europe due to Russia’s war on Ukraine and the growing consumer sentiment that trouble is brewing in that region.
South Africa tourism said it welcomed 2.2 million arrivals in 2021 and that there are indications it will see a stronger recovery this year.
Photo credit: Ndebele Village, Mpumalanga, South Africa in pre-pandemic times. South African Tourism / Flickr Commons