Skift Take

Tourism campaigns out of the African continent are getting creative and breaking stereotypes in a way never before seen. We're here for it.

Hop on an interactive platform and pick a game character — Thabiso the Fearless Foodie, Storm the Nature Warrior, or Anathi the Urban Adventurer. Then follow your chosen virtual tour guide down a rabbit hole of short and vibrant real-life videos that immerse you into Cape Town’s diverse sceneries and cultural draws. For each guide selected, multiple journey options emerge, from graffiti to wine, drumming to art and history among others, turning the exploration into a dynamic, virtual experience.

At the end of the game, a South African storyteller figure — played by born and bred Capetonian Thony Gum — reappears against the backdrop of a neon purple lit, futuristic-looking Cape Town, reminiscent of Wakanda in the movie Black Panther, as she invites the viewer to “come, your freedom awaits.”  

Find your freedom” is Cape Town Tourism’s new global campaign and its game-style approach blending the virtual with the real is the first of its kind in the travel industry. It’s also the biggest campaign Cape Town Tourism has launched in its 40 years of existence, and it comes in less than a month following South Africa tourism’s first national tourism campaign since the pandemic.

But Cape Town’s computer-generated imaging focus also aims to draw a specific audience: the purpose-seeking, adventure-driven, digitally savvy Millennial.

“It’s an interactive experience from start to finish. We can’t engage with Millennials like we have always done as brands and destinations,” said Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, at the campaign launch. “Posting on Facebook or advertising on TV may have worked with older Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, it won’t work with Millennials. We need to understand that this generation are truly digital natives and pioneers of the digital travel journey.”

Duminy said that Millennials use social media to experience a destination before they arrive and value the opinions of their friends and influencers above anyone else.

At the end of each virtual journey, the viewer is presented with two options: book now, which leads directly to Expedia, and guided journeys, which leads to itineraries that can be downloaded and list all the themed experiences featured in the video clips.   

“We looked at gamification and Afrofuturism and we wanted to combine those together, also with an element of reality in actually seeing the exact experiences in Cape Town, the exact product, and blend it all together in a really nice interactive experience,” said Leigh Dawber, marketing executive at Cape Town Tourism.

Dawber said that the concept came about within the internal creative team at Cape Town Tourism, and a videographer and VFX creators were then brought on. South Africa’s multiple delayed openings due to surprise pandemic waves meant additional time to perfect the concept.  

“Our goal is to fuel faster recovery in the visitor economy,” said Alderman James Vos, Cape Town city mayoral committee member for economic growth, in a release. “This new campaign really hits the mark not just in terms of being something original and fun, but most importantly, being enticing enough, I believe, to result in actual bookings.”

Eko, the interface used to host the game, simply enables the choice driven journey, Dawber said. “We plug in our content separately; we plug in the intro, we plug in the outro and then we plug in all the experiences separately. So eko is really a platform to enable us to make a choice driven experience at very little cost.”

The entire campaign budget is about 13 million rand, not big as far as campaign budgets have gone in the industry but big for Cape Town. “It is the biggest campaign Cape Town Tourism has ever done in our history of 40 years, so for us it’s big, 13 million rand is real bucks,” said Dawber.

The team will begin actively marketing this campaign in three ways, including a conversion campaign that drives bookings to Expedia, which will kick off on April 27 or Freedom Day in South Africa, with a customized “Find Your Freedom” landing page integrated with specific offerings. A partnership with GoPro ambassadors heading to Cape Town to “find their freedom” and personalize their storytelling is also set, plus a partnership with TikTok to drive branded content.

“So we’re not just producing this game and hoping for people to play, because the reach doesn’t come through tourism boards,” said Dawber. “It comes through really strong partnerships and a very targeted marketing approach. So we mainly target the UK and Germany, but also the U.S. as well.”

Tags: cape town, coronavirus recovery, south africa, tourism campaigns, tourism marketing

Photo credit: "Find Your Freedom" is Cape Town Tourism's new virtual game campaign aimed at luring Millennials back to the Mother City. Cape Town Tourism / Courtesy of Cape Town Tourism