South African Airways Takes The World To Africa

with Caroline Booth

Stroebel Bekker & David Chorely with Amanda Margison of On Show. 

Nabintu Petsana & Lumka Dlomo, City of Johannesburg

Mila & Murad Velshi, The Travel Network

Andre Celliers, Thornybush Luxury Game Lodge Collection

“At South African Airways our saying is that we take the world to Africa and bring Africa to the word, but tonight we brought Africa to Toronto,” said Stroebel Bekker, V.P. Sales North America.

Last week, the airline held its African showcase in Canada for the very 1 st time. Agents were invited to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Toronto to meet with 30 representatives from hotels, safari lodges, destination tourism organizations and other attractions to learn about what’s new and upcoming.

As the largest travel trade event in North America featuring exclusively  African suppliers, the show has already been running in the U.S. for the past 7 years. David Chorely, Director Sales Canada for SAA said that this Canadian debut came at the request of the supplier and agency community who voiced a strong desire to learn more about Africa and its offerings.

“There’s a nice buzz in the room, you can feel the energy,” said Bekker who was pleased with the evenings’ turnout. Bekker added that Canada is an important market and Toronto in particular accounts for 5-10% of the visitors from North America. “Supplier partnerships span the country and have been great advocates for travel to Africa, so being here is a show of appreciation.” The customer base is also very diverse and includes groups, students, corporate, leisure and government travel.

“We cover the full gamut,” added Chorely who acknowledged that the Star Alliance partnership with Air Canada helps to account for the wide reach.

The evening began with presentations by a few feature suppliers followed by a reception where agents could eat and mingle casually with other guests. Following was the round robin presentation portion of the evening where each supplier met one on one with agents to give a brief overview of their product.

Mila and Murad Velshi  of The Travel Network were pleased to attend the event. Despite their knowledge and familiarity of the destination based on past trips, they said there is always more to learn as there are new developments on the go all the time. This evening they were able to note a few tips for a group trip they are planning for the coming months.

Exciting news from Johannesburg is National Geographic’s recent announcement of the discovery of a new species of human relative, Homo naledi. It’s fascinating that such ancient fossils are still being unearthed in close proximity to a metropolis with over 4.4 million inhabitants. Both urban and wildlife tourism are well developed in South Africa, whereas by contrast, is the vast natural serenity of its neighbour Namibia. According to Ndapona Schleberger of Namibia’s Tourism Board, cultural tourism and preservation is promoted over mass tourism. “It is a place where you can feel like you are the 1 st to be there. You are at your peace to find your soul and de-stress.”  

With all of the interest and discussion surrounding Africa, there are still 2 big misconceptions that people have. One is that Africa is a once in a lifetime bucket list destination and the other is that it is expensive. “Don’t put off going until later,” said Bekker. “You should go while you’re young so you have the opportunity to go back.  Once you’re there you’ll notice that there is so much to see.” Bekker adds that it is a great family destination where kids will gain exposure to culture, wildlife and diversity that will change their perspective on life. As for being expensive. Bekker says that a traveller can spend just as much for a week in the Caribbean as a week in Africa. “People think that because it’s far it is expensive.”

And once clients decide to go, Bekker insists that the experience shouldn’t only start once they’ve landed. “If you’re going to visit  a unique destination, you should travel on the airline of that destination. If you’re going to South Africa, you should travel on a South African carrier. The experience starts there and you get a feeling of the culture, the language the taste right there onboard. We have a great destination waiting and we’re the airline of choice to get you there.”

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