South Africa continues to set itself apart as one of the most sought after destinations in the world today


Over the last few months, South Africa has received global recognition for its cities, tourist accommodation, responsible tourism and marketing efforts in a number of prestigious travel awards and surveys.

“In a highly competitive global marketplace, it is heartening for the South African tourism industry to receive this level of global recognition,” says South African Tourism Chief Executive Officer, Mr Thulani Nzima.

In the Huffington Post’s list of top destinations to visit in 2015, South Africa came in at ninth spot. The news site gave the Big Five, the cultural diversity of the country, its gay-friendly attitude, its townships and cosmopolitan cities, fine wines and great food as some of the reasons to visit South Africa.

South Africa has seen Chinese tourist arrivals growth from 68 309 in 2010 to 151 847 at the end of 2013. This is growth in Chinese tourists of 122 percent over three years. This surge in Chinese arrivals is making South Africa one of this emerging market’s favourite leisure destinations. In March, 2015 the Beijing News named South African Tourism “Brand with the Most Humanistic Spirit”, and Ctrip (China’s leading travel site) put South Africa in its top luxury tourist destinations of 2015.

At the World Travel Awards last year, South Africa confirmed its leadership when it comes to wildlife by being named as the world’s leading safari destination for 2014. Giving evidence to support this was A Luxury Travel Blog, which named the Kruger National Park the best in the world in December 2014.

After long sitting in the shadow of the renowned Mother City, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are also getting their fair share of global accolades.

“While Cape Town continues to be named amongst the best cities in the world, it is really exciting that Johannesburg and Durban are now also getting the international recognition they deserve,” says Nzima.

Johannesburg is the most visited city in Africa for the second year in a row, according to the latest destination index published by MasterCard in November 2014, and the city is fast setting itself apart as a tourist destination.

Renowned travel guide company, Rough Guides, named Johannesburg the top city to visit in 2015 noting that it is “finally beginning to break free from the chains of its troubled past. Rough Guides also indicated that parts – like the arty Maboneng quarter have rooted themselves as exciting cultural hubs”.

Maboneng was also named one of the world’s coolest new tourist attractions in January 2015 by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

This follows on from Johannesburg been named by the Good Magazine as the second most inspiring city in the world (after Hong Kong) late last year. The Good City Index is described by the magazine’s editors as “a celebration of the 50 cities around the world that best capture the elusive quality of possibility”.

Recently, Durban was voted one of the official New Seven Wonder Cities of the World, alongside cities including Doha, Havana and Kuala Lumpur. Furthermore, the New York Times, which named Cape Town as the number one place to go in 2014, ranked Durban seventh in its 52 places to go in 2015 noting that ‘the city’s creative set is staking its claim on a hefty share of the country’s cool quotient’, citing the reinvention of Rivertown and the trendy new eateries opening up on the beachfront to back up this claim.

Cape Town has been ranked by National Geographic as the world’s second best beach city in their latest Top 10 list released earlier this year, behind Barcelona. Lonely Planet also named the Cape Canopy Tour, just outside of Cape Town, as the second best attraction in the world in 2015.

The Mother City also came up tops in’s (one of Asia’s leading hotel booking sites) most recent Travel Smarts study, released in November last year, which shows where to find the best hotels in the world. Overall, Cape Town took the number one spot with the highest-rated hotels of any destination, scoring 8.43 out of a possible 10. The study analysed nearly seven million customer reviews on

South Africa also proved its status as a leading luxury travel destination with the release of the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards 2014 in October. This saw the country take the top spot in the best 100 hotels and resorts, and Cape Town named fourth out of the world’s 25 must-see cities.

Londolozi private game reserve at Sabi Sands in Mpumalanga was voted by the magazine’s readers as the best place in the world to stay, while Singita reserve, also in the Sabi Sands took fourth spot. Altogether, seven South African hotels and resorts made the top 100.

Three South African properties were featured on National Geographic’s unique lodges list, released earlier this year. They are Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in the Western Cape, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve and Tswalu Kalahari.

South Africa’s endeavours to encourage responsible tourism paid off when three South African hospitality facilities became proud recipients of awards at the World Responsible Tourism Awards in London in November. The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance, which uses tourism to fund sanctuaries, won gold as the Best Animal Welfare Initiative and was also named as the joint overall winner.

Hotel Verde in Cape Town won gold in the Best City Hotel category for efforts to reduce waste and conserve energy and the V&A Waterfront won gold in the Best Destination category for the “scale and thoroughness” of its efforts to reduce environmental impacts with sustainable green business practices.

South Africa is also increasingly earning a reputation globally as a value for money destination.

South Africa was ranked second on the list (after Tunisia) in the Lonely Planet’s Best Budget holiday options for 2015. ‘Whether it’s wonderful wildlife watching, bargain public transport or free entry to museums, currency fluctuations mean that South Africa is more affordable for many than it has been for years.’

This comes after two South African establishments, The Backpack in Cape Town and Inkosana Lodge in the Drakensberg, were named in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Best Value Stays for 2014.

“These awards give us confidence that our efforts to set South Africa apart as a world-class, value-for-money, responsible destination are paying off. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that makes this industry tick, from the luxury hotel owners to the porters, for creating incredible travel experiences and making our global tourism ambitions a reality,” says Nzima.

“I would also like to offer our sincere appreciation to travellers from all over the globe who have come to South Africa and shared their experience of our country and our tourism offerings with their favourite travel sites and magazines, making many of these awards possible. We thank you for your affirmation and trust that it will inspire the South African travel industry to continue to offer you the best travel experiences possible,” says Nzima.

“While it’s absolutely great to receive global awards and accolades, we measure our destination’s success by the number of foreign and domestic tourists who come to South Africa and enjoy this world-class, friendly and welcoming destination themselves. Ours is an industry characterised by people who work hard, who work smart, and who bring an enormous amount of energy and passion to their work. It’s wonderful to be counted among these professionals,” says Nzima. I

For further information contact

Thandiwe Mathibela at South African Tourism

Tel: +27 11 895 3000

Register on our media extranet to browse the latest news releases (from SAT as well as the tourism industry in general), access the news archive and get details of all upcoming tourism industry events (both locally and internationally).

South African Tourism is the national tourism agency responsible for the marketing of South Africa as a preferred tourist destination. It is headed up by Chief Executive Officer, Mr Thulani Nzima.

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Issue 63


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