By: Doug Cooke, CTC
“The lion is back in camp. Please stay in your room until we call you”! This was my first taste of what life in a South African game reserve is like. Think you’re at the top of the food chain? Think again, not here you’re not! But this is exactly the experience that your clients are looking for when booking a South African vacation and exactly what agents can experience when attending ASTA’s IDE this March.
To be held at the Sun City Resort, a destination in and of itself, from March 8-11, 2009 the ASTA IDE offers travel agents the opportunity to learn about and experience this rich and diverse country. From metropolitan cities, to beautiful coastal beach towns to game-filled nature preserves, South Africa has something to offer everyone. The IDE will feature product seminars, certification courses and a trade show with a wide array of local suppliers and products for agents to acquaint themselves with. While at the IDE agents will be treated to cocktail receptions, a game drive on Sun City’s private reserve and a special dinner in a Boma. Agents will also have the opportunity to sign up for a provincial package which will include land transportation, two nights hotel and tours, starts at j$150 per person.
Sun City Resort
The Sun City Resort is about a 2 hour drive north of Johannesburg airport. Built by the same company that brought Atlantis to the Bahamas, Sun City is over the top to be sure, but also blends very nicely into the landscape. Consisting of 3 hotels, a golf course, water park, casino and a private game preserve, Sun City is a great introduction into what this country has to offer. IDE delegates can purchase a 4 night stay package at either the five star Palace of the Lost City for $398 pp/do, the four star Cascades Hotel, adjacent to the convention center for $348 pp/do or the Sun City Hotel for $298 pp/do. JAX FAX recommends staying at the Cascades due to its proximity to not only the convention center but also to the casino, restaurants and nightlife venues.
Delegates have the option of purchasing an additional 2 night package for $150 pp. as either a pre tour, post tour or both. These packages offer a tremendous savings and opportunity to explore the many regions of the country. Other higher priced tours, still offering tremendous value are available as well. JAX FAX strongly recommends taking advantage of the opportunity to stay in a private game lodge. These small private lodges offer the opportunity to truly experience life in the bush. Most of these lodges offer luxury accommodations and gourmet meals and have no fencing, allowing the wildlife to roam free on the grounds just outside your room. Even the innkeepers walk the grounds with a cautious eye out for movement in the grass, and venturing outside your room at night is strongly discouraged. Most lodges offer early morning and late afternoon game drives as part of the stay and wildlife encounters are plentiful and varied. JAX FAX stayed at the Makweti Lodge (www.makweti.com) located in the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve, a several hour drive northeast of Sun City. I cannot recommend strongly enough the hospitality, cuisine and comfort this lodge and its hosts provided.
Fundi Specialist Program
South Africa’s Destination Specialist Program will be presented as a 2 hour course during the IDE. Benefits of participation in this course, besides the obvious product knowledge include: 24/7 information line, a travel trade extranet, ebrochures, a consumer referral program and invites to South Africa Tourism events and tour operator fam trips. In 2010, a premier level of the Fundi program will debut with additional benefits of hosted press trips and invitations to INDABA, South Africa’s annual tourism conference.
For more information on ASTA’s IDE to South Africa visit: www.asta.org.
INDABA - From May 9-12, 2009
Durban, South Africa will host INDABA, one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar and one of the top three ‘must visit’ events of its kind on the global calendar. It showcases the widest variety of Southern Africa’s best tourism products, and attracts international visitors and media from across the world. Last year’s event won the premier World Travel Award for best African travel show. INDABA 2008 shattered its own record with more than 13,200 delegates attending this year’s show, confirming Indaba’s status as one of the top three in the world and certainly Africa’s top travel trade show. Visit www.indaba-southafrica.co.za
Special Notice – South Africa visa requirements
Upon arrival in South Africa, immigration will place a visa in your passport. However, you MUST HAVE two blank VISA pages in your passport. Please do not confuse visa pages with endorsement pages as JAX FAX did. If you do not have two blank visa pages you will not be allowed on the plane. Extra visa pages are free if requested six weeks in advance or $65 if expedited. If you are planning on attending IDE or have clients traveling to South Africa please take heed of this notice.
For more information, call the South African Tourist Board, 800-593-1318; or visit www.southafrica.net
South African Airways is offering IDE delegates an exceptional rate of just $599 for round trip flights from JFK or IAD to Johannesburg (taxes additional). Additional discounts are being offered for domestic flights in South Africa.
The flight time from JFK or Washington is approximately 18 hours. The JFK flight does have a brief re-fueling stop in Senegal while the Washington flight is non-stop. Both return flights have the re-fueling stop.
While in the air, SAA prides itself on its newly updated entertainment systems. “Flying for many hours can become boring for some and showing customers the latest movies provides a great form of entertainment on long flights. We put the comfort and entertainment of our customers while on board, first,” says Samuella Ngoato, SAA Head of marketing and sponsorship.
Passengers now get a choice of 44 different movies to watch. Out of these 44 movies, eight are the latest releases and 24 are classics. In the mix are five South African films and the rest of the movies include festival, African and Hindi films.
Apart from the movies on offer, customers can choose from eight categories of short programs including business, lifestyle and even health and well being. There is also a complete television series to enjoy. At present, the series is Prison Break, and customers can also look forward to many others, including CSI Miami.
As the national carrier, the airline is keen to offer more South African content, and this is taken into account when refreshing the content. Music lovers have not been neglected. They can choose from several categories of audio compilations, not just music, but comedy as well. There are 24 complete CDs available and again, local artists feature strongly.
The improved in-flight entertainment (IFE) offering is available on the airline’s Airbus A340-300 and -600 aircraft, which are equipped with advanced IFE systems. These allow all customers onboard to individually choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch it. Economy class passengers enjoy the same content as those in Business class with personal screens.
For an additional charge, agents can enjoy the comfort of SAA’s award winning Business Class. Featuring “lie-flat” seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, flying up-front is an enjoyable way to spend 18 hours in the air.
For more information or IDE reservations contact SAA at 800-521-4845.