As consumer demands continue to evolve, the continent’s approach to destination marketing becomes more sophisticated.
Given the global trend for consumers seeking authentic experiences, cultural immersions and meaningful local interactions, Africa’s marketeers are increasingly shifting away from the tried and tested focus on wildlife, instead promoting their destinations’ other unique qualities and strengths, from food and culture to their people.
The latter is a key focus of South African Tourism’s Meet Your South Africa campaign. Targeted at first-time visitors, the initiative aims to enhance travellers’ stays by connecting them with local guides from across the entire country. It covers SAT’s six main pillars: adventure, wildlife, culture, cities, natural beauty, and food and drink.
As acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini explains, South African Tourism adopts an “always on” approach to marketing and PR in support of its five-in-five strategic goal to add five million more arrivals between 2017-2021.
“We’ve realised it’s less about sporadic campaigns and more about ongoing conversations to maintain and build positive brand awareness and sentiment,” she says.
Current key focuses include addressing consumers’ misconceptions and promoting geographical spread, showcasing “off the beaten track” destinations like the Northern Cape and the Free State, while next year will see SAT launch a partnership with Amadeus to showcase the country’s “hidden gems” and adventure experiences.
Uganda Tourism Board, meanwhile, is looking to build on its massive global success in marketing gorilla trekking by spotlighting its “full destination” status, from showcasing 10 national parks and 1,000-plus bird species to cultural attractions and activities such as white-water rafting on the Nile.
“When a visitor experiences Uganda for the first time, they are always amazed by the wealth of activities and attractions we have to offer across the country,” says Lilly Ajarova, the organisation’s CEO.
“Our plains game, primates, crater lakes, mountains, adventure and amazing people all help capture the imagination.”
Marketing activity is central to Egypt’s Tourism Reform Program. September saw the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board unveil a massive, data-driven global campaign to reach a wider audience, underpinned by partnerships with everyone from CNN and Discovery Channel to digital agency Isobar and travel companies Expedia and Ctrip, with the latter designed to stoke the growing Chinese market. Core elements include its People to People campaign, designed to promote its “hidden gems”, from food and culture to its people. This is as it anticipates next year’s opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum.
The theme of tourism recovery also informs the promotional efforts of the revitalised Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and Malawi Department of Tourism. Under the stewardship of a park manager, African Parks the “Warm Heart of Africa” has re-emerged as a Big Five safari destination – a move Sarah Njanji, chief tourism officer at Malawi’s Department of Tourism, says has translated into an increase in the level of engagement with international tour operators wishing to feature the country.
More recently, the MDT’s 2017-2022 Strategic Tourism Marketing Framework has strived to redefine the country’s “brand essence”, explains Njanji, highlighting the country’s wider attractions, from hiking and bird-watching to Lake Malawi’s resorts, and “the short distances between them allowing travellers to easily access attractions in different geographic locations and the warm and welcoming nature of our people”.
“It’s less about sporadic campaigns and more about ongoing conversations”
Trade shows continue to play a part. For example Fatmata Abe Osagie, acting CEO at the National Tourism Board of Sierra Leone, says she was “overwhelmed with the interest levels” following the country’s bold relaunch of its tourism offering at last year’s WTM London.
Tim Henshall, CEO of the specialist Africa destination marketing agency Kamageo, which coordinated the SLNTB’s campaign and coined its new “Sierra-ously Surprising” slogan, adds, “I have never seen a launch attract so much attention.”
Since then, the SLNTB has continued to embrace responsible tourism, using a recent visit from acclaimed primatologist Dr Jane Goodall to adopt a new, cuddlier national tourism symbol – an endangered western chimpanzee in place of a diamond.
Kamageo is also helping spearhead the Gambia Tourism Board’s latest tourism push aimed at showcasing its selling points beyond winter-sun beach tourism.
“The country that exists away from the coast is truly magical,” contends Henshall. “It’s authentic west Africa, with vibrant and colourful markets, outstanding scenery and with some unexpected wildlife on offer too.”
Its great value is another key message for markets such as Europe. Or as Malick Jeng, tourism destination manager at The Gambia’s High Commission in London puts it, echoing the words of a recent newspaper article, it’s “half the price of the Caribbean, and none of the jetlag”.
Attracting Chinese visitors is a key objective at the Moroccan National Tourist Office. As Morocco’s minister of tourism Mohamed Sajid explains, the fundamental aim is to grow the number of Chinese tourists from 200,000 in 2018 to 500,000 in 2020. In September the MNTO signed a three-year partnership deal with Chinese travel company Ctrip, which is running targeted digital marketing campaigns in the country.
Others are leveraging historic connections. Take Ghana Tourism Authority, for example, which is chasing a 15-year goal of growing visitors from one to eight million by 2027. Having designated 2019 the “Year of Return”, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, US, the GTA’s Year of Return marketing campaign has actively targeted its diaspora, not least African Americans.
Factor in the emergence of private sector promotional bodies such as the Zambia Marketing Group and Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium and the region’s future looks bright indeed.