Through a partnership between hotel group Southern Sun and South African Tourism (SAT), travelling locally has become easier, more exciting, but most of all lighter on the pocket, writes Michael Appel.
Latching on to the success of SAT's Sho't Left campaign - encouraging South Africans to travel within their own country - Southern Sun launched its SunBreaks campaign in April 2008.
The SunBreaks campaign is Southern Sun's latest platform from which to target young, up-and-coming South Africans, encouraging them to take shorter, more affordable holidays, more often.
"Research we did, indicates that there are 6.2 million South Africans out there that have the resources and desire to travel, but just aren't sure how to go about it, or what packages are on offer.
"For any country to sustain tourism [and its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product], the backbone of this has got to be domestic travel," said SAT's Acting Portfolio Manager for Africa and the Middle East, Evelyn Mahlaba.
Tourism currently contributes 8.3 percent to South Africa's GDP, and this figure is expected to increase to around 12 percent by 2014.
Speaking at the launch of the partnership on Wednesday, Ms Mahlaba told BuaNews: "Value for money when travelling is one of the greatest things that encourages people to travel.
"So partnering with Southern Sun, who have such an array of hotels across the country, we now have a partner that can fulfil the needs of emerging, young, and up-and-coming South African travellers.
"Through their portfolio of hotels, it helps us to cater to and offer individuals, touring groups and families affordable accommodation."
Southern Sun General Manager for Communications Priya Naidoo said: "Southern Sun's brand portfolio covers Deluxe accommodation, Premier, Economy, Economy Plus, Budget Plus and Time Share.
"We are able to offer travellers from two-star to five-star accommodation.
"In the past decade, tourism's contribution to GDP has doubled largely as a result of corporates, government, meetings and events, and international tourists," Ms Mahlaba said.
Lynette Esposito, General Manager of Leisure at Southern Sun told BuaNews that in this day and age, there are a number of challenges facing South Africans who would like to travel.
"The challenges to travel include the lack of disposable income these days with Eskom's planned tariff increases, fuel rate hikes [and rising interest rates]," said Ms Esposito.
An example of the absolute affordability of packages offered by SunBreaks, a couple can book a Southern Sun hotel in Sandton, Port Elizabeth, Durban or Cape Town for R233 per night, per person sharing with a full English breakfast included.
The above R233 package is aimed at targeting those South Africans who want to go away for a long weekend, and is thus valid from 25 April - 4 May 2008.
Another bonus to SunBreaks packages is if a couple has children under the age of 18, there's no need to worry as they get to stay and eat for free.
Ms Esposito explained that through a new partnership with an extreme sport and adventure company - Cape Xtreme - SunBreaks customers will be offered discounted prices on activities such as mountain biking, shark cage diving, abseiling, horse riding, and surfing.
Channel Manager for Domestic Marketing at SAT, Denys Botes told BuaNews that both SAT and Southern Sun have aligned themselves with strategic partners in order to "piggy-back" off their services offered.
As not all packages include transport, SAT and Southern Sun have formed partnerships with airlines including Kulula and Mango, offering discounted airfares as part of the packages.
Mr Botes encouraged South Africans to log onto the SAT website and go to http://www.southafrica.net/shotleft/
to find their ideal holiday destination at the right price.
For more information on Southern Sun's Sun Breaks, go to http://www.sunbreakspartners.com/sunbreaks_specials/index.html
Speaking at the Africa Investor Tourism Awards in February, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said international arrivals to Africa totalled 846 million in 2006, representing an additional 44 million arrivals over the preceding year with the same growth imminent for 2007.
"Tourism has become as effective tool to fight poverty while at the same time aiming to improve the capacity of the African destination so that we can respond adequately to the increasing demands of the increasingly competitive international market," said the minister.
On the continent, the travel and tourism industry in relation to direct spending is expected to contribute 3.7 percent to GDP in 2007, while the travel and tourism economy - incorporating direct and related spend - will contribute 9.9 percent.
Tourism in Africa is growing at the fastest rate ever at nearly 10 percent of GDP compared to global growth of 5 percent. - BuaNews