Friday, 4 August 2017

Why is the tourism industry ignoring Afropolitans?

“Cosmopolitan Africans (*Afropolitans) could boost the annual South African economy by more than R2 billion and grow tourism. That is if they are given appealing reasons to travel within the country,” says Jerry Mabena, CEO of Thebe Services that owns the Thebe Tourism Group.

Mabena will be telling delegates just how this can be achieved at the upcoming Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference, taking place at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch on 20 September.

His various qualifications, including a degree in industrial psychology and economics from Rhodes University, have equipped him well in his integrated, strategic and forward-thinking approach to business. He has held senior executive positions at Telkom, Kagiso Exhibitions and Events, as well as the Thebe Investment Corporation. His career started at Unilever as a graduate trainee. In his current capacity as CEO of Thebe Services Division, Mabena looks after Thebe Investment Corporation’s stake in organisations such as the Thebe Tourism Group that owns Club Travel, Cape Point Concession and Tour D’Afrique, as well as Kaya FM, the 2017 commercial radio station of the year, also known as the home of the Afropolitan.

Afropolitans are global in their outlook, straddle the divide between African and Western cultures, and have the disposable income for travel, yet they are largely ignored by the local travel and tourism industry, he contends.

“South African Afropolitans, who are part of the post-Struggle generation, are sophisticated consumers plugged into global trends. They have the means and appetite for travel and discovery.

As with any other Millennials, they are digitally connected, value experiences over commodities, are knowledgeable about wine and fine dining and are waiting to be targeted. 

Why are travel marketers ignoring these high-income earners who could also potentially serve as ambassadors for brand South Africa? Cape Winelands tourism providers should be going out there to find out how to talk to Afropolitans and give them what they want. And when they get it right, the knock-on effect for the individual rural Winelands economies will be significant.”

The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference, now in its second year, is convened by seasoned travel and tourism specialist, Margi Biggs.

She says that this year’s forum will include a range of top speakers, in addition to Mabena. Other big names are CEO of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona; Don Shindle, an expert in customer service from Napa, California’s renowned wine tourism epicentre; Dr Robin Back, a US-based academic who conducts wine tourism research in both South Africa and the US; as well as world-renowned US lifestyle TV personality, Andrea Robinson, one of only 23 female Master Sommeliers in the world.

Robinson’s address will cover festival sponsorships and themed wine region promotions for Delta Air Lines’ Sky Club.

Biggs says delegates will come away with new insights on customer experience and loyalty. The programme will also cover such topics as virtual reality, food chain sustainability, attracting new markets (even within South Africa), and PR trouble shooting.

Biggs believes that travel and tourism can potentially contribute significantly more than it currently does to South Africa’s national GDP. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has calculated that last year, the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the South African economy was worth R127,9bn, accounting for 3% of the country’s GDP.

Trainees and professionals working in the Cape’s wine, food and tourism industries are encouraged to register to attend the conference. A fee of R3 950 (excl. VAT) per delegate will apply, up until 18 August. Special discount is available for SAACI, SATSA, SITE and Cape Town Tourism members on request to

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