Africa: The Kingdom of the Zulus

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and British Airways took 25 UK tour operators and travel agents on a tour of KwaZulu-Natal before Indaba.

They split into five groups and covered the north, south and Elephant coasts, Zululand, the battlefields, Berg and the Midlands.

On the eve of Indaba they all met up at the Ushaka Marine World in Durban for a quiz to test their new-found knowledge of the region. Emily Bamber caught up with them and found out what they thought of KwaZulu-Natal and the UK market to Africa.

Craig Ronne, Africa product and sales manager, Western and Oriental

africa feature 180506 - craigOn: highlights of KwaZulu-Natal

The battlefields were a real highlight, plus the meals in the hotel were amazing. The scenery is stunning and one night we stayed up until 3am staring at the stars.

I’ve been all across Africa and seen some amazing skies, but this was the best star-gazing I’ve done – we saw 22 shooting stars in three hours. KwaZulu-Natal is a real hidden gem that would suit second or third-time visitors to South Africa.

Nicky Dennis, VIP travel consultant, Kuoni

africa feature 180506 - nikkiOn: KwaZulu-Natal for families

I wouldn’t have thought it would be a place for families but it is – with the game drives and the history. A lot of the accommodation is really geared up for children as well.

Agents should be adventurous and shouldn’t be put off by the long distances between some places, because the scenery and the journey are part of the experience.

Jackie Elvey, sales consultant, Carrier

africa feature 180506 - jackiOn: the KwaZulu-Natal environment

Even though we spent a lot of time on the road, I loved it. The travelling is worth it – the landscape on the way is incredible. The quality of the hotels was better than I expected and the rates are about right. Agents should speak to someone who has been there before they try to put together a package for a client as some places are further away than they might realise.

Gail Watkins, Quality Travel, Reigate, Surrey

africa feature 180506 - gailOn: the tourism product in KwaZulu-Natal

Five-star hotels in the UK just don’t compare to five-star hotels in Africa. There is plenty of accommodation for people on a budget; prices are well-pitched and you don’t feel your clients are being ripped off. My advice for other agents selling Africa would be: offer something different, pay attention to detail and offer an individual service.

Stefanie Ruff, Bailey Robinson product manager

On: the Africa market

The Africa market is getting more popular including more adventurous holidays to less-visited countries such as Ethiopia and Namibia. We are hearing more about these countries and selling more too. Within South Africa, the family market is really taking off for us. We are finding a lot of people are renting out luxury homes for their whole families.

Alex Collins, sales consultant, ITC Classics

africa feature 180506 - alexOn: Africa product knowledge

As a team we’re all getting out to Africa more and because of that we are being more adventurous with what we sell. The product is changing all the time, every month somewhere else opens up. Agents need to listen to what the operators are telling them – they know the countries, the dos and don’ts and where to go.

flight check

africa feature 180506 - flight checkEmily Bamber travelled South African Airways business class from Heathrow to Johannesburg

First impressions?
My seat was already allocated so check-in was smooth and the staff friendly and efficient. However, no-one seemed able to explain why my bags couldn’t be checked all the way through to Durban. I was expected to collect my bags in Johannesburg, wheel them to the other end of the airport and check them in again. At Heathrow I whizzed through the fast-track security and made my way to the airline’s slightly dated Baobab lounge.
Ready for take-off?
It took a while to take off but this wasn’t a problem for those of us in business class as the champagne quickly appeared.
Comfy or cramped?
The seats are configured as two-three-two, meaning there is one duff seat in each row – the middle one. I settled into my seat comfortably. It wasn’t particularly wide but there was plenty of legroom and the seats convert to a completely flat beds. Lovely.

Food glorious food?
There was a choice of starters and mains. The smoked trout salad to start was delicious and the Nile carp main was laced with a light sprinkle of chilli. Wines were South African and free flowing.

Screen check?
The aircraft suffered a mysterious technology failure for part of the flight, rendering most people’s personal entertainment screens useless. Many, like me, soon resorted to their books.

Smiley service?
Flawless throughout the flight. The crew was efficient and willing.

Recommend it?
Despite the hitches, definitely. The flatbeds, proper old-fashioned duvets, South African wines and excellent food meant I did what all long-haul travellers hope to do – slept like a baby.
Total score: 22/30

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