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Highlights of the tourist scene in SA this winter: new air routes, pick your wine capitals and digital stargazing games

Highlights of the tourist scene in SA this winter: new air routes, pick your wine capitals and digital stargazing games
From left: An aerial view of vineyards in the Klein Karoo, Western Cape. South African. (Photo: David Silverman / Getty Images) / Unsplash / Klemen Vrankar | Kelsey Knight | Hermes Rivera)

From celebrating the Karoo and direct air links with Brazil to recognising the best the world of wine has to offer, there’s plenty on the go for those who have itchy feet – even in winter.

We might be freezing our bits off, and wishing we were there too, but one can dream. This week, there were a few highlights in the world of travel, with a new Roblox game set in the Karoo; Air France celebrating its 70th anniversary; a new route to the land of the samba; and the announcement that entries had opened for the annual Great Wine Capitals Best Of Wine Tourism Awards. 

What is happening on the travel front

Always cleverly tapping into the mood of the day, Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for the Western Cape, has created the Cape Karoo region in gaming app Roblox.

The game, Starlight Adventures in the Cape Karoo, aims to drive tourism across the region, highlighting lesser-known family destinations. Wesgro is the first tourism promotion agency in the world to use Roblox in its marketing campaigns, with the launch of the Karoo game being the second it has released on the platform.

The game includes a digital clone of Prince Albert, a small town 70km from Oudtshoorn. In researching the game, Wesgro consulted local tour guides and cultural experts, using 3D scans of landmarks and objects to create an accurate representation of the town. With a map spanning 4km², the game is one of the largest on Roblox.

The agency has partnered with BP, Shell, and Engen to launch the game, with “collateral” stationed at about 20 garages around the Western Cape and leading up to Prince Albert, distributing interactive adventure booklets with a checklist and map promoting the game and region. 

Launched with the school holidays in mind, the partnership aims to inspire young road trippers not only to download and play the game but also to visit the town in real life, as part of their winter holiday itinerary.

“Starlight Adventures in the Cape Karoo draws on the insight that the youth market has a significant role to play in influencing family holiday decisions and comes off the back of the previously successful ‘Climb Table Mountain in Roblox’ effort,” explains Jean Scheltema, Wesgro’s chief marketing and innovation officer. By digitising key attractions in the region, they have combined edtech and gaming to inform and inspire young minds. She says strategically, BP and Shell are synonymous with the domestic roadtrip market and are valuable distribution partners for this campaign. 

“The partnership has offered us a smart touch point to combine the Metaverse-like game with a more traditional marketing approach. A trip to the Karoo is magical, and we want young people to experience this at least once in their lives.”

Players compete to win unique user-generated content items, based on the local heritage and culture of Prince Albert. 

All characters featured in the game are either real-life or modelled on the people of Prince Albert, including Fransie Pienaar Museum curator Lydia Barella and tour guide Ailsa Tudhope. 

“We are thrilled that the interactive gaming experience of Roblox’s Starlight Adventures in the Cape Karoo helps place our region on the younger visitor’s radar. There is a definite uptake in youngsters loving what the Karoo has to offer – a wholesome lifestyle, fascinating history, abundant outdoor adventure, pristine nature. The introduction of a digital Prince Albert experience will elevate this enthusiasm and ultimately lead to more visitors,” says Inga Terblanche, chair of Prince Albert Tourism.

The game is already available to play on Roblox and gets an “it’s cool” thumbs-up from the young Roblox player in the house.

Awarding the best of wine tourism 

Wine producers, wineries and wine lovers across the Western Cape have been invited to participate in the Great Wine Capitals Best Of Wine Tourism Awards 2024.

This annual international competition is designed to reward the wineries in each of the Great Wine Capitals Global Networks’ member cities for their excellence and innovation in seven different categories, including:

  • Accommodation;
  • Wine tourism restaurants;
  • Sustainable wine tourism practices;
  • Architecture and landscape;
  • Art and culture;
  • Innovative wine tourism experiences; and
  • Wine tourism services.

The Great Wine Capitals is a network of major global cities around the world, which share a key economic and cultural asset: their internationally renowned wine regions.

Set up in 1999, the network works to highlight excellence in tourism, business services and education within the global alliance of its renowned wine regions.

These prestigious wine regions include Adelaide (South Australia), Bilbao (Rioja, Spain), Bordeaux (France), Cape Winelands, Hawke’s Bay (New Zealand), Lausanne (Switzerland), Mainz (Rheinhessen, Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco (Napa Valley, USA), Valparaìso (Casablanca Valley, Chile) and Verona (Italy).

In South Africa, we also celebrate a wine tourism ambassador, with the Conservation Pioneer Award recognising leaders in sustainability and conservation in the field.

The ambassador award categories are:

  • The Wine Tourism Diversity Award;
  • The Authentic South African Experience Award; and 
  • Conservation Pioneer Award.

The Western Cape winners will be announced on 4 October 2023 at one of the awarded wine estates, while the international award winners will be announced at the Great Wine Capitals Annual General Meeting and Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 26 October 2023.

Winners will be included in an annual global marketing campaign financed by Great Wine Capitals, which includes developed marketing assets; advertorials on industry-related media; social media exposure of the winners’ activities; and joint marketing events aimed at promoting the destination and the winners.

The fee for each entry is R700 plus VAT, and the deadline for submissions is 21 July 2023. 

Follow the link to access more information about the awards and to complete the application form.

Blame it on the bossa nova

South African Airways has just announced direct flights between Cape Town and São Paulo, starting on 31 October 2023, followed by Johannesburg to São Paulo from 6 November 2023.  

Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, says the organisation is enormously proud of SAA’s initiative to introduce these direct flights, which take a big step towards reinforcing connections between the destinations. 

“SAA’s proactive role in boosting tourism and trade is commendable and speaks volumes of the effective collaboration we share.”

In April, Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town embarked on a “South-South Corridor” mission to Brazil, where they met airline executives, tourism bodies, and investment agencies, advocating for a direct flight between Cape Town and São Paulo. 

Mayco member for economic growth in the City of Cape Town, James Vos, said: “With Brazil as South Africa’s leading trading partner in South America, these direct flights are set to fortify our inter-regional relationships, facilitate trade and increase the number of South American tourists to Cape Town. 

“We are committed to maintaining these routes, enhancing destination marketing and ensuring Cape Town remains an attractive destination for South American travellers. Our ultimate goal is to create a tourism-related job in every household in Cape Town. This flight confirmation is a significant step towards achieving that.”

France in the air

This year, Air France celebrates the 70th anniversary of direct flights between Paris and Johannesburg. 

The carrier has played a pivotal role in promoting international travel, fostering cultural exchange, tourism, and business opportunities between France and South Africa.

It operates daily direct flights between Charles de Gaulle in Paris and OR Tambo in Johannesburg on the Boeing 777-300ER, and three weekly flights to Cape Town, offering travellers a new, refurbished cabin with economy, premium economy and business class.

Johannesburg is an important destination in Air France’s extensive network of cities around the world, said Wilson Tauro, country manager Southern Africa for Air France-KLM. 

“This year, we are thrilled to celebrate 70 years of direct flights between the two cities – a route that remains incredibly popular with both French and South African travellers. This milestone reflects our commitment to providing exceptional service, and it is a testament to the enduring trust and loyalty of our passengers. We look forward to connecting Paris and Johannesburg for decades to come.”

Air France was one of the only airlines to operate repatriation flights during the Covid-19 pandemic. Flying with sister airline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, they carried out 97 repatriation flights to Paris and Amsterdam from both Johannesburg and Cape Town, returning 18,934 passengers home.

With the upcoming Rugby World Cup taking place in France, Air France will be increasing its frequency from seven to 10 flights between Johannesburg and Paris for a week during the tournament. DM

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