SA needs to be competitive

The "Big Five" - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo - are an important marketing tool to attract overseas tourists to South Africa, but these visitors must also feel they are getting real value for money.

This is the opinion of "Mac" van der Merwe, chairman of the the Zorgvliet group of companies whose assets include the Ka'Ingo Private Reserve in the Waterberg region of Limpopo province, the Zorgvliet wine estate in the Stellenbosch area, the Riviera-on-Vaal hotel in Vereeniging, and a majority shareholding in the King George Hotel in George.

Van der Merwe said numbers of overseas tourists to South Africa were down.

"I think we have overplayed our hand on the exchange rate a bit and now we must ensure that we give value for money," he said.

"For a long time we assumed that 'Africa is South Africa' - it's not like that.

"The only bad patch in Africa is really Zimbabwe, There are many other African countries with good lodges that we compete with and that are wonderful places to visit - Kenya and Tanzania, for example.

"We've got to be competitive on the international scene as well: there's South America, Spain, Turkey and some of the Eastern Bloc countries are also opening up.

"There's a competitive tourist environment, and we must define our experiences and be a destination of choice."

But this would not happen by default, said Van der Merwe.

"So, we must be price sensitive. We must make sure that people get value for money.

"We must offer them a fair deal.

"We've got a job to do. We've got to market this, although the 'Big Five' are still one of the nice vehicles to do that." - Staff Reporter

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