South Africa has become a popular bleisure destination for international business travellers, but are South Africans taking advantage of the experience their own country offers?
At the beginning of this year, South African Tourism reported that people who visit South Africa for trade shows tend to stay longer or return and bring their families at a later stage.
International event organisers confirm this trend and say that clients see the value of what the country has to offer and want to explore South Africa beyond their business trips.
Research by SAP Concur shows the trend of combining leisure elements with work trips is on the rise across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
SAP Concur Travel and Expense data collected between January and December 2017 shows bleisure trips jumped 46 per cent compared to 2016.
However, the most popular bleisure destinations for EMEA travellers don’t include South Africa – or even Africa. They are Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Dubai and Frankfurt.
“South Africans still prefer international bleisure travel,” says Oz Desai, General Manager of Corporate Traveller, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group.
“As the company foots the bill for air travel, travellers want to make the most of their long-distance travels. In fact, research shows that intercontinental trip rates for bleisure travel are three times higher than domestic trips.”
However, Desai explains that South Africa has a lot to offer for local business travellers too, so a bleisure trip in your own country should be a consideration.
Corporate Traveller recently launched CT Lifestyle, a dedicated leisure service for busy South African business travellers. CT Lifestyle provides exclusive access to the Flight Centre Travel Group’s strategic partnerships and global buying power for their clients’ leisure and bleisure travel.
Graham Cannings,one of the two highly specialised Leisure Travel Experts for the newly launched Corporate Traveller Lifestyle agrees with Desai.
“I always say: if you haven’t seen South Africa yet, then you really have quite a lot left to explore. By travelling your own country on a bleisure trip, you can keep your personal savings for overseas trips.”
“The bleisure trend is booming in South Africa because it has become exceptionally easy for corporates to extend their trips and add in a leisure element,” says Sharmila Ragunanan, Marketing Manager for Dream Hotels & Resorts.
“Hotels, lodges and resorts are continuously upping their game with what they can offer, not just in terms of rooms and conference facilities, but rather tours and on-site events and activities.”
Within South Africa, Flight Centre’s research shows that Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban continue to be the most popular air travel routes. Meanwhile, George is the fastest growing business destination in 2019, with 70% year-on-year growth.
By adding a few days onto your next Johannesburg business trip, you can explore some beautiful and exciting parts of the country.
Travellers can visit the trendy Maboneng Precinct with its hipster markets, galleries and cafés, or get their adrenalin pumping bungee jumping, abseiling or zip-lining at the Soweto Towers.
Cannings explains that popular attractions such as God’s Window and Pilgrims Rest are just a few hours’ drive in one direction. The Drakensburg is only a couple of hours’ in another direction. “By being organised and by capitalising on long weekends, corporates can explore everything South Africa has to offer,” he suggests.
A recent survey conducted by Travel + Leisure, the ‘World’s Best Awards’, named the City of Cape Town the best city in Africa and the Middle East for the 18th consecutive time. It’s definitely worth a visit for locals as well.
“If you are visiting Cape Town on business, make sure you go up Table Mountain, explore Robben Island and walk along Bo-Kaap’s colourful streets,” says Cannings.
The Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s most distinct neighbourhoods with a lot to see, taste and explore. Home to Cape Town’s historic Cape Malay community, Bo-Kaap features rows of charming houses all painted bright shades of pink, blue and yellow.
Travellers can spend the afternoon taking pictures or sampling local Cape Malay treats. The oldest building in the Bo-Kaap is in Wale Street and currently houses the Bo-Kaap Museum. It is the best place to discover the real history of the area and to get a glimpse into the life of a typical Malay family.
If you have business in Durban, consider a trip to Mzinyathi Falls or Inanda Mountain, suggests Cannings. The Mzinyathi Falls are a short 20-minute drive from Umhlanga and offer travellers beautiful views with towering cliffs and thick forests.
A meal at Surf Riders Cafe on South Beach also makes for a lovely afternoon out, according to Cannings. “It offers the best food and best views on the refurbed Durban Promenade.”
Jozini Tiger Lodge & Spa is the ultimate business playground, according to Ragunanan. “Located on the shores of Lake Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal, it respectfully resembles a traditional Zulu stronghold, and is incredibly popular with corporates and government groups,” she explains.
“In between meetings and conferences, delegates can indulge at the Mangwanani Spa, try their hand at tiger fishing or embark on sunset game viewing cruises. The surrounding region of Zululand is also brimming with culture and outdoor experiences. The reserves here, like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, also give the Kruger a run for its money seeing as they boast all the members of the Big 5 and are malaria-free.”
George is situated on the Garden Route, one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring stretches of land in South Africa, if not the world.
A must for bleisure travellers to the Garden Route is Fancourt, a beautiful resort in George. The resort was recently recognised as a ‘leading conference and incentive destination’ in South Africa.
Peter Dros, Director of Sales and Marketing Fancourt, explains he has seen bleisure travel evolve over the past few years. Guests now want to participate actively during their holidays, not just be a bystander observing the local culture. They want to challenge themselves and experience something they wouldn’t ordinarily at home.
Says Dros: “For guests staying at Fancourt, there’s an opportunity to enjoy a meal at a local’s home as part of the Dine with a Local initiative in George. Fancourt is also working with Explore Our Hood which offers guests a raw and authentic African wellbeing and culinary experience through exposure to the daily lives, culture, traditions and customs of locals.”
Bleisure travel is set to rise over the next few years as more companies offer this benefit to employees.
“Whether it’s a short adventure trip, or a few days off to visit family, bleisure travel is a great way to maximise your annual leave and save on travel costs for holidays – even in your own country,” concludes Desai.
“So, next time you’re heading off for business travel have a look at the local sights or nearby cities and see how you can maximise your holiday time.”