Africa Set To Be Next International Hot Spot?

Africa seems to be making a comeback, drawing travelers from around the globe to a variety of destinations within the world’s second largest continent. The next international hotspot? Recent travel awards won by Africa’s luxury travel brands indicate that’s possible. A focus by adventure brands adds fuel to the fire; Africa is the place to be.

The World Travel Awards (WTA) highlight and reward travel brands that are the best in quality, innovation and service over the past year. While natural wonders and popular iconic destinations are common bucket list items, visitors have to get there first.

They might fly in, take a cab or rent a car to go someplace. Once there, luxury travelers might want a good hotel room or resort for the base of their operations. Adventure travelers could be looking for guides, tour operators or packages geared to backpacking, hiking, camping or climbing. All those services need to be in place in advance.At the World Travel Awards this month, coming in as highly-rated were tour operators Abercrombie and Kent, South African Airways, luxury experiential travel company &Beyond and a variety of luxury hotels and resorts.

“Our winners are drawn from the breadth of Africa, reflecting how the outstanding natural attractions of the continent are being complimented with a growing portfolio of luxury facilities.” said Graham E. Cooke, President & Founder, WTA in a Travel Daily News article.

Indeed, looking to 2013, service providers have upped their game, offering more packages, tours and accommodations than before.

It’s not just luxury travel either, outdoor expert REI Adventures added six new trips to its collection of African adventures for 2013 with a strong focus on the southern part of the continent. The REI trips are not just backpacking via safari.

REI’s Exploring Africa series includes a focus on Botswana, Namibia or Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. In Ultimate Adventures, REI takes travelers across country via small aircraft, assuring they will see all major attractions and highlights on one 11-day adventure.

Tour operators, hotels, airlines and service providers are ready. 2013 looks to be a big year for Africa. Gadling’s Kraig Becker agrees, saying, “Having visited South Africa myself, it is easy to understand why it is such a popular destination. The country truly has something to offer travelers of all types,” in “South Africa Sees Nearly 20 Percent Increase In Tourism In 2012.”



[Photo courtesy REI Adventures]

South African Airways introduces virtual itineraries

Elephants on the Serengeti South African Airways Vacations has introduced a new feature on its website that gives visitors the ability to explore options for travel in Africa like never before. The company has launched a series of “virtual itineraries” that use a combination of maps, photos and points of interest data to help travelers choose the right trip for themselves and to prepare them for their experience when they reach their destinations.

The site offers tours to a variety of locations including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and more. To explore those options simply visit the SAAV website and search for itineraries based on the location you would most like to visit or the type of travel experience that you’re looking for. The search results will provide the name of the available tours, a brief description and the price. There will be a button that will allow you to view the virtual itinerary for any given tour as well.

Opening one of those virtual itineraries presents you with an overview of the tour that includes each of the destinations that you’ll be visiting, the number of nights you’ll be staying there and the type of accommodations you can expect. Selecting the “day-by-day” view zooms the map in close to show more details about the area you’ll be visiting on any given day and offers some suggestions of things to see and do in the region. It will also show you where your hotel for that night is located and even offers images and detailed information about those accommodations. The virtual itineraries also provide notes about the daily activities, giving travelers plenty of information about what’s on the agenda for that day of the tour.

All of these tools help to take the guesswork out of a visit to southern or eastern Africa. Those two regions are popular dream destinations for may travelers, but planning and preparing for such a trip can be an intimidating experience for many. With the SAAV virtual itineraries you’ll know exactly what you’ll be getting when spending your hard-earned dollars, which can be very reassuring for travelers who aren’t particularly fond of surprises.

CheapOair, Lonely Planet and South African Airways team up for Twitter contest

Online travel firm CheapOair has joined forces with Lonely Planet and South African Airways to host a Twitter based contest.

Between now and August 30, they’ll give away one Lonely Planet South Africa guidebook every day – and at the end of the contest, the winners will be entered into a random drawing for two round trip tickets to South Africa.

Entering is simple – every day, the CheapOair Twitter account will post a question, all you need to do is correctly answer this question, and tag your post with the hashtag #COASA. You can increase your chance of winning by signing up for their newsletter, which also enters you in the grand prize contest.

The daily Twitter winners will be announced before 12PM ET the following day. The winner of the grand prize will be announced on the CheapOair blog on August 31. Plane tickets to South Africa usually go for around $1500, so this is a fantastic way to visit this amazing country without raiding your bank account. Good luck!

World Cup travelers outraged by high airfares

Eager fans headed to this summer’s World Cup in South Africa have been finding plenty of frustration due to sky-high airline prices. According to a story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, there may be a reason why: South Africa’s two main carriers are currently under investigation due to allegations of price collusion.

South Africa’s antitrust “Competition Commission” recently began an investigation of South African Airways and the country’s budget carrier Mango. Both carriers are suspected of agreeing to keep airfare prices artificially high during the ever-popular World Cup, with the country expecting around 350,000 visitors. Other airlines targeted by the probe include British Airways and partner Comair, as well as 1Time. South African Airways has offered to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Is behind-the-scenes price fixing at work? The jury is still out, though the $1700-1900 tickets we found on Kayak from New York City did not exactly remove our doubts. Tickets to South Africa have never been cheap, and the higher demand during World Cup is sure to keep prices up as well. If you’re heading to South Africa for the Cup this summer, make sure to have good look around the airfare sites at prices before you purchase.