Published on : Friday, November 10, 2017
South Africa would remind you today with images of penguins waddling along gleaming white beaches, the Big Five roaming through Kruger National Park, rolling vineyards, and Table Mountain. But around 30 years before, few international visitors experienced or had an idea of these charms.
From 1948 to 1991, South Africa was governed by the brutally oppressive apartheid system, which separated the country’s races and ensured power and wealth was mostly enjoyed by the white minority. By the 1980s, due to worldwide pressure, the situation started changing for the better. As a result, most of South Africa’s tourism industry was made up of white domestic holidaymakers.
“In the 80s, as a non-white person, I had no clue that an industry like tourism existed,” says Enver Mally, chairman of the board for Cape Town Tourism and director of African Eagle Day Tours, which offers immersive township experiences. “For us, it was very difficult to travel to places.”
With Mandela’s release in 1990 and the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, things started changing. South African Airways resumed flights to the U.S., Australia, and parts of Europe and expanded to new markets. “Many international visitors flocked to experience the new South Africa,” says Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism from 2003-2013 and founder of destination-marketing agency Destinate.
“Tourism numbers saw a drastic increase during the ‘post-apartheid honeymoon-phase.’”