When it comes to destination brands, especially in relation to tourism, the everyday normal is to make the link with the role they play in attracting foreign visitors. While this is certainly a key objective of South African Tourism, this Challenger company also stimulates local travel and the economic ecosystems that surround it.
From the outset, encouraging people to explore their own country required South African Toursim to take a fresh angle. In their case, instead of focussing on the destination – with its postcard views and activities – South African Tourism concentrates on the humanity of the people of South Africa. The truth of the insight is that it is the energy and inspiration of the people that gives life to the country’s local destinations. The brand is known for its depth of human presence and celebration of the local community in its marketing.
March 2020, enter the Covid-19 lockdown and the subsequent closure of all ports of entry into South Africa with potential travellers hit with the #stayhome mandate. So how would the company then promote itself when faced with such a challenge, while staying true to its appetite for local culture and character?
South African Tourism found a way and, in communicating loud and proud during the lockdown period, further strengthened its connection to locals, local culture and local relevency.
Through an injection of energy, the company disrupted the sombre emotions of South African would-be travellers by imagining the future. A future where travel opportunities await for those who, in the present, stay at home and stay safe.
“Do not be alarmed. We need to take a stand by taking a step back.
We will make it through this. Don’t travel now, so you can travel later.”
South African Tourism launched three different, but related, communication pieces in March and April 2020 to speak to its local audiences. Developed by MetropolitanRepublic, one is aimed at individual travellers, the other at businesses and the third to all South Africans, or “Team South Africa”. The communications demonstrate an emotive understanding of local sentiment and, overlayed with a directness of messaging, instilled hope and confidence in the role of South African Tourism in supporting communities from a truly local standpoint.
Directly, South African Tourism challenges the idea of a destination brand to communicate during a global travel ban – and still, ultimately, putting local culture, heritage and community at the heart of its message. By doing so it negates the preconceived notion of tourism as being reliant on external visitors, rather than thriving on local people, being locally appreciated.
Consider how this language reflects an appetite for localism: “We’ll do it all. We’ll invest in our country, right from our own pockets. Making bookings here and reservations there. Stay home, stay safe, knowing that it will be South Africa again soon.” Or these words: “We will tap into our greatness. We will not be defeated. Because this is not something that’s just in some of us, it is in all of us.”
The real power in the Challenger thinking of South African Tourism is how they are appealing to people’s sense of local contribution by flipping the obvious. While its naturally assumed that confinement limits individual freedom, a new question arises – what if confinement could teach us how to give more freely to others? At its core, this brand belief ultimately fuels the very reason South Africa is such a magnificent destination – our people.
This is especially powerful in the context of a world that has over the past while become more greedy, more insular and more selfish. Harsh terms, but true when one reviews global trends. Yet in South Africa, in the DNA of South Africans, is an inimitable humanity.
South African Tourism authentically appeals to the idealist in each of us, asking us to open our minds and know that to be free, is to travel wherever our humanity takes us. Even when it takes us home, for now.