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South Africa: Celebrating 25 Years of Democracy

Written by  Lisa Loverro

CoverstoryIt
was 25 years ago this year that the country saw the fall of apartheid, ending centuries of white-only rule, and giving all races the right to vote. The anniversary is officially observed on April 27, 2019, also known as ‘’Freedom Day,’’ a statutory holiday in the country. The year 2019 not only marks this historic event but also ushers in exciting new hotels and lodges, and a cool new initiative from the tourism board in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

AFRICAAnd, with U.S. arrivals increasing by 1.7%, during the year-over-year period of January-November 2017/2018, Canada growing 1.2%, and South and Central America showing a 9.7% increase in arrivals during the same time period, the country has much to celebrate. These increases amount to 8.6 million international tourists that have visited South Africa during this reporting period.

South African Tourism is encouraging travelers to make 2019 the year they discover everything the country has to offer, from its exotic wildlife and safari lodges to luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants. It’s a unique moment to reflect and acknowledge the country’s socio-economic progress since the end of apartheid and its journey to becoming one of the world’s most sought-after travel destinations. The tourism board and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have partnered with an initiative that will allow for all South Africans and visitors from outside the country to experience some of Nelson Mandela’s favorite travel spots and the places he enjoyed. This new initiative, an app called The “Madiba’s Journey,”

(www.madibasjourney.southafrica.net) will enrich the visitor’s experience as they walk in the footsteps of one of the world’s greatest icons, Nelson Mandela. The app features Madiba-inspired tourist attractions in South Africa. Users can view the attractions on a map, build their own itineraries and share their journeys on social media. “The significance of launching this initiative is to commemorate the lifetime of service Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa and the world”, says SA Tourism COO Sthembiso Dlamini. Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation described this initiative as one that will “take Madiba’s legacy to another level both in South Africa and globally in terms of recognizing his values of transformation and unity,” adding that it is “important to build a value based society because that was in line with Madiba’s vision for our continent.” “I also want to thank SA Tourism for their role in ensuring that we portray the legacy of Nelson Mandela during this special centenary year,” concluded Hatang.

New Hotels and Lodges
In Pretoria, the Protea Hotel by Marriott, Pretoria Loftus Park has recently opened (www.Marriott.com). This brand new, modern 4-star hotel is located in the rapidly transforming suburb of Arcadia. The hotel is nestled within Loftus Park, a comprehensive mixed-use corporate, retail and lifestyle precinct in Pretoria, fast emerging as a bustling business and leisure destination. Complete with rooftop swimming pool and bar, offering panoramic view of the city, the hotel is expected to attract interest in the sports field, as it’s adjacent to the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the leading site for rugby and soccer.

And, in the Cape Winelands, the boutique hotel Le Quartier Français, part of the Leeu collection (www.leeucollection.com) in Franschhoek has now completed its 18-month refurbishment and expansion. All the hotel’s existing rooms and suites have been upgraded, and an additional five rooms have been created from what was once office space, for a total of 32 rooms, including seven rooms in two new villas, which have their own separate entrances and parking. The villas provide the perfect base for guests who wish to stay in Franschhoek for a week or more while exploring the region.

In the Eastern Cape, the renowned Shamwari Private Game Reserve (www.shamwari.com) has finalized the first phase of its extensive $25 million refurbishment of the Eagles Crag Lodge and the Riverdene Family Lodge. The second phase, due to complete November 2019, will see a new, flagship luxury tented camp, and the renovation of the historic Long Lee Manor, featuring 18 private luxury suites.

And, over in the Western Cape in Da Hoop, South Africa, the Natural Selection collection (www.naturalselection.travel) will expand to South Africa and open their first property in the country. The Lekkerwater Beach Lodge is scheduled to open in April 2019. The seven room exclusive eco-lodge will be set in De Hoop Nature Reserve, one of the most dramatic beach locations in South Africa and home to some of the world’s best land based whale watching. The lodge will also be situated on the site of former South African President FW de Klerk’s retreat and is just over a three and a half hour drive from Cape Town, making it a great add-on for visitors to Cape Town. The primary design objective of the lodge is to let the dramatic coastline do the talking. The bedrooms and main areas have large sliding glass doors to allow uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean and the coastline. This Natural Selection property will offer a unique take on safari with the marine ecosystem and coast serving as the landscape to be explored by guests.

Exciting Urban Retreats
There are a lot of new urban retreats to report on this year! One of the most anticipated is from Newmark Hotels, Residences, Reserves & Lodges Management group (www.newmark

hotels.com). This new hotel is called Stock Exchange and is located on the eastern side of Cape Town’s CBD, in the Woodstock section of town, in immediate proximity to the Old Biscuit Mill (a great place for visitors to immerse themselves into the local vibe of the city). Set to open this month, it will boast just 33 apartment-style rooms with kitchens and will include a restaurant, swimming pool, gym and shops. The interiors of the rooms celebrate local talent and the connection with the neighborhood. As a result, furniture and decorations items in the rooms will be pinpointed on a “design map” of Woodstock, allowing guests to purchase similar items and support the region’s artists. Neil Markovitz, MD of Newmark Hotels, Residences, Reserves & Lodges says, “The Stock Exchange’s refreshing look and feel will certainly align with Woodstock’s trendy atmosphere. We are confident that guests are going to fall in love with this captivating hotel, which will form part of Newmark’s Residences Portfolio. We look forward to its opening with great anticipation.”

Another exciting opening in Cape Town is Gorgeous George Hotel (www.gorgeousgeorge.co.za). Located between St. George’s Mall and Green Market Square in the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown, this is the first hotel in Cape Town to be part a member of Design Hotels (www.designhotels.com). Seamlessly merging an Art Deco and New Edwardian 1940s buildings into one, the hotel has 32 luxury rooms with an industrial edge (think exposed concrete and steelwork blended with Victorian design elements), along with hand-painted wall art by local artist, David Brits.

For more tourism information on South Africa, visit www.southafrica.net

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