It was a surreal, a planned mega familiarisation trip (mega fam) that was meant to take place at the end of March 2020 eventually happened virtually on 28 May 2020. Close to 100 participants, including product owners and buyers (tour operators and destination marketing companies) used Zoom to embark on the mega-fam trip exploring Limpopo's Route 71 - stretch between Polokwane and Phalaborwa.
"What an experience to see Route 71 Limpopo displayed the way it should be! Undiscovered secrets, culinary delights, nature in all its glory and adventure to heart's delight. It was all there, on the first Virtual Mega Fam Trip... and this one to Limpopo! #Route71", said Adrie Kruger of Tzaneen Country Lodge.
Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA) and Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) did not allow the current COVID-19 restrictions to dissuade them from exploring the vast 200 km stretch of road, from getting the international and national buyers to see Limpopo as a tourist destination. The mega-fam trip was to offer participants, especially buyers, a personal experience of the different attractions, tourist destinations and products of Limpopo. The end results expected from this fam trip is to see new Limpopo tour packages developed and to generate publicity about Limpopo as a preferred destination for leisure and business travellers.
"We certainly have embraced the "new normal" by continuing with this fam trip virtually, a first of its kind in South Africa, which we hosted in partnership with SATSA. When SATSA approached us in 2019 to bring in national and international buyers from within their database to explore Limpopo we were excited. Seeing the current conditions it was wise not to stop the interest, today saw that dream become a reality. At the end of the session there were close to seven deals that were concluded or are in progress arising out of this interaction, which is very encouraging” said Ms Sonto Ndlovu, Limpopo Tourism Agency CEO.
SATSA CEO, David Frost added: "It's a total joy to see the initiative come to life. It was an incredibly positive particularly at this time, as it gives people hope and offers buyers an opportunity to see what Limpopo has in store. Other provinces have enjoyed benefits of international visits through these tours and it was time for Limpopo to benefit.
The 3 hour virtual tour allowed interaction with product owners who gave brief introduction to their products, exciting aspects about their location and what would interest potential tourists once Limpopo is open for travel again. The tour included speed marketing for adventure, MICE, culture and culinary experiences, as well as breakaway sessions on each experience.
Route 71 stretches from Polokwane, the capital city of Limpopo, passing through historic places like University of Limpopo in Mankweng, Zion City Moria, the Wolkberg mountain range, descending into Haenetsburg, Magoebaskloof, Tzaneen, Gravelote, Phalaborwa and the world famous Kruger National Park.
One of the buyers, Ingrid Burger of Kukummi Safaris, said she gained a lot from the virtual tour, it was "innovative, creative and diverse. A great way of getting to know the hidden gems of the beautiful Route 71 that has so much to offer."
At the end of the 3 hours participants expressed satisfaction that the experience was different and rewarding. It is expected that once tourism is open the interest this Virtual Tour has created would get through to buyers in Italy, Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.