South Africa’s largest hotel group along with leading South African media personnel were in Nigeria recently on a familiarization tour, writes Demola Ojo
It is undeniable that Nigeria and South Africa have in recent years cultivated a growing relationship propelled mainly by the need to do business. This has however had an effect that goes beyond trade and now includes cultural exchanges and leisure travel. Nigerians and South Africans are surely getting friendlier. The recent collaborations between Nigerian and South African artistes is just one of many markers.
You can argue though, that the rate at which Nigerians travel to South Africa for leisure outweighs the traffic that flows back for similar purposes. If this holds true, then Tsogo Sun (the parent company of the Southern Sun Hotel group) and South African Airways seem to be working on ways to redress this by promoting Nigeria as a leisure destination.
Recently, both organisations embarked on a familiarization trip to Lagos with media personnel from print and radio in tow.
According to the Corporate Manager, Group Communications of Tsogo Sun, Priya Naidoo, “What we wanted was for some South African journalists to come out and experience Nigeria and of course our hotel. So, in partnership with South African Airways, we brought the mainstream media. They include, the Sunday Times, which is the one of the largest circulating media from print perspective, Businessday and Financial Mail which specifically targets business; the New Age newspaper, Sawbona magazine (in-flight magazine of SAA) and Talk Radio 702.
“It is to showcase Nigeria and also let South Africans know that when they come to Nigeria, we’ve got an amazing hotel, Southern Sun, Ikoyi,” she said.
Naidoo spoke more about the motives of the trip during a dinner held at the Lagoon restaurant, Victoria Island. Present were media and corporates from both countries, as well as the Consul-General of South African High Commission to Nigeria, Mokgethi Monaisa, and Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Disun Holloway.
Continuing, Naidoo said, “We brought the largest radio station. John Robbie is our morning breakfast show host and we brought his entire team to broadcast from Southern Sun Ikoyi. What is wonderful about that is he has a wide audience, people listen to him. He has the ability to change people’s mindset.”
Naidoo was keen on advice on places to visit while in Lagos. “We didn’t only see the great parts of Nigeria, we also got to see the markets. You have amazing traders. The entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians is phenomenal.
“When we initially arrived, we were all anxious because we did not really know what we would meet. We were so pleasantly surprised and he ( John Robbie) was also saying at this mornings show how amazing it has been because he was so surprised by the Nigerian people. There were no safety issues, he just felt really great.”
There were questions about the team’s expectations before coming to Nigeria. “We live in Johannesburg, we suffer from the same safety concerns that you suffer in terms of perception. When people think of everything that is happening right now, you will think that it is unsafe to come to Nigeria and we’ve just proven the fact that it is not true.
“Since we arrived in Nigeria, we’ve had an amazing trip, we’ve had an amazing welcome by the people of Nigeria. They’ve really been wonderful. Yet, we had perceived it that it was going to be dangerous but it was not.
“We went around on a boat cruise, and went into the Atlantic; we saw shipping villages, ports and so on. We went to see the markets, we went to Balogun market and another one. We had lunch at your amazing Yellow Chilly Restaurant. We ate typical Nigerian food with goat meat, very spicy. It’s really very pleasant and lovely,’’ Naidoo commented on the trip so far.
And there was still more to come. The night of the dinner was also the same day the MTV Road to MAMAs (MTV African Movie Awards) was held at the Federal Palace, Lagos. It was another opportunity to feel the Nigerian vibe, with some South African flavor, and a precursor to experiencing the famed Lagos nightlife.
Mafizikolo, the South African act, which recently won the MAMAs award for Song of the Year were among the many acts to perform. Alongside the group was Davido, the precocious Nigerian that won the MAMAs accolade for Artiste of the Year. Their collaboration got the audience swaying; yet another pointer to improved Nigerian-South Africa relations.