Strong rebound from Australia for Sabi Sabi

Faster than expected bounce back to iconic South African private game reserve

Six months ago, Jacques Smit, Director of Marketing for Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve was in Australia on a sales mission from his base in South Africa, at a time when the local tourism industry was still finding its feet post-COVID. But this month, Smit returned to find a very different energy and positivity that the industry is well and truly on the road to recovery with consumer confidence returning to the point where Australia is back to being a top three market for international visitors for Sabi Sabi.

“The Australian market has bounced back in full force and quicker than expected, not just for travel now but going forward with plans that range any time from 30 days out to next year,” Smit told LATTE during his visit Down Under last week.

Earth Lodge, Lux Suite, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

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“In just six months Australia has come back from having zero visitors to being Sabi Sabi’s third largest international market which is incredible when other markets have been travelling again since 2021,” Smit said.

Questioned about the vibe of the local market, he said: “Travelling around over the last two weeks definitely highlighted that Australia is not immune to the global crisis of a shortage of skilled staff in the travel industry.

“The increase in demand has picked up faster than expected and faster than businesses can recruit staff, so everyone is incredibly busy at the moment.”

“It was also awesome to see so many familiar faces back and to know that the Africa industry in Australia is managed by highly experienced and passionate specialists,” the luxury travel specialist said.

“These are the colleagues and friends who kept the dream of travelling to Africa alive over the course of the pandemic which made it possible for us to be in this position now so we are grateful for their ongoing support.”

Game drive and wildlife encounters at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Smit welcomed the return of South African Airways (SAA) to Australian shores, with the carrier flagging a possible 31 March 2023 restart date.

“It is great news that SAA are planning to bring back their very successful Perth- Joburg flights which will give more direct flight options, adding to Qantas’ existing Sydney-Johannesburg direct flights. Post-COVID we saw increased support of non-direct routes particular with Singapore Airlines flying into Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as Middle Eastern carriers.

“Qatar were the most active returning into South Africa after the pandemic, along with Emirates, provide a good indirect option for travellers and choice often depends on loyalty programs and Australian port of departure.”

“I personally flew on Singapore Airlines and found it to be an easy route to fly, breaking the journey in Singapore (10.5 hours from Johannesburg) and onward flights to Australia of 5 to 8 hours. I flew into Perth and out of Brisbane. Departing in Australia the arrival time with SQ works well for transferring straight up to Sabi Sabi in the morning, or you can arrive at your hotel in Cape Town by 10 in the morning.”

Earth Lodge, Lux Suite - Bedroom at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Smit told LATTE that one of the trends he is seeing post-pandemic is that people want to travel with a purpose.

“By travelling to Sabi Sabi, clients of Australian travel advisors are participating in community upliftment and just staying in the bed helps build the school, the water tower and facilitate many other community projects through Sabi Sabi’s own foundation,” he said.

More information on the Sabi Sabi Foundation can be viewed at:

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve and Makutsi Safari Springs co-hosted drinks for the African travel industry in Australia at Cafe Del Mare in Sydney. Below are some photos from the catch up.

Pictured here are Emily O’Neill, Bench Africa; Leanne Wild, The Africa Safari Co; Julie De Palo, Bench Africa; Rebecca Goosen, Bench Africa; Steve Ellis, Personal Africa; Lara Behrens, Bench Africa; Cuan McLaren, Inventour; Pat Barden, This is Africa; Rob Gurr, Ynot Concepts; Kath Austin, The Classic Safari Company; Jacques Smit, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve; Andrea Morgan, Adventure World; Yana Shvarts, South African Tourism; Martin Edwards, Explorers Society; Jeffrey Shewell, The Classic Safari Company; Emilie Groleau, Avia Reps; Neil Rodgers, Adventure World; Ryan Kendall, Untamed Safaris; Rachael Collins, Adventure World and Rachel Fitze, Adventure World and Andy Kirkman's shirt, Bench Africa.
Marin Edwards, The Explorer Society; Jacques Smit and Patrick Baden, This is Africa
Rachael Collins, Adventure World; Andy Kirkman, Bench Africa; Sam van Eldik, Adventure World, and Neil Rodgers, Adventure World.
Jeffrey Shewell and Kath Austin, The Classic Safari Company; Steve Ellis, Personal Africa and Rob Gurr, Ynot Concepts.
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