Southern Africa offers a variety of destinations and experiences for families to enjoy, from beaches, to wildlife, outdoor activities, and scenic beauty, often combined with adventure. It is important to cater for varied age groups, with a growing emphasis being placed on family-friendly activities and accommodation, often in private villas, as well as malaria-free safaris. 

“It has never been so essential to offer travellers something beyond the norm to stand out from the crowd and which caters for their specific demands, irrespective of where they are from,” said Sara Grady, Head of Travel and Tourism for GlobalData, which recently revealed that family travel was set to increase by 25% by 2022.

According to Masa Yamawaki, Market Manager for Asia, Australia and Nordics at Tourvest DMC, the Asian market tends to book Sun City in the North West province of South Africa, whilst those from the Nordic region seem to avoid any game lodges, and the Australian market typically book villas where the whole family can stay together, whether they go to Cape Town or the Kruger National Park.

“I have noticed a big rise in the adding of family villas and apartment-style rooms to establishments throughout southern Africa,” said Andrea Schaffner, Market Manager for North America at Tourvest DMC, further noting that safaris tended to be more challenging when it came to family travel from a safety aspect, however the mid-range offerings tend to be more open to children of all ages, and some more established hotel and lodge groups are building on child-friendly areas. “These services, along with the addition of child minders at some properties, allow the parents to relax for a few hours on their own too, knowing that their children are being catered for.”

As more and more hotels and lodges are catering for the family market, besides suitable room configuration to accommodate families, a kiddies’ welcome pack on arrival is always a welcome add-on, keeping children entertained so adults have time to relax, according to James Robb, aha Hotels & Lodges International Sales Manager.

Southern Africa 360 has noticed an increase in lodges offering more family rooms, however this can be a problem, says MD, Collin Thaver, as family rooms are not easily available at lodges, since most only have a few. In addition, the majority of the accommodation only has capacity for two children sharing.

Thaver suggests establishments offer free uncapped WiFi, especially for adolescents, and that menus be adapted, veering more toward children of all ages.

Aha has a number of hotels, lodges and resorts that are targeted for the family market, and each of these offers children’s programmes.

“At our lodges we offer special ‘bumble drives’ after breakfast, which are shortened game drives specially designed for kids,” adds Robb.

With this in mind, safari experiences remain a main drawcard for family travellers to southern Africa, as does Cape Town, says Schaffner.

“Whether it’s East Africa or southern Africa, a safari is always popular. Some safari lodges offer private villas, which are a great option for families, especially in South Africa, being a more affordable destination. A growing number of lodges offer children’s programmes, where they have a day of ranger-like activities specifically tailored to them,” adds Esther Ruempol, Market Manager for Benelux at Tourvest DMC.

Gavin Rennie, Director of Off2Africa, a Zimbabwe-based DMC, says Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Botswana and Cape Town seem to be favoured by family travellers, with Off2Africa having booked both fly-in and self-drives in Botswana for families.

With malaria playing a role in KNP, areas such as the Garden Route, Madikwe Game Reserve and the Waterberg have increased in popularity for families with smaller children, explains Schaffner.

Robb says aha has seen an increased demand at a number of its lodges, especially those that are malaria free, such as aha Thakadu River Lodge, aha Ivory Tree Game Lodge, and aha’s Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge. “The family rooms are always oversubscribed.” He adds that a significant number of family travellers head to the Garden Route, making their way to Knysna.

According to Thaver, popular family destinations include the Eastern Cape, the Cape Winelands, Hermanus, the Garden Route and again, a safari, “very often a malaria-free safari”, reiterates Thaver.

“People are spending more and more time at work advancing their careers, therefore they realise the value of spending quality family time together when they are on leave. “Their off time is dedicated towards family,” concludes Robb.