Vacations in Africa are becoming increasingly popular among Russians. What attracts our compatriots to the mysterious African continent? Can the average Russian afford a safari trip and what impressions do people expect from South Africa?
For answers to these and other questions we turned to Maya Kotlyar, the founder and head of «MAYEL Travel», one of the most quoted public experts in tourism.
– Maya, you are engaged in individual tourism, exotic destinations. How much has the popularity of African countries among Russians grown recently?
– Africa today is the rising trend of the season and it is obvious that it will only increase with time. Travelers are attracted by local color and exoticism, picturesque coasts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, deserts covered with velvet sand and nature reserves with rare wild animals.
– Let’s talk not about North African countries that offer travelers an all-inclusive vacation, but about the southern part of Africa, more precisely about South Africa.
– Among African countries south of the Sahara, South Africa firmly occupies the third place in popularity among our tourists after Kenya and Tanzania. Good hotels are not inferior to European ones in terms of quality of service. There are budget hotels here, and luxury “five stars”. And also, bungalows, chalets, campsites, lodges and covered huts.
We are not talking about mass tourism, but in the segment of independent luxury vacations Africa is an undoubted trend. Every year, the number of tourists choosing this continent is growing by 30 to 40 percent.
– Many people think that South Africa is a very remote part of Europe …
– This is only at first glance. Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, East London, Durban – African cities, but with a European atmosphere.
South Africa is divided into nine regions, each of which is unique in its own way – North-Western Province, Limpopo, Hauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga. They differ in landscape, climate, size of the provinces and the ethnic groups that inhabit them.
– What makes this country so attractive for our compatriots?
– South Africa is in great demand now. Here you can perfectly combine beach and sightseeing tourism. In addition, tourists often combine this country with neighboring Namibia. There they take them on safari and in the Namib Desert.
In addition, in South Africa, our compatriots can visit national parks, the Cape of Good Hope, and from there head to Zambia to admire the Victoria Falls.
And fantastic locations are also waiting for tourists. Imagine – on one side is a river and a waterfall, on the other side is a park with different animals. In the garden and right under the balcony walk zebras and giraffes, impalas and other antelopes …
– Russians do not need a visa to visit South Africa?
– Absolutely not. All you need is a passport, where you will be stamped on your stay. Our citizens can stay without a visa in the country for up to 90 days. That’s per year.
I recommend before traveling to get medical insurance, because in Africa there are a lot of diseases that can be life-threatening. The country does not require any immunizations except yellow fever vaccination. The risk of malaria is quite high, though, on the border with Mozambique.
– Everyone is waiting for the launch of direct flights from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg, because it will help to develop tourism, trade and business relations.
– Indeed, South Africa is very popular now, and there is a demand for launching direct flights. We wanted to launch charters from July. We are waiting.
In the meantime, Ethiopia has become a leading transit hub for flights to safari destinations. More than 12 thousand Russians have traveled to Sub-Saharan Africa since the resumption of direct air communication between Russia and Ethiopia in August 2022, using flights of the largest African air carrier EthiopianAirlines.
It is also possible to fly with connections in Qatar, UAE or Turkey.
– While winter is approaching us, summer is about to arrive in the Southern Hemisphere…
– In southern Africa, the comfortable sunny weather with a temperature of + 23 is perfect for traveling. Spring Cape Town will greet you with a sea of colors and fresh ocean breeze.
– Africa is an absolute hit right now, given the closure of European destinations, where the flow has been drastically reduced. However, it is not accessible to the mass audience…
– The average Russian cannot afford such a trip. The flight alone would cost one standard Moscow salary. Or two or three salaries in some region of our country.
If there are more direct flights to Africa, tours for Russian travelers will become more affordable.
Although tourists who have been there say that traveling to this country is worth any money!
– Have Russian tour operators recently become more active in publicizing tours to Africa?
– Yes, that’s right. However, the interest of domestic tourists in this destination is explained not only by the exotic nature of the vacation, but also by the fact that the countries of the continent have a rather friendly policy towards Russians.
Interviewed by Yuliya NOVITSKAYA, writer, journalist-interviewer, correspondent of the “New Eastern Outlook”.