My Durban July experience, thank you #KZNTourism

In the afternoon of last week Thursday I descended at Johannesburg Park Station to join all the dignitaries, Botswana visitors, television and music celebrities who were all boarding the Loliwe Tourism Train destined for the Durban July. For me it was the first time attending this prestigious event and was looking forward to the experience.

At Park Station I encountered a bit of a problem since I wasn’t on the list of invited guests, though I had confirmed my attendance with Tourism KwaZulu-Natal who had extended the invite. After a few phone calls with Nhlanhla Ngwenya from Tourism KwaZulu-Natal my hosts, everything was sorted out.

Before we could board the train, we had a black tie gala dinner at Park Station where representatives from Loliwe Tourism Train, HOD of KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environment Affairs, Gauteng MEC of Economic Affairs, Minister of Transport and Deputy Tourism Minister welcomed guests and introduced their respective portfolios and how they blend with Durban July experience.

Fashion designer Thula Sindi also showcased his collection through a fashion show hosted at the gala dinner.

Loliwe Tourism Train and Premier Classe

Is a smart initiative by Jezreel Group which capitalise on major events taking part around the country to sell packaged tours. These packages includes event tickets, transport, accommodation, meals and excursions. In our case there was a large contingent of Botswana travellers who had purchased the Durban July package. When chatting to one of them on the train, the package was offered at R5,000 per person and they were happy with the deal.

I had brief exchanges with fashion designers, travel agents and bank personnel. Loliwe Tourism Train outsources Premier Classe train to offer a luxury experience to their clients. Premier Classe features dining/lounge coach, conference coach and a smoking lounge equipped with a plasma screen and DVD player, spacious compartments and well appointed bathrooms. The onboard professional staff ensures passengers enjoy their experience on the train and are always on standby to help whenever the need arises.

Onboard dinners are a 3 course affair, with an early morning room service coffee served to all guests.

I was lucky enough to have been allocated a single sleeper compartment, while others were sharing. There’s power supply on the compartments which was handy in order to recharge my smartphone. We left Johannesburg in the evening, which meant we could not appreciate the scenery as the train went along. On our second leg of the trip after a stopover in Ladysmith, we departed in the afternoon, which offered a pleasant experience in absorbing the different landscapes making our way to Durban.

Premier Classe operates three different routes that is Johannesburg to Cape Town, Johannesburg to Durban and Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. It’s unfortunate that the route to Naboomspruit was discontinued because of poor demand, that would have been a another option for travellers into Kruger National Park.

From my own experience and research…I put the blame on Premier Classe marketing department. Their marketing efforts are poor at the present rate. Browsing through Premier Classe social media pages such as facebook and twitter, there is absolutely no activity taking place.

This is a huge opportunity missed to punt the service to a captive audience. Apart from social media, serious marketing efforts are missing, if my memory serves me right…the last time I came across Premier Classe was at #INDABA2014 where they manned a stand.

There is more room to aggressively promote Premier Classe to attract more passengers, however that can only happen with an equally motivated and skilled marketing team. Clearly the current crop of marketing team is sleeping on their job, another option is for PRASA to outsource the marketing department so they is a Return On Investment which is currently not the case.

Dinner is served

single sleep compartment

single sleep compartment

Premier Classe Rates from 1 July 2014

  • Johannesburg to Cape Town = R2,840
  • Johannesburg to Durban = R1,120
  • Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth = R2,090

Another handy option for travellers is to board the train with your vehicle. This option cost R3,270 for a normal car and more for a 4×4 vehicle. Clearly as the rates indicate this travel option is not for bargain hunters since the offering is luxury in nature, but still affordable compared to the Blue Train and Rovos which cater for discerning travellers with deep pockets.

Ladysmith

The only thing I’ve known over the years about Ladysmith is that Grammy Award music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo originates from these shores…apart from that, I knew nothing about the region. So an opportunity for a stopover at Ladysmith was more than welcomed for me to discover the history behind this small town.

We had breakfast at Crown Hotel located in the CBD of Ladysmith, where the town mayor address us and pleaded for help in turning the fortunes. He decried high rate of unemployment with many vacant office, retail buildings around town and industrial sites crying out for tenants.

The CEO of Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority, Mike Tsotetsi pledged to sponsor 15 deserving students from Ladysmith with university bursaries. CATHSSETA’s primary objective is to facilitate with skills development and training in the economic sectors within their scope.

After all protocol was observed at breakfast we then headed for the local museum to learn about Anglo Boer War with the British and also paid Mahatma Gandhi statue a visit.

Ladysmith Rail Station

Ladysmith Rail Station

Crown Hotel

Crown Hotel

Tour Guide at local museum in Ladysmith sharing history about Anglo Boer War

Tour Guide at local museum in Ladysmith sharing history about Anglo Boer War

Anglo Boer War Weapons

Anglo Boer War Weapons

Mahatma Gandhi at Vishnu Temple in Ladysmith

Mahatma Gandhi at Vishnu Temple in Ladysmith

our turn to pose with the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

our turn to pose with the statue of Mahatma Gandhi

Vodacom Durban July

Fashionistas joined the Durban July pilgrim to showcase their fashion sense which was both trendy and awkward. Considering that the event is hosted on a winter month, the cold wasn’t a problem on the day, however wind proved to be a huge menace to many ladies as it kept blowing their dresses in all sorts of directions which they held onto for dear life in an attempt to avoid being exposed and humiliated.

Greyville Racecourse was packed to capacity…I was fortunate enough to have made new friends on the Loliwe Tourism Train, which meant on the day of the event I wasn’t using the shuttle service provided by our hosts, but a rented car driven by my new acquaintances.

At Greyville Racecourse I also cracked a vip invite at Durban Marque, in addition to the Loliwe Tourism Train Marque. I spent more time at the Durban Marque which wasn’t as packed as the Loliwe Tourism Train Marque.

There was a fashion show that I witnessed at Durban Marque, though I can’t remember who was the fashion designer showcasing their garments on the day. There was also live music performances by popular artists such as Zahara, MiCasa, Zakes Bantwini and many other Durban based musicians and DJ’s who kept the audiences entertained throughout.

I also sneaked into Loliwe Tourism Marque for a brief moment and spotted a hive of activity on the stage with performances by Professor and David Kau keeping audiences in stitches.

Vodacom Durban July provides the corporate world an avenue to entertain their clients and guests in a festive mood, where different brands setup themed marques and dish out vip treatment to invited guests. I’ll be honest and admit that I did not follow much action on the racecourse on the day.

I’m clueless about horse betting and my acceptance of the invite wasn’t based on my love for horses…but to get a first hand experience about everything that makes up Vodacom Durban July.   Themed events throughout the city of Durban were also offered to celebrate Vodacom Durban July, such as the after party music festival at Moses Mabhida Stadium where various DJ’s and musicians also showcased their talent to paying members of the public.

Zakes Bantwini Live

Zakes

zakes bantwini

Live Performance by Zahara

Zahara in action - love this pic

Zahara in action – I just love this picture

Zahara Live

MiCasa

J-Something J-Something with fans

Professor

Professor

Fashion Show by Thula Sindi at Durban Marque

Thula Sindi - Model 2 Thula Sindi - Model 3 Thula Sindi - Model 4

Thula Sindi Models

Thula Sindi Models

Loliwe Tourism Train Marque Decor

  • All (except embedded facebook and twitter) photographs published are from a Sony Alpha A5000 sponsored by Sony South Africa

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You’re also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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