From backyard concerts to carpentry, Destinate Travel gives visitors the opportunity to share experiences and learn skills from locals across South Africa. Globetrender speaks with its founder, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, who also happens to be the ex-CEO of Cape Town Tourism.
When did you launch Destinate Travel and why?
I launched Destinate Travel at the end of 2018. In many ways, it is a natural progression after ten years as the CEO of Cape Town Tourism.
Destinate Travel is a collection of our favourite places, experiences and the people who are the heart and soul of the places we visit, put together after more than 20 years working in travel and tourism.
We’ve spent five years working closely with a range of tourism boards, tour operators, wine farms, brands and destinations to help shape their businesses and introduce them to a wider market.
Why is it different to other travel companies?
Destinate Travel offers visitors the opportunity to gain some insight into the lives of ordinary people through backyard concerts, shared meals and learning crafts from experts.
Connecting travellers to the kinds of places, experiences and people that will guarantee holidays of a lifetime is important to us and is what differentiates Destinate Travel. Other experiences include mushroom foraging at Boschendal and fly fishing in Dullstroom.
We want to share beautiful stories and experiences with visitors who are committed to a more ethical and meaningful way of travelling and, in so doing, contribute to the greater good in one way or another.
In what ways are you tapping into ‘conscious travel’?
To me travel has always been multi-dimensional and deeply personal. It is a powerful platform to connect people with places, with self and with others.
As people are becoming increasingly aware of their consumer footprint, they’re adjusting their choices to be more ethical, kind and eco-friendly. This commitment to “first do no harm” extends to travel as well.
In keeping with the rising demand for more ethical, conscious travel, Destinate Travel caters to people who yearn for genuine connections with people and places. Curated travel experiences and packages are all about tapping into the very heart of South Africa by prioritising local knowledge, culture, cuisine and atmosphere and unearthing unusual finds.
We’re well aware of a growing desire for independence, connection and a more conscious approach when it comes to travel. It is why we launched Destinate Travel and design the kind of packages and experiences that allow travellers of all ages the opportunity to connect with places and their people more deeply.
How is Destinate Travel innovative?
Through the creation of conveniently packaged, unique travel experiences, we aim to cater to the conscious traveller who yearns for genuine connections with people and places.
Our travel offerings reflect our values and focus primarily on women, families, design, food and wine, and the unearthing of unusual experiences for travellers who want to go beyond the ordinary.
To incorporate our passion for local design, we also launched Destinate Style – a showcase of proudly African, ethical fashion, style and beauty brands that appeal specifically to travellers.
We love to introduce travellers to local makers and some of our personal favourite apparel, skincare and accessory brands, while actively scouting for new brands and makers to add to our portfolio.
Within the next few months an online shop will be added to the portfolio giving independent designers and creatives the opportunity to reach an international audience and make it easier for travellers to buy ethical locally produced products.
How do you define ‘ethical travel’?
Ethical travel to me means travel that is not detrimental to the environment. It is about making responsible choices when travelling, supporting smaller, independent operators and caring about the impact our holidays have on the environment and the local people of the places we visit.
It is also understanding that the value chain of tourism can have a positive impact on many lives if we choose operators and experiences that we know are local and will contribute directly to the growth of tourism where it is needed the most.
What are the newest/most unusual local experiences you can arrange?
We are working on a range of truly special women retreats or getaways. Locations include the Cederberg, the Cape Winelands and a Safari retreat at a beautiful villa in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. It will bring women together in beautifully settings to reconnect with self and each other with a number of special experiences designed around each group.
Some of the unusual experiences we can arrange include a fynbos coastal foraging tour; a jazz safari; cooking and dining experiences with local cooks, wine makers and chefs; a wine tour with black female winemakers with a traditional African meal; and a Creative Cape Town tour to meet local makers, designers and artists.
Have you noticed a demand from travellers for learning new skills?
Absolutely. Travellers don’t want to be mere spectators any more when travelling. For many travelling is a way to enrich their lives and gain a new memorable experience or skill. We are seeing a growing demand for volunteering holidays and for experiences that allow for deeper immersion and learning.
How did you know there was going to be demand for this kind of travel in South Africa?
I have worked as a tourism strategist for more than 15 years and have seen trends and markets change dramatically over the last few years. Experiential travel is a global phenomenon and South Africa is well placed to benefit from this new trend.
We offer a truly unique combination of natural, cultural and urban experiences that allow visitors the opportunity to immerse deeper and contribute in a positive way to the development of people and places.
When did this demand for ethical, experiential travel come about?
Over the past five to ten years there has been a shift in our traditional markets (Europe, America mainly) from mindless to more mindful consumption.
A number of things have contributed to the acceleration of this trend including a shift of power from the West to the East, political changes, terrorism, increased cost of living, climate change and more awareness and access to information through the web and social media.
The millennial market has driven much of the demand for a more ethical and sustainable way of living, demanding a more hands-on and transparent travel industry.
Are you looking to expand beyond South Africa?
We already work beyond the borders of South Africa with destination and travel partnerships in countries such as Portugal, India, Reunion Island and the US.
What do you predict for the future of travel to South Africa?
Travel is a dynamic, ever-changing industry and that is what we love most about working in this sector. South Africa and Southern Africa are well-placed to leverage the need travellers have for a different way of travelling.
We do experiential travel well and must continue investing in experiences that bring the visitor closer to the real destination and its people, whilst working on our service levels and maintaining good value for money.