South African Tourism has urged agents to make the most of a programme of events and activities taking place next year to mark the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

‘Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy’ will comprise events in South Africa – ranging from arts exhibitions and sports to educational activities – with supporting events in the UK, including a Nelson Mandela Exhibition in London running for a fortnight around his birthday in July, and the unveiling of a statue to the South African leader in Glasgow.

Tolene van der Merwe, UK & Ireland head of South African Tourism, said: “We have got an online training programme, SA Specialist, and in that, there will be a whole module around Mandela’s 100. We’re building that at the moment.

“We’re also working on operators to create their own Mandela 100 tours for 2018. There’s lots we will be doing to get out to the trade in the next month or so, to make sure those agents understand who he was and what legacy is left behind, and to understand how important that year is to us as a destination.”

The tourist board has also created a Mandela app, which clients can download and use as an extra source of information about sites relating to Nelson Mandela’s life while they are in the destination.

South African Tourism, chief executive, Sisa Ntshona said: “The next year is going to be a big affair for the country, as a whole, so we want to launch tourism around that.”

He added that eco-tourism was becoming a key driver of growth in the country, with good take-up of incentives for hotels, B&Bs and lodges to convert to using solar power, and the recent installation of a solar-powered mini grid plant on Robben Island, to reduce the use of diesel generators and save more than £200,000 a year.

The tourist board is also concentrating efforts on promoting tourism to lesser-known areas of South Africa.

Van der Merwe added: “Operators are coming to us and asking us what’s new. We are pushing provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumulanga, North West, Northern Cape – all the areas that have never really been sold before.

“The operators are really receptive to it which is exciting, because it gives them something different from the rest.”

A fam trip for product managers will take place in March, focusing on locally-owned small and medium enterprises, with a view to including these ‘hidden gems’ in future brochures.

Travel Weekly coverage of World Travel Market