Dianna has been the General Manager of Marketing, Promotions, Tourism and Events for the Northern Cape Tourism Authority since 2011.
In that time, she has overseen a successful 98% growth in foreign room nights for the province – one of only two provinces to achieve such growth.
Dianna is also an award-winning author of travel editorials and blogs, as well as technical papers.
Q & A with Dianna:
Where did your love for travel start?
Since early childhood, travel has been a big part of my life. My parents would take me to different cities and countries, and it was through these experiences that my love for learning about new cultures developed.
Why do you enjoy working in the tourism industry?
There is no denying that travel brings joy to people. It is a wonderful way to see new places and meet new people. But it also has a huge impact on communities.
What is your favourite destination?
I simply love all of Africa. It’s so diverse and has the warmest people on the planet, from the north – Morocco with its desert and bazaars – to Kenya and Tanzania with its amazing wildlife, to Madagascar, the Seychelles and Mauritius with its unique cultures and offerings – the small, remote coastal towns and cuisine, and of course Namibia and South Africa. Above all, the wide open landscapes of the Northern Cape, the night sky glittering with zillions of stars!
There’s also something special about Europe – the way the cities are steeped in history, the beautiful cathedrals and churches, and the amazing art galleries and museums. Venice and Verona are two of my favourite places, especially Venice with its small lace island. Verona is great for shopping too!
What is you most memorable travel experiences?
I was working in Madagascar and during a period when Air Madagascar was operating, I had to travel to the small island of Sante Marie on the east coast of the island. Roads did not really exist, so the only other option was a train ride. Travelling on the Fianarantsoa-Côte Est (FCE) train, better known as the “little mountain train,” is not really about getting from point A to point B, it’s about the journey – a journey that takes you from the north to the south of Madagascar, through the outskirts of Ranomafana National Park. The FCE line is one of the steepest in the world and it immerses you in extraordinary biodiversity: grandiose landscapes of the eastern rainforest, waterfalls, steep cliffs, rice fields, hills dotted with banana trees and ravinalas (the traveller palm, the emblem of Madagascar).
Where would you recommend travellers visit in Madagascar?
The Lac Hotel Sahambavy is located within the National Park on the shores of Lake Sahambavy, halfway between the north and south of Madagascar. It also nestles at the foot of the hill where the island’s only tea plantation is located. The Lac Hotel offers charming bungalows typical of the island. If you break your journey here for a few days, offers a great respite from the slow train ride to get there.
The food is amazing Malagasy-French fusion cuisine – all locally grown or fished from the lake. Both the hotel and the rail line not only honour and protect the local ecology, but also support the local communities of this remote region by providing them with the only economic activity possible.
Your top travel tip?
Do not go anywhere with preconceived expectations – you may be disappointed, but more importantly, you will not be open to the many unique experiences that await you. I am sure many know this, but it’s still for the best – engage with the locals.
And my best tip, which I follow all the time, is to have a little black travel book with all the places that are on your bucket list. Whenever I watch a travel show or read a magazine, I put something in my little book so my to-do list is always up to date. Once I land, I am ready to go exploring! Also add travel tips from your friends, especially great shopping tips, off the beaten path experiences and grocery stores!
Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on my travel book, Through my Window. It’s been inspired by all the years I’ve spent travelling for business. So often, I only experienced my destination through a window – whether it was the window of an airplane, taxi, bus or train, or the window of my hotel room.
What do you enjoy about Africa Travel Week? It has become one of the most important travel events, especially for trade professionals. The level of engagement with invited guests is impressive and the topics covered are always relevant and top-of-mind. Being partially virtual still allows us to connect with trade professionals and have meaningful conversations – a great alternative to not attending in person!