The official visit was so much more than a 'holiday', took huge amounts of planning and could not have come at a better time for SA as a tourism destination, smarting with issues due to security and safety.
The level of protocol and approval processes that go into organising an Official Royal Visit is incredible, according to British High Commissioner to South Africa Nigel Casey. But it goes without saying, the High Commission team can take a bow for arranging a successful visit for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan - not forgetting little baby Archie.
“It was a fantastic shop window for South Africa,” says Casey.
Chatting to Traveller24, he says the royal VIPs received a wonderful reception for their first official Foreign and Commonwealth Office visit as a family in South Africa, which took place earlier in September.
“The tour deliberately touched on some serious issues which resulted in fantastic pictures being beamed all around the world, to some of SA’s biggest source markets,” says Casey.
And it could not have come at a better time for South Africa’s image as a holiday destination.
‘Women’s rights and no no-go areas’
The issue of crime in our country was underscored by the #AmINext Gender violence movement, which swelled into the mainstream just ahead of the royal visit. It set the tone to a degree for the serious visit, to a large extent, and not the holiday as many perceived it. The royal couple made a deliberate choice to start the visit off visiting in Nyanga, considered one of the Mother City’s most dangerous areas.
“They wanted to show people visiting here that are no no-go areas in South Africa, and to go to places that are in the news, even for the wrong reasons. The Duchess also has a very strong personal interest for women and girls, and she had a chance to explore and highlight this through meeting with some really interesting people.”
‘Archie and the Arch’
But the highlight to top all highlights for the couple was certainly “Archie and the Arch”, with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in “tremendous form, you can see that, and he really loves kids".
"And the royal baby was the star of the show in what was one of the loveliest moments of the trip," adds Casey.
“But ultimately, they were struck by all parts of the trip, really.”
“We managed to also include promoting investment for South Africa, specifically focusing on the Africa Investment Summit set to take place in London on the 20th January 2020 – taking place just ahead of the annual Davos conference, when most world leaders will be travelling.
"It is a chance to elevate the finance development in Africa, providing countries like South Africa with a shop window to promote opportunities here and we very much hope that President Ramaphosa will be part of that, as will other African leaders."
So what did Royal watchers get to see exactly, when focused intently on South Africa in what Casey describes as a "10-day window of free advertising for South Africa" - Check out Channel24 full coverage here.
"They got to see SA in a positive light and this will increase the propensity to visit, if they haven't already."
But over and above improving the perceptions of South Africa as a welcoming and safe destination with the throngs of Royal watchers, Casey says he is now also "excited that SA is moving towards an e-visa", with the pilot set to begin in November ahead of the peak holiday season.
He is all too aware of the visa issues South Africa has faced.
“I’m excited to hear about the e-visa launch, I think it’s a great step. In the future if the UK could switch to an e-Visa, it’s obviously a system that works, Australia has had it for a number of years. I think it will be a great way to encourage more people to come and visit. If you can cut out the aspect of acquiring a visa which requires people to turn up in person, it definitely lightens the application process and I’m looking forward to seeing how that works.”
Currently South Africans still need to go through the onerous process of a visa application but the Department of Home Affairs has previously expressed intent to renew the reciprocal visitor's visa, knowing that the department is overhauling its security processes to limit the risk of fraudulent passports.