Johannesburg has one of the world’s best airport lounges, SLOW – but that is for departures, says the gal (do get there to have plenty of time to enjoy really good food, excellent tastings of South African wines and a surprisingly versatile library of books you can take on with you). Johannesburg‘s O.R. Tambo International Airport – originally Jan Smuts, and renamed 2006 for Oliver Tambo, former President of the African National Congress ANC – is also Africa’s busiest. Iberia and TAM will soon join the international carriers coming in here, and bringing yet more business to the country’s luxury hotels. British Airways flies twice daily (one is an A380), Emirates has four flights a day, Qatar has two.
Look at www.thisisjoburg.com for a 360-degree interactive map that allows click-throughs to such must-do places as the Maboneng hip rejuvenation area in Johannesburg‘s central CBD area. Here is biking in Soweto, and cafés you can visit on the tour. Here is the Apartheid Museum and so on. The site was created for David Barillot, the brilliant French Director of Sales and Marketing at Four Seasons Johannesburg, The Westcliff. Honestly, he says, people have no idea how much there is to do in this city. Far too many international visitors, flying into Johannesburg enroute to game parks, merely overnight at an airport hotel rather than booking a hotel Mercedes for the 30-minute trip to his hotel.
And when they leave after only one night, he says the universal farewell statement is ‘we needed at least three days’ – travel agents, please take note. The hotel is in the middle of South Africa’s largest urban forest, with Johannesburg Zoo a mile down the hill: you can see elephants like the one above, and sometimes hear them, and hundreds of birds fly over, in large V formations, for their nightly sunset cocktails in the Zoo’s pools. You have over 70 museums in town, and there is more art than you can possibly manage. This September, 9-11 to be exact, sees Artlogic’s FNB Joburg Art Fair, the continent’s most important gathering, showing 50 modern and contemporary exhibitors, including Marike Prinsloo, from eight countries.
Sponsored by First National Bank, the Art Fair also includes educational programmes organised by Fair Curator Lucy MacGarry. This is definitely one time to be in this lovely city. Before that, however, Johannesburg‘s luxury hotels will be seeing many top travel agents coming by on the way to Virtuoso’s international gathering, this year in Cape Town, in April. I hope these clever advisors listen to their own advice, and allow at least three nights in Johannesburg. Those Soweto bike tour operators, and gallery owners, are ready for them.