Thebe Tourism acquires 50% of luxury mobile tented camp operator

DURBAN – A joint vision to offer unique experiences in iconic Southern African destinations has resulted in a new partnership with the Thebe Tourism Group and with renowned Chiefs Mobile Tented Camps. 

The Thebe Tourism Group, a subsidiary of Thebe Investment Corporation, has acquired a 50% stake in Chiefs Mobile Tented Camps, a leader in the provision of luxury mobile tented camp experiences. 

Founded by Allan Johnston and Lysta Stander 20 years ago, Chiefs Tented Camps have come to represent the ultimate experience in mobile tented camps, offering a full turnkey service from accommodation under canvas in various styles and levels of luxury, ablution facilities, lounge and dining areas, catering and mobile conferencing.

Speaking about the partnership, Jerry Mabena, chief executive of the Thebe Tourism Group, elaborates on the potential his group saw in the joint venture: “We saw the quality in how Chiefs Tented Camps put their camps together, from the tents themselves to the professionalism of the teams and services they provide, and that really resonated with us. We also saw the opportunities presented in expanding their model into a more diverse tourism offering.”

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Says Allan Johnston: “We’re delighted about the partnership as it allows us to tap into the Thebe Tourism Group’s expertise and audience-reach.  Being part Thebe Tourism will provide Chiefs with the opportunity to expand our product into new frontiers as well as being able to deliver a broader offering to an ever demanding and changing market place.”

With Chiefs Tented Camps having mainly focused in the past on corporate group bookings and ‘big ticket’ events such as festivals, the partnership will now see the operation expanding both geographically as well as diversifying their product whilst not compromising its focus in the traditional markets.  

Mabena explains: “These camps often take as long as two weeks to set up and a full week to break down. The plan to enable camps that are set up for specific bookings to remain up after the initial event, to cater for other paying guests and to sell additional bed nights to make operations even more viable and exciting. Furthermore, the goal will be to extend the tented camp offering to other smaller groups and even individual visitors – much like a pop-up hotel which appears for a short period of time and then moves on to the next iconic location.”

The first venture of this nature is Kruger Grande, which will see a luxury tented camp set up on a river bank in the iconic Kruger National Park. This camp is due to remain in place for the month of  July and overnight stays will be sold in the same way that a visitor would book normal hotel accommodation. 

“Chiefs Tented Camps have really excelled in the past in their offerings to corporate groups and events and we will support the way they operate the business,” notes Mabena, “At the same time we can now extend the offering that already exists, and offer new experiences in even more iconic places across Southern Africa for guests who would normally not be able to stay overnight. This new concept of a collection of seasonal camps will be called  Imagine.

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Imagine a tented camp on a  river bank in Kruger National Park in the middle of winter hearing lions roar nearby, imagine listening to the waves crash as the sardines migrate past the Eastern Cape, imagine waking up to endless stars in the middle of the Karoo with springbok passing through, imagine spending days in the wild flowers of Namaqualand and evenings under expansive skies…Imagine. 

“The possibilities are endless in a country as beautiful as South Africa.” says Mabena. “What we truly value in the partnership is that Allan, Lysta and their teams have a “tread-lightly” policy which ultimately means that once the camp is gone there is almost no indication that it was there in the first place.”

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Along with a professional team of full-time staff, crew and service staff are often drawn from local communities. “This is very important to us as Thebe Tourism Group as well as to the Chiefs Tented Camps team,” notes Mabena. “It is part of our corporate ethos to ensure the upskilling and employing of local communities wherever we have our own operations.”

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