Blacky Komani has been in New York for a couple of months. He already loves baseball and is glad the Yankees won the World Series. He believes he might even make a good catcher.
But that's not why he's here.
Komani is the South African Tourism Board's new coordinating manager for North America. He has brought not only fresh energy and drive to the tourism board, but also a sense of pragmatism.
"I think it would be naive to think that tourists would travel so far only to see South Africa. Predominantly, our partners in this venture are tour operators -- big wholesale operators who are marketing not only us but counterparts such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.
"We have to create strategies which will appeal to those interested in South Africa."
He explained: "Right now, we are trying to find a common approach to the type of tourist we are looking for. I am also working on a strategy that focuses on the North American market and the African-American segment of it."
On his arrival in New York, former rugby player Komani hit the ground running. He has already initiated a talent search to strengthen his American-based staff.
"I'm looking to build a solid team of people who share my vision," he said. "South Africa faces challenges. Our biggest one at the moment is to improve the economic situation of the country. We need more investors.
"But I believe worldwide confidence in the future of South Africa is growing."
When he learned of his appointment, the 32-year-old Komani, who had never visited the United States, worried about how his wife and daughters, ages 3 and 5, would react to bustling New York.
He smiled. "Right from the start they have fallen in love with America. They think it is great. For me, it's an excellent place for business."
Komani believes that an exchange of cultures, including sports, would benefit the U.S. and South Africa. "I'd like to see such exchanges. It would bring the peoples closer. There is much we can learn from each other."
Coming from a nation so recently blighted by apartheid, Komani's view of the racial climate in America was revealing.
"I find more tension here than I found in South Africa.
"The image of my country that I would like to project to Americans is that of a rainbow nation, a nation that is capable of miracles and a nation that is united.
"We are so fortunate that every day blacks and whites are finding ways to get along. There is a will to co-exist."
If you go...
Getting there: South African Airways has six flights weekly from New York to Johannesburg, with connecting internal service. Call (800) 2SAFARI.
Cape Getaways include the 560-mile Whale Coast; Garden Route and Springflower tours; (Larry) Gould on Golf; ecotourism safaris; In the Footsteps of Nelson Mandela; the Wine Route; and the Route of Many Cultures.
Information: Call the South African Tourism Board (SATOUR) at (212) 730-2929.
Pub Date: 11/10/96