Mumbai: In an ambitious PR outreach aimed at carving out a large slice of the Indian market pie, currently the 8th largest international source market for South African Tourism, the African nation has rolled out the 15th edition of its biggest travel and trade initiative in India. South African Tourism’s Roadshow accompanied by a 60-member trade delegation, kicked off on February 12, and travelled to five Indian cities – Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Delhi and Ahmedabad – before concluding on February 19.
The overwhelming participation of travel industry players was a testimony to the strong consumer demand in India. A unique interactive platform was also offered to trade partners in the Indian market, providing them with an opportunity to understand the diverse product offerings from South Africa. Hanneli Slabber, Regional General Manager, Asia/Australasia/Middle East, South African Tourism, said: “Not only has the Indian market grown considerably since our entry in 2005, but has also been showing rapid evolution in the preferences as well. This makes sharing of insights, trends and observations between Indian and South African partners crucial. We received over 10 million international tourists in 2016. The industry chips in with 3 per cent direct contribution to GDP.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that tourism will contribute R 400 billion to South African economy. According to UNWTO, 8 per cent more international tourists visited Africa in 2017, pushing up the number of tourists who visited Sub-Saharan Africa to 5 per cent. “We were impacted by the scaremongering over Ebola virus. People often forget Africa is not a nation but a continent. Ebola outbreak happened thousands of miles away. Now we are working towards building awareness in this regard,” she said.
South Africa posted 2.4 per cent year-on-year growth in international tourist arrivals during the period January and November, 2017. “Tourism contributes more money to SA economy than gold trade. Tourism is the new gold. We are targeting 5 million more tourists by 2020. Of which, 4 million more will be international tourists and 1 mn will be domestic holidaymakers. We do a lot of research and market study to ensure that we offer SA in a way it suits India the best. We do not package SA for the world. We package it for specific markets.”
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTES
Last year proved to be a successful year for South African Tourism, which managed to keep its performance similar to that of 2016. Alpa Jani, Acting Hub-Head, Middle East/India/South East Asia, South Africa Tourism, said, “This is one of our biggest events. Mumbai is our largest market in India. Tourist arrivals from Mumbai have been pegged at 37 per cent of the total footfall. Indians have a penchant for adventure activities. An average Indian does 10 activities a day in SA.”
MICE: MORE THAN JUST LEISURE
MICE is moving to locations beyond Cape Town, to Sun City and game reserves. MICE demand has been picking up even in smaller cities of India. “We conducted Learn South Africa training in 17 cities last year, and we certified 1810 agents. At present, we have about 15 destination management companies (DMCs) working exclusively in India. The movie ‘Cocktail’ which was shot in Cape Town helped in promoting SA in India. A total of 89,882 Indian tourist arrivals were recorded from January to November 2017.
We hope to cross the 1 million mark in 2018.” Some key trends being witnessed in South Africa are the surge in demand for adventure tourism and the rise in self-drive holidays amongst couples and young families. Interestingly, the love for comfort food while travelling persists and travel decisions are significantly influenced by peer word-of-mouth campaign. Keeping some of these consumer trends in mind, one of the key focus areas for South Africa Tourism is to create awareness about new destinations such as Oudtshoorn, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth and the Drakensberg region.
IMPROVED AIR CONNECTIVITY
Over 70 international airlines now fly into South Africa. Efforts are on to increase seat capacity on relevant routes to India. Presently, Mumbai and Delhi are connected to South African cities by Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Air Seychelles, Turkish Airlines and Jet Airways, which fly via their respective hubs, utilising domestic connections.
FAVOURABLE EXCHANGE RATE
The Rand (ZAR)-Rupee exchange rate has been relatively favourable for the Indian market. Since the South Africa product quote comes in ZAR and not US dollars, Indian travellers are able to enjoy more experiences for less money, thus, making South Africa a value-for-money destination.
Another significant observation was the rise in millennial Indian travellers to South Africa. In the first quarter of 2017, nearly 35 per cent of the Indian visitor base comprised 35-year-olds while for the second quarter, this grew to 46 per cent. In 2017, Mumbai contributed 37 per cent of Indian arrivals to South Africa while Delhi was at 22 per cent, followed by Gujarat (11 per cent) and Bengaluru (8 per cent).
‘CAPE TOWN HAS WATER AND IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS’
The alarming news that Cape Town, a city in South Africa, was on the brink of running out of water had whipped up a hubbub of apocalyptic scale. But, the tourism sector in the city has largely remained unaffected by ‘the impending water crisis’. Dubbing it as ‘scaremongering’, Hanneli Slabber, Regional General Manager, Asia/Australasia/Middle East, South African Tourism, said: “It was an outcome of severe drought in 2015. It may have had an impact but without the 2017 arrival numbers, I cannot confirm it for sure. But cancellations have been kneejerk reactions. SA Tourism has been working closely with the industry, government and partners to put across the message. A lot of it is like the Ebola scare. There is no impact on travellers.”
She made the statement while speaking at the presser held on the sidelines of the SA Tourism Roadshow in Mumbai. “Cape Town is open for business. Cape Town has water. But yes, the issue has helped us realise that the industry needs to be more sustainable. How can we handle water responsibly? Private industry has come up with innovations. Many hotels are going off the grid by opening desalination plants. Remember: tourists are only less than one per cent of the population. So the issue cannot impact them if it is not anymore a problem for the local population, she said.