Better air connectivity top priority for South African Tourism in India

South African Tourism unveils tourism recovery strategy for India at VirtuallyYoursSouthAfrica 2021 roadshow
/ New Delhi
Better air connectivity top priority for South African Tourism in India

December is going to be very busy for South Africa from the Indian market, says South African Tourism

As India is one of its biggest markets, South African Tourism organised a virtual roadshow to revive connection with Indian stakeholders and present the destination anew to attract travellers from across the country, once more.
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South African Tourism has just concluded its maiden virtual roadshow in India to capitalise on strong consumer and corporate traveller demand in the country. The ‘VirtuallyYoursSouthAfrica’ roadshow aimed to boost tourism economies in both nations, especially as the South African national tourism board focuses on bullishly driving strategic recovery measures in India.

The roadshow in India is the first of many efforts by South Africa to reignite international travel demand, in order to meet a target of 2.6 million total visitors in FY21-22. As many as 99 South African suppliers were part of the trade delegation who exhibited their products and services in India. They reiterated the tourism board’s emphasis on diversifying geographies and expanding product range for the India market. Of the 99 suppliers, 41 were exhibiting in India for the first time and 12 were women-owned enterprises.

With a heavy emphasis on empowering small businesses and boosting the local economy, this roadshow also saw the inclusion of 31 Small, Medium & Microenterprises (SMMEs), more than double the number that participated in the 2020 roadshow. In addition to SMMEs, representatives from accommodation establishments, destination management companies, experiences, 7 South African Provinces, VFS and airlines showcased their product and services to 1,871 Indian buyers.

“I am thrilled at the response we received at our maiden virtual roadshow – I believe that the partnerships forged here will be instrumental in setting the tone as we direct efforts towards travel recovery in India. I am grateful to all those who participated from the trade fraternities in India and South Africa – you are our pillar of support and motivate us to drive excellence,” Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism said.

Given the increase in Indian traveller demand, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have regular flights scheduled from India to South Africa, with layovers at Dubai, Doha and Addis Ababa respectively. Additionally, Air Seychelles is also scheduled to resume flights from India to South Africa.

South Africa is currently open to all international tourists, including Indians. Travellers intending to visit the country will be required to produce a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin to South Africa.

Sthembiso Dlamini, acting CEO & COO at South African Tourism and Neliswa Nkani, hub head – MEISEA, South African Tourism talk to India Outbound on key issues.

On connectivity challenge

Sthembiso Dlamini, acting CEO & COO at South African Tourism

Sthembiso Dlamini: Air connectivity remains a crucial enabler. If you look at some of the participants in this virtual roadshow, it includes airlines. The reason why we have them is that we are beginning to look at airlines that have interest into our destination and say that yes we want to showcase the kind of demand that is in India, so that they can actually take decision as to whether they want to invest in this route.

We do know that it will go a long way to increase the growth that we wanted if we have a direct flight from India to South Africa. We are working towards that and obviously the government is helping us in talking to airlines and looking at who else is interested in this route. We have a few airlines on board for the virtual roadshow as we do know that India is a viable market and as time goes on they would be able to look to a direct flight from India into South Africa.

Air connectivity remains at the hub of what we are trying to do. We may have demand as much as we want but if we don’t have the capacity to lift people from their own destination to South Africa it’s never going to work. Also if we don’t have adequate connectivity it adds into the cost of coming to South Africa. So we have to try by all means to partner with airlines so that we take away the cost burden from the travellers themselves.

Neliswa Nkani: As much as we have the connectivity challenge, we have reached out to two airlines, one has indicated that they want to land in the top African capital cities and we have reached out to them. Because we have got a very strategic partnership with Singapore which is also the partner Vistara and we are speaking to them. These are our ongoing conversations. We are hoping that in time something fantastic will come from it.

On leisure or business

Sthembiso Dlamini: From a leisure point of view, Indian travellers have been searching to travel as everybody has been locked up in their houses. And everyone wants to go somewhere. And we do know that out of 1.4 billion Indians, young people want to go out and explore. So leisure has got a huge opportunity and a great potential. That is why we are focusing on it. From a research point of view, the surge that is coming from India from leisure point of view tells us that we have got a huge potential that is actually tapping into those numbers.

With business events, a part of this roadshow, Neliswa and team have put together corporates. We have got a destination that is ready to receive incentive travellers and we have got the infrastructure to support it. We are ready to host you. If you look at the India market, incentive travel for the purpose of MICE sector is high and we are going to tap into the opportunity. That is why with the virtual roadshow we are saying here is what we are offering. We are not putting the eggs in one basket. India has got huge opportunity for us.

Neliswa Nkani, hub head – MEISEA, South African Tourism

Neliswa Nkani: In the MICE segment, the key sectors that have been quite active in bringing groups to South Africa, the pharmaceutical industry has become viable for us and they have made a lot of profit. So they have been not that much impacted by the pandemic and in fact they are the big gainers. The IT/ICT/Cement industry have been very strong in reaching out to us as well as the banking services. But the real growth that you see is in the film industry.

We currently have a crew of 180-190 people who have been filming in South Africa since September. Just last week they asked us to extend the visas for the same group of people for an additional 60 days. The MICE industry is really going to give leisure a run for its money. As we are speaking we have confirmed 4,000 passengers to South Africa, we are busy closing that. There is an interesting pipeline of projects that are sitting in our travel projects.

We met the target of 95,000 for 2020. Currently we are sitting at 25 pc of our targets. We are doing great with SITs and group travels. December is going to be very busy for South Africa from the Indian market.

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