With Asia accounting for 10.2 per cent of total traffic and a 30.3 per cent growth in 2016, South African Tourism is optimistic the upward trend will continue this year especially with additional marketing budget and new experiences introduced for the market.
Asia-Pacific president, Bradley Brouwer, said: “2015 was a bad year given the Eboli outbreak in West Africa but this year’s outlook looks good as our weakening economy and the depreciating rand make it cheaper to travel to South Africa.
“We see massive growth from South Korea (42 per cent) for the first five months of this year. Despite a slight drop, China still registered a 38 per cent increase. Markets like Malaysia picked up while India is also strong,” he added.
“I believe South Africa will be the next hot destination for Asians given our aggressive promotions in Asia each year as well as the 12.7 per cent increase on marketing budget this year. We’ll (focus on) China a lot more due to its potential despite insufficient air access.”
According to Brouwer, Asia is seeing more flights connections to South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia in recent years. For instance, Kenya Airways started Guangzhou-Nairobi (Kenya)-Livingstone (Zambia)-Cape Town service last July.
Amrho Tourism Aviation has introduced a charter service from China in 2016 and will double its Tokyo-Port Elizabeth charter services from two to four or eight in September/October to target the high-end FIT and group travel segments from Japan, said operations manager, Naseer Ismail.
In addition to established products like the Big Five and self-drive safari, South African Tourism has also rolled out a new ocean safari for the Asian market early this year, offering travellers opportunities to witness the world’s largest breeding colony of African penguins on St Croix Island or get up-close with thousands of bottlenose dolphins in Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay. Another new experience is a tour to a mohair factory in Nelson Mandela Bay to see the production of the silk-like fabric spun from the hair of the Angora goat.
For operators such as E Travel SA, niche tours like wild flower tours along the west coast are a way to attract the burgeoning China market. Operating executive Suki Wu told TTG Asia: “This product is rare for Asian travellers but very popular for the western market. Rather than doing mundane tours without character, we want to push something new.”
Last year, the NTO introduced additional languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korea to its two online training courses launched three years ago. So far, 800 specialists have been trained in China and 300 in South Korea.
As well, two more visa facilitation centres will open in China’s Chongqing and Kunming by end-2017. Brouwer hopes the online visa application service will be ready within the two years to increase the ease of travel of Chinese nationals to South Africa.