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SA tourism is one of the few tourism boards in India to have a standalone digital presence: Sthembiso Dlamini, COO, SAT

As the eighth largest international source market for tourist arrivals to South Africa, India figures big in South African Tourism’s future graph. Sthembiso Dlamini, COO, South African Tourism elucidates on the plans to grow this market

What are the demographics of Indian visitors travelling to South Africa? Has it shown any change over the past few years?

While Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, Bengaluru and West Bengal are the key source markets, visitors from all across India travel to South Africa. In 2017, Mumbai contributed 37 per cent to the overall Indian arrivals to South Africa while Delhi was at 22 per cent, Gujarat at 11 per cent, Bengaluru at 8 per cent and West Bengal at seven per cent. Until a few years ago we received the maximum tourist inflow from Mumbai, but the geographical scope has broadened now. Today, mini-metros and Tier II cities like Amritsar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Vadodara and Pune have also started to show up on our graphs.

How active is South African Tourism in using digital platforms/social media to drive Indian visitor arrivals into South Africa?

Travellers today, primarily millennials, are smart and tech-savvy consumers, who demand customised and adventurous trips. They rely heavily on social interaction for recommendations when considering a new destination and activities for their voyage – we at SA Tourism realise this. To tap into the pulse of this growing traveller segment, we forayed into the world of social media in 2017 with a dedicated Facebook page, especially customised for the India market. We also launched our Instagram India handle early in 2018. SA Tourism is one of the very few international tourism boards in India to have a standalone digital presence in the market.

How does India feature in SA Tourism’s marketing plans? Any new campaigns being planned?

India is the eighth largest international source market for tourist arrivals to South Africa and we are deeply invested in the region as part of our 5-in-5 strategy to attract a further five million tourists within the next five years. We are focused on understanding the rapidly expanding and evolving Indian consumer in order to provide customised experiences to suit their demands. For 2018, we have aligned our efforts towards creating more awareness for the newer regions like Oudtshoorn, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth, the Drakensberg region and the Panorama Route. We are also looking at expanding our geographies beyond the usual Indian metropolitan cities and tapping into Tier II regions.

While our trade and consumer initiatives are structured towards driving awareness and demand for our adventure and wildlife offerings, this year we are also looking at driving historic travel. This is based on the premise that South Africa birthed, shaped and moulded the great Nelson Mandela who celebrates his centenary birth year in 2018.

The Mandela Centenary is an important milestone in South Africa’s history, and as we reflect on our late former President’s legacy in a year when he turns 100 years old, we are proud to share our beautiful country with people from around the world.

What is SA’s USP vis-à-vis other competitors in the India market like Kenya, Tanzania?

Distinctive wildlife experiences, adrenaline-pumping adventure activities, delectable food and wine, locally inspired art and culture, high-end shopping experiences and untouched natural beauty are just some of the star attractions which draw a large pool of global and Indian tourists to the Rainbow Nation.

With the economically attractive rate of the Rand (ZAR) to INR, South Africa has increasingly become an appealing proposition for Indian tourists. Moreover – the three, four and five-starred properties as well as luxury accommodation in South Africa are cost-effective. Since the South African product quote comes in ZAR and not USD, Indian travellers are able to buy more experiences and activities for less money thus, making South Africa a value-for-money destination. Our premium USPs: Adventure: With over 300 adventure activities and counting, South Africa is undoubtedly the adventure capital of the world. The country has and just about any extreme sport you can name, and all supported by dedicated and authorised operators.

Game Reserves & Wildlife: South Africa boasts deep pockets of wildlife regions and game parks encircling every possible landscape from deserts to forests, mountains to coast. South Africa is also the only place in the world where wildlife-lovers can see not just the Big 5 but also the Big 7 that include the Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark (in Port Elizabeth / Nelson Mandela Bay).

Food & Wine: South African cuisine is a unique fusion of many different external cultural influences. These include Dutch, French, Indian and Malaysian flavours and techniques that continue to make their way onto the menus of restaurants and into the homes of locals all over the country. South Africa’s winelands stretch from the Cape Overberg in the south-western Cape, through the Little Karoo and the West Coast into the adjacent province of the Northern Cape.

How important is India as a market for SA Tourism?

SA Tourism foresees a continued upward trend in spends, length of stay and also unexplored newer regions of South Africa featuring on Indian itineraries for 2018. 2017 was a great year for SA Tourism with 97,921 Indian visitors from January to December – a 2.7 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

While Johannesburg and Cape Town are the usual hotspots for Indians, which other destinations can be promoted in the India market?

We have seen an increase in travellers heading to unexplored places and off-the-beaten paths. Hence, this year one of the key focus areas is also to go beyond the immensely popular Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and surrounds and create awareness about new destinations mentioned earlier such as Oudtshoorn, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth, the Drakensberg region and the Panorama Route within the consumer and trade spaces. These are picturesque areas where travellers can pack in a lot of action into shorter time-spans.

An ideal example to substantiate this would be the town of Oudtshoorn which has a total residential population of close to 100,000 but has been host to over 30,000 Indian travellers!

Also South Africa’s peak season coincides with Diwali and New Year, and Indian travellers (who tend to book much later than their American and and European counterparts) sometimes face a lack of availability and seasonally high rates for hotel rooms in top tourist areas such as Cape Town. Therefore driving awareness around our charming smaller towns that are relatively unexplored and continue to have accommodation as well as a wide range of interesting activities has helped address the availability issue.