With a clear agenda to enter new markets and foster new business relationships, South Africa has successfully emerged as one of the most sought-after destinations offering a wide array of unique experiences to travellers. Recording a growth of 9.2 million last year which was a 10.2 per cent increase in overall international tourist arrivals, South African Tourism (SAT) is all set to roll out a global hub strategy to further promote the destination’s offerings in the coming year. This year’s INDABA, held from May 11-14 at Durban International Convention Centre, was organised with the theme ‘Shaping our future together’ underpinned by the message of ‘heritage and culture’. The official opening witnessed the presence of leaders from the provincial governments. The trade fair was spread across approximately 26,000 square metres space which witnessed successful business meetings with over 1,386 exhibitors and 1,464 international buyers. Around 3,000 formal meetings were scheduled between buyers and suppliers and a total of over 10,000 delegates attended the four-day event. This year, SAT hosted 15 established travel agents from India who have been aggressively selling the destination.
Marthinus van Schalkwyk, tourism minister, South Africa dwelt on new tourism ventures of the nation. He said, “We have indeed worked very hard to sustain this growth and encourage potential travellers to visit the country through our various branding and marketing initiatives. The launch of South African National Convention Bureau has given a boost to our global competitiveness in pursuing our target of R 6.2 billion in direct spend via business events in the next five years. With an aim to further boost the country’s growth, we have identified core potential investment markets across regional Africa, Americas, Asia and Australasia and Europe.” The 13 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries that participated at INDABA this year included: Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Reunion, as well as Kenya, contributing a total of 426 exhibitors. Countries like Zambia, Namibia and Botswana have also shown interest in India as a source market.
Thulani Nzima, chief executive officer, SAT commented, “INDABA has grown by leaps and bounds. We have to continue improving our product offerings in this competitive market. This year exhibitors have invested considerably in setting up their stalls. We have seen a good increase in the number of international buyers as well. We are working closely with Durban Tourism and Tourism Kwazulu-Natal and are confident that there have been successful meetings between buyers and exhibitors which would lead to revenue generation through tourism for the country aiding in its long term growth strategy.”
Both the South African government and SAT are looking at making INDABA the platform for exhibitors and buyers, not only in and from South Africa, but also for the whole of the African continent. “To achieve this we are willing to invest even more to transform the event into a pan-African trade platform. Hence we will be increasing the African participation at INDABA next year. This will ensure more number of exhibitors and buyers. SAT will do more work to generate firm proposals,” explained van Schalkwyk
INDABA has always served as a good opportunity to increase our knowledge about more niche products which the country has to offer. The trend among Indian travellers is that they are now more interested in hard adventure activities. What is great about South Africa is that it is a year-round destination with many tourism products to offer to all segments of travellers.
– Subhash Motwani, Compact Travels
We have had fruitful meetings at INDABA and the event has served as a good platform to promote new niche tourism offerings to travel agents. This helps us increase our offerings in the packages that we sell as well.
Since we get a lot of Indians who want to travel to South Africa, INDABA has helped us a lot.
– Hardik Mehta, Comfort Holidays
INDABA has been a great platform for us wherein all the African continent delegates were present to promote and educate the travel fraternity on the various tourism products that they have to offer. There is a great potential for India to start looking at South Africa as a travel destination as the country has a lot to offer to each segment of travellers. Indians are now looking at longer duration of stay as well as are opting for more adventure activities in South Africa.
– John Paulose, Kuoni Travel India
Heritage and culture take centrestage
The highlight of INDABA 2013 was the ‘Heritage and Culture Pavilion’ set up at the adjoining venue, Durban Exhibition Centre, to educate delegates and visitors about the country’s diverse heritage and cultural offerings. The pavilion was organised by SAT in collaboration with the National Department of Tourism and in partnership with the Moja Heritage Collection. It was revealed that some of the country’s major attractions like the Kruger National Park, Apartheid Museum, Table Mountains, Robben Island were on the travel agenda of many tourists who visited the country last year.
Observing the growing popularity amidst tour operators for geotour packages, Wesgro (The Western Cape Destination Marketing Investment and Trade Promotion Agency, South Africa) has decided to tap the geocaching tourism market. The company will promote 16 caches of Western Cape, the Winelands, The Karoo, West Coast, Cape Overberg, Garden Route and Klein Karoo. Cape Town will also use its status as World Design Capital 2014 to highlight the creativity of the city, country and continent through a year-long programme of design focussed events, exhibitions, projects and initiatives.
The national carrier of the country, South African Airways, sees itself as a catalyst for South Africa’s growth. Manoj Papa, acting general manager-commercial, South African Airways said, “Even in the current situation where the aviation industry is going through a slump, the airline is expecting to overcome the
challenges like increasing cost of operations and decreasing profit margins.” It is a mandate for the airline company to continue to be an enabler for economic growth. “From a destination point of view we are finding new opportunities and the market segment also seems to be improving. The leisure and business traveller numbers have been growing,” he added.
The popularity for South Africa’s national parks, wildlife, game reserves, and adventure continues amongst Indians. A case in point is Sabi Sabi, the five-star private game reserve near Kruger National Park, has India as its fourth biggest market in terms of travellers. Rodney Wyndham, managing director, Sabi Sabi said, “India is an emerging market and a major focus market for us; about four-six per cent of our annual business market is from India. We have seen a lot of Indian families opting for accommodation at our Bush Lodge. The chef there also understands the Indian food requirements. We have been around for 30 years and have always been in the top ten slot of excellence in game reserve accommodation.” A similar thought was expressed by Cindy Sheedy Walker of extraordinary, “The month of May brings in a lot of Indian guests to our properties. The Mabula Game Lodge has been popular among Indian families and groups. This is apart from Imbali Safari Lodge and The Cape Miller.” extraordinary represents about 15 diverse collection of luxury lodges and hotels and is a subsidiary of Kingfisher Resorts in South Africa.
Indians still travel in family groups or for honeymoons to South Africa. Shamwari Group, who has been actively taking part in SAT’s roadshows in India, and sees India as a potential market for its business. The group consists of Shamwari Game Reserve, Jock Safari Lodge Kruger National Park, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, Nkomazi Game Reserve, Nyungwe Forest Lodge and Gorillas Nest. Joe Cloete, group general manager, Shamwari Group said that the group has been seeing a lot of Indian family groups. “Although our biggest source markets are Great Britain, Germany, India is also gaining prominence. Last year Shamwari saw 369 room nights from the Indian market which is a healthy 20 per cent growth since 2011. We will be again participating in the South African Tourism roadshow which is scheduled to be held in September 2013. We specialise in luxury FIT, small groups and family segment and October to March have been our peak seasons. We have activities for all segments- we have a kids safari programme and rhino awareness centre,” he added.
For Singita, Jaco Ehlers, the sales manager informed that since North America is their biggest source market, their business from the India market is only one-two per cent. “We have a good relationship with our key trade partners in India. Our target segment include families, honeymooners. Through our partners we intend to now aggressively promote our offerings in the India market more,” he asserted. The Morukuru Family in Madikwe Reserve also has 40 per cent of its clients from the India market. Manon Van Der Veen, public relations and marketing, Morukuru Family informed, “We opened about nine years ago and have seen that the average length of stay among Indians have been four nights. We have three chefs as we know the importance of vegetarian food among Indian travellers. We are open all year-round.”
Elaborating on the India market, Hanneli Slabber, country manager – India, South African Tourism said, “We were successful in achieving the one lakh mark of travellers last year which we had earlier predicted that we would reach by 2015. This year, the projections for growth in traveller numbers depends on various factors, as one of the concerns is the increasing air fuel cost and its impact on airfares. Although we would like to have more number of flights from India, a study on the market viability is also necessary. We do have a good average number of flights coming into South Africa and our visa procedures are also simple. It takes five working days for a visa to be processed.” The biggest challenge, according to her, has been the distribution of simplified product knowledge at the right time. India in the last five years has seen travel patterns change dramatically. “Today there are travellers who are willing to opt for niche experiences during their visit to the country. Although Cape Town and Garden Route have been the most preferred destinations among leisure travellers from India, we are now offering them more products to cover other destinations that South Africa has to offer. Last year, our repeat traveller clientele increased to upto 55 per cent from the leisure segment from India,” she said.