South African Tourism’s mega annual travel trade event INDABA 2012 saw 1500 exhibitors showcasing the best of tourism products from South Africa and other neighbouring countries. More than 11,000 delegates visited the four-day event in Durban International Convention Centre this year that was a platform for 4000 scheduled meetings.“INDABA is Africa’s mega tourism showcase. We have done very well in terms of growth range of exhibitors, and our aim is to create a platform for buyers and exhibitors,” said Thulani Nzima, CEO, South African Tourism. He added that tourism is a collaborative business and the theme this year – ‘Shaping our future together’- where everyone in the value chain makes South Africa what it is, corroborates this.
INDABA 2012 highlighted the importance of India and China as key growth markets. India, in particular has shown the highest growth in Asia, followed closely by China. The total tourist arrivals from India in 2010 was 71,587 while in 2011 the arrivals totaled 90,367. “India and China are no longer emerging markets for us. We will continue to invest in these markets and look at opportunities,” said Nzima, pointing out that they are looking at targeting 100,000 tourist arrivals from India by the end of 2012.
Stressing on the need to invest in the growth markets of the future, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister for tourism, South Africa said that with the emergence of China and India as global economic powers, it is necessary to harness growth from these tourism markets. “Simultaneously we must defend our core markets,” he said. He also stated that by 2020 South Africa would like to see 15 million international arrivals.
This year South African Tourism hosted 11 travel agents from India. Hanneli Slabber, country manager, South African Tourism in India averred that the Indian market knows South Africa very well from the operator point of view. “However, there are lots of owner-driven activities and experiences which we cannot bring down to India in high-powered roadshows, but the Indian tour operators can meet all these people when they come for INDABA. It is the little details they pick up when they speak to one another which makes the experience so much different for their customers,” said Slabber, adding that, there are many routes and regions that are still unexplored by the Indian traveller. “What we are happy with now is Cape Town and push all through the Garden Route up to Port Elizabeth. Durban also gets a fair amount of tourists, driven by VFR segment and also business tourists. The same is with Johannesburg,” she said.
Sabi Sabi is a leading five-star private game reserve in Kruger National Park that has a keen interest in the India market and has been attending the South African Tourism roadshows that are organised in India. “We are family owned and at the end of the safari every single guest will feel the highlight was the feeling of being at home in somebody else’s home. From the Indian guest point of view this is very relevant in the way they like to travel,” said Rodney Wyndham, MD, Sabi Sabi. The reserve has seen a steady growth from the Indian market. Families would be the majority visiting Sabi Sabi, followed by honeymooners. “India is such a huge market for us, we will carry on using South African tourism as a platform to keep moving into the market joining roadshows,” said Wyndham, not forgetting to mention that Sabi Sabi has two chefs who make good Indian vegetarian and Indian food in general.
Kingfisher Resorts has seven luxury lodges and hotels in South Africa that are popular with Indian visitors and three of the resorts – Mabula Game Lodge, Imbali Safari Lodge and The Cape Milner witnessed 100 per cent growth from the Indian market in 2011. Cindy Sheedy Walker, CEO, Extraordinary, a subsidiary of Kingfisher Resorts in South Africa stated, “For Kingfisher Resorts the biggest market is India. We take care of the dietary requirements of Indians and have Hindi and Marathi speaking staff. From three years we have been focused on India and last year we saw extraordinary growth.” The most popular among Indians is the Mabula Game Lodge. The resort has two chefs from India and also allows groups to bring their own chefs. “We have been focusing our attention on second tier cities like Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. We found great success in the second tier markets who seem to have the ability the spend more,” she added. Apart from India the other source markets are UK, Germany, Italy, France and US.
Taj Cape Town is entering the third year of its operation, where almost 20 per cent of the guests are Indians which are a mix of both corporate clientele and the leisure segment. Pointing out that the Taj Group of Hotels is not a brand that is understood or known in South Africa, Michael Pownall, the GM stated that many of the guests might not know it as an Indian hotel in South Africa, but an Indian visitor will always look for parallels. “We set out to be a South African hotel that represents all that is best within Cape Town, but with Indian undertones that comes with the Taj as the DNA would be service levels, the attention to details and refined hospitality,” he mentioned. The hotel has a fine dining restaurant that is purely Indian and also arranges for Indian breakfast for the guests who come from India, which has proved to be very successful. Even small resorts and lodges that have a niche clientele have an interest in the Indian market. The Orchards in Midrand is a guest house with a health spa and cultural village that is dedicated to preserving the vanishing cultures of South Africa – the way of living, the cuisine, garments and also performing and material arts. “We get Indian guests sometimes. They are interested in knowing about culture and traditional dances,” said Makgasi Salome Tshungu, owner, The Orchards.
For the travel agents from India INDABA is the best platform for direct interaction with all the big and small suppliers – ranging from new routes and activities to hotels and resorts. It enables them to sell to their clients South Africa as a destination that has many more interesting aspects to experience and explore apart from wildlife.
INDABA 2012 was a great opportunity to meet up with suppliers we are working with, face to face under one roof. It enabled us to learn about regions which we have not worked with before such as KwaZulu Natal and Durban. Overall, a great learning experience and definitely one that could be used to promote South Africa not just as scenic destination, but as a wildlife one as well. We are now looking at focusing out of the ordinary which would include Namaqualand and KwaZulu Natal, especially scenic and wildlife tours and hopefully a lot of self drive as well. I think a lot of South Africa has been undiscovered as per the Indian market and we shall use this opportunity to break through the standard moulds and push for other interesting regions as well.
I believe that the key growth areas from the India market in the near future is FIT and high-end luxury segments.
INDABA is truly Africa’s largest travel trade show as it not only focuses on South Africa alone but the other countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Mauritius and so on whose requirement from our market is on the rise. India is now opening up with more and more clients wanting to spend time and money on off the beaten track experiences. This is good for us since Africa is just the perfect destination to offer amazing experiences. Luxury, therefore, is the focus and also adventure tours are on the rise.
INDABA is one of the biggest and most popular travel trade shows. We get to learn lot about new products which the destination has to offer to all different segments of the markets like honeymooners, adventure, family travellers, wildlife and nature lovers. For buyers it’s like a one stop shop to choose partners and conduct business across the African continent and not limited to South Africa. I feel that adventure activities which South Africa has to offer will be key for growth in India market.
We need to promote and expose discerning Indian travellers to the varied experiences in store and available in South Africa. An example is the sardine run for the diving enthusiasts on the South Coast, luxury rail journeys with Blue Train and/or Rovos Rail, diversified game reserve experience for repeat visitors as offered at Sanbona and Tswala Kalahari, etc. I feel that as buyers we should be restricted to attend INDABA for at least three full days to justify the vast seller presence, this will also ensure greater exposure for buyers as they will have more time to meet new sellers/exhibitors/regions, etc.
I think the main growth area will be budget travel, luxury travel, family and special interest/activity breaks. Innovation and differentiation are key drivers of growth today. The Indian travel market is highly competitive and cluttered. This is why branding is more relevant today that it was say 10 years ago. The matured traveller is more likely to invest in a brand and its attributes rather than gambling with an ‘unknown’ entity. Today’s consumer is wiser and can discern between a cheap gimmick and a genuine offer.