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Friday, 19 May, 2017, 10 : 42 AM [IST]

‘SAT will focus on promoting smaller coastal towns to incorporate in Indian itineraries’

Moving beyond leisure travel, South African Tourism (SAT) is now looking at tapping the MICE segment in India and focus on the Tier-II cities, which have emerged as engines for future growth. Hanneli Slabber, Country Head - India, South African Tourism, in an email interaction with Prasenjit Chakraborty outlines their strategy for the market and how through connectivity is driving tourism growth to South Africa.
Q. Since SAT recorded a 21% growth in Indian visitors in 2016, what is your strategy to meet the 100,000-arrival mark target this year? Any plan for budget revision to meet the target?
A. We are looking forward to continued support from the travel trade in making sure that Indian visitors have the best and most memorable experience from the minute they begin planning their trip. Keeping this in mind we are investing heavily in the Indian market and constantly adapting to the changing consumer interests, diversifying our products and customising our offerings to varied consumer demands. We have a lot of expectations from the Indian market and going forward our increasing engagement with trade and consumers would help us in realising this vision.

We will continue to focus on deepening our engagements with our trade partners by introducing innovative ideas to promote the destination and help them get a better understanding of the 60,000 plus registered product offerings created to suit Indian travellers. Travel agents will also undergo destination training and all the aspects that make South Africa amazing through a 17-city Learn SA programme slated for mid-2017. The travel partners will be selected after successful completion of the Learn South Africa, a curated education and awareness programme for trade partners in India, where the focus this time will be on Tier-II cities and non-metro penetration.

Another prominent initiative is Meetings Africa, the premier business events trade show hosted annually by SAT which will showcase South Africa’s diverse offering of services and products.

We are going to focus on promoting smaller coastal towns like Oudtshoorn, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth and Drakensberg as picturesque areas where travellers can pack in a lot of action into shorter time-spans. We will train travel agents and also create demand and awareness for these smaller towns in the consumer space. The thought is to get them to add on one or more of these unexplored locations to their regular itinerary.

Q. In terms of pecking order, which cities are your focus markets in India?
A. We are focusing on increased development from mini-metros and Tier-II markets in India. Till few years ago we received maximum tourists from Mumbai, but now geographical scope has increased. Today, Mumbai and Delhi are key source markets and markets like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata are showing rising contribution. Amritsar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Vadodara and Pune have also started to show up on our graphs.

Q. What kind of traveller trends have you witnessed from India in 2016?
A. Indian travellers are increasingly being driven by a need to have varied experiences like explore local culture, indulge in art and history of the place and meet new people. For example, if they are visiting Cape Town – they look at splitting their time between the main city and the surrounding Garden Route which is home to picturesque towns like Knysna, Oudtshoorn and Plettenberg Bay. We are also witnessing an increased preference amongst travellers for self-drives, and older people undertaking adventure activities.

The popular provinces among Indian travellers include Gauteng which is also an entry point to Western Cape and Kwazulu Natal. The overall spends from India crossed an astounding ZAR 1.1 billion by the end of the third quarter and average spend per leisure traveller was placed at INR 590,000 (approx. ZAR 150,000) indicating that destination South Africa attracts a variety of pocket-sizes.

The average number of nights spent by Indian tourists in South Africa is now at 11 days for holiday and 19 days for business travellers. More than 60% of holiday traffic from India is younger than 44 and repeat travel (between 2 to 5 times) has seen an overall increase over 2015.

Q. Besides leisure travel, which segments are you targeting?
A. South Africa is increasingly popular amongst families and young couples. We are also focusing on the growing MICE market. South Africa is an exciting option for meetings, with more than 1,700 conference venues, including large convention centres located in the top urban centres i.e. Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London which effectively cater to events of any type.

In terms of MICE from India, incentive led travel dominates, at approximately 80%. We receive many requests from strategy-planning incentives, where travellers opt for unusual team-bonding setups like, around a traditional camp fire or on game drive vehicles, which not only add a tinge of unconventionality, but also encourage discussions and dialogue.

South Africa, because of the healthy economy and rapidly growing international trade, has seen an upsurge of business travellers from India. Also, repeat business traveller growth stands at approximately 35%. Moreover, incentive and business travellers spend around 19 nights on an average, which provides an opportunity to be extended into a family holiday, post the programme concludes.

Q. Visa and Air connectivity are two important parameters driving travel, how does SA fit the bill for Indians?
A. Despite being a long-haul destination, South Africa offers convenience when it comes to accessibility since most travellers choose to fly via Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which offer a wide choice of onward flights. This is especially significant for conferences that come in from multiple Indian cities because most Indian cities are well-connected to the Gulf.

Additionally, connectivity from India offers multiple options. At the moment, many Indians are using Air Seychelles to fly to South Africa via Mahe and we believe that an additional flight to Durban is likely to be announced soon. We hope that this will add convenience and offer choices to the traveller. Ethiopian Airlines added Cape Town last year and this means a whole lot more seats on our route, which travellers always look out for when choosing a destination.

Due to its tie-up with VFS, South Africa offers visa processing centres in 8 key source-market cities in India—Delhi, Gurugram, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Goa. Visas are processed in 5-7 working days and participants need provide only basic easy-toobtain documents related to their travel.
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