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‘For 2022 we are projecting a 64% increase in footfall from India’

As international travel gains momentum, South African Tourism has embarked on a strategy to multiplying travellers, especially the millennials with its various Adventure tourism products. In a free-wheeling conversation with Asmita Mukherjee at Africa’s Travel Indaba 2022, the passionate Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head, MEISEA of South African Tourism (SAT) explained about African tourism in a post Covid world and plans to attract Indian travellers .

How soon can we expect South Africa to roll out the E visa for Indian tourists?

It has been piloted and is on trial. Hopefully within the next 6 to 10 months we can expect the e-visa to be operational. We are awaiting confirmation from the Department of Home Affairs for the e-visa and once it rolls out, it will minimise the TAT of getting a visa for South Africa.

Recently SAT conducted road shows in India. How has the response been from the Indian Travel Trade?

The response that we received was phenomenal. We have done the roadshows in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru. We are receiving ample leads from the roadshows. In terms of travel enquiries, I think it is the highest since pre-COVID. We have seen quite a bite of traffic coming into South Africa, particularly for the new destinations and new regions. I think the campaign had successfully managed to gain traction and interest from the Indian traveller. Also in my opinion, more and more campaigns will give impetus to create demand for South Africa in India.

Which are your key focus areas for this year?

Our focus would be Adventure tourism. We are presenting Adventure Tourism as the centre of attraction. We are making sure that adventure drives our travel, in terms of theme in a thematic perspective. We are also seeing a very big increase in terms of MICE, particularly in the incentives. We realised that since COVID slowed down a bit and offices are also opening up and working on a full swing, they have got budgets for their incentives. They want to motivate their staff by using the incentive budget. So according to me, incentive travel is surely coming up and we want to target that.

In terms of composition, we receive 53% leisure travellers while 28% consists of meetings and incentives. Therefore, these two are our focus areas. The rest of the 19% consists of business travellers.

Leisure is the biggest segment for us. We are aware that Covid has badly hit travel agents and consumers. So we are keeping the prices low as we have a responsibility to make sure that we inspire the consumer, and the prices will motivate travel agents to convert the lead.

What is the year on year number of Indian visitors in South Africa?

We received about 17,660 Indian visitors in 2021 despite the havoc caused by the pandemic. We saw quite a good interest about visiting South Africa among the travellers.

We also have seen a lot of Indian film-makers coming into South Africa in 2021. As they are coming in packs of maybe 100 or 200 people, it really boosts the segment.

For 2022 we are projecting a 64% increase in the footfall of Indian travellers, which counts 29,000 arrivals from India this year and I think we might be able to exceed that number. The uptake right now is incredible. Also, the tour operators are getting huge positive responses after the roadshows. So this year is looking great for us.

It also mesmerised me that Indian travellers are never scared of travelling to South Africa even during the pandemic so my aim is to introduce brand new destinations and products to attract Indian travellers.

What are your expectations from FY 2022-2023?

In my opinion, this year is going to be the year for fillers. This is the year of revenge travel as people were suffering from a pent-up demand to travel again and break free. We are focusing on introducing sustainable products, cultural offerings, and authentic products which will add value to the customer experience.

Are you planning any seminars or knowledge sessions specifically aimed at Indian travel agents to help them know more about South Africa and design itineraries better?

We are planning to launch new products. To introduce those products we are going to organise webinars. The goal is to introduce massive destination activation. These webinars will be focusing on South Africa’s uniqueness so that the travel trade can sell the products to the Indian buyers, and will also show them that we offer something new to be relevant in the highly competitive market. We are focusing big on adventure as the Indian buyers, especially millennials are looking for new things and we want to be able to satiate their wish.

What efforts are being made to bridge the gap of direct air access to India?

We recently had a very interesting call with one of our partners, as they want to introduce a direct flight route from India to Durban. But we are going to keep it under wraps at the moment until we finalise it. Also, I want to mention here that if any airline from India wants to partner with us for the direct flight we would be more than happy to escalate the conversation to the decision-makers such as the High Commissioner to the Ministry of Transport and Minister of Tourism.

We were in talks with some airlines but due to COVID that didn’t go through. If all goes well we hope that we will see a direct flight launching soon.

Apart from the four cities mentioned which are the Indian cities that South Africa is planning to explore?

We are planning to explore Hyderabad and Kerala markets. We are going to be very bold in these cities as we are aware that we need to be in new cities before anybody else comes.

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