Hanneli Slabber, Country Manager, South African Tourism speaks with T3 about the importance of the Indian market
South Africa has enjoyed double digit growth from the Indian market for the last five years with the numbers increasing substantially each year. Seeing the huge year-on-year increase in tourist arrivals from India to South Africa and keeping its future potential in mind, South African Tourism has identified India as a core market. India is among the top 10 tourism source markets for South Africa.
According to our latest tourist arrival figures of November 2012, 97,664 Indians visited South Africa between January to November 2012. This is an increase of 18.1% to the corresponding period last year. We had set ourselves a target to reach 100,000 Indian arrivals by 2014 but looking at the consistent growth and the arrival figure of November 2012, we are confident of touching the 1 lakh mark in a few weeks from now when our December 2012 figures will be released.
The global arrival figures have also been very positive for us. A total of 8,316,594 international tourists visited South Africa between January to November 2012 which is an increase of 10.5 per cent to the corresponding period last year. According to the World Economic Forum Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2013, the global growth for 2012 was 4 per cent and they are predicting a 3 – 4 per cent growth for 2013. As a tourism board, we are going to work extra hard to maintain our double digit growth.
Given the economic slowdown witnessed by India and the global economies, we have seen Indian and global travellers becoming more value-conscious than ever before. Over the years, South Africa has developed over sixty thousand registered tourism products and within that product offering, every budget and niche are catered for. Therefore, we are able to cater to the varied budgets of travellers across the segments. The travel patterns and consumer preferences are changing so rapidly as a result of which we have constantly diversified our products, maintained excellent service standards and invested in innovative marketing and distribution channels to meet traveler expectations.
The Indian traveller’s mindset has definitely evolved drastically over the years. Indian travellers are now looking for uniqueness in every holiday. We have witnessed several new trends amongst Indian travellers, one of them being a never-seen-before growth in the uptake of adventure activities and that too high adrenaline adventure are becoming more popular. Both Indian men and women travellers are bungee jumping, shark cage diving, crocodile cage diving, sky diving and also opting for other marine and outdoor adventures across South Arica.
What has also caught the interest of Indian travellers in recent times is an interesting concept called “Voluntourism” wherein, Indian tourists are opting for volunteering activities during their holidays in South Africa. The little penguins seem to have marched straight into the hearts of Indian travelers as many of them volunteer their services with the various penguin conservation agencies. In addition, we have also seen Indians taking up animal rescue and rehabilitation work with various private game reserves across South Africa. This is especially gaining popularity amongst the youth travellers to South Africa.
Apart from being a sought after honeymoon destination, South Africa is gaining popularity for all women group trips as well. The numbers of all women group on holiday to South Africa has been on a growth trajectory for some time now. Indian women are not only traveling to SA for wildlife, vineyards and shopping; but also for nightlife, adventure and self-drive holidays.
Indian tourists are considered to be big spenders. We have observed that off late Indians prefer to have a luxury holiday experience over a budget holiday. They like to stay at luxury properties rather than confining their trip to budget accommodation and services only. According to the South African Tourism annual report, 2011, the average spend in SA by an Indian tourist is R 10,600. According to our latest report on the length of stay for Q3 2013, the average number of nights is 13.8.
We started the New Year with the launch of our 21 city outdoor campaign in India. The one month long OOH campaign was spread across 16 types of media that comprised of 426 media units across 21 markets. The campaign reached out to 20 million people across these cities. We have received a promising response to our outdoor campaign.
This year, we have also extended our reach to the television medium. Wherein, we assisted the popular travel show on Fox Traveller, “Life Mein Ek Baar 2” to shoot in South Africa. The show which is already on air, is gaining a lot of popularity and we are extremely delighted to showcase the best and varied experiences offered by our country to the Indian audiences.
The month of March will continue to bustle with action and excitement as we launch our annual cinema ad campaign across seven key cities on 29th March 2013. Our 45-second ads will target 96 screens through movies like Himmatwala, Oblivion and Iron Man-3 to highlight South Africa as a fun and activity-filled travel destination. The focus is to increase our Indian tourist arrivals across traveller segments like families, young adults, honeymooners, MICE Groups amongst others.
We have recently announced Jonty Rhodes as our brand ambassador for the India market. Jonty has a huge fan-following in India. His credibility, stellar cricketing career and love for travel and adventure in South Africa makes him the ambassador of choice to promote South Africa’s varied and exciting tourism experiences in a growing market of Indian travellers. With Jonty on board, we will be undertaking a lot of initiatives to popularize the destination in India. In his debut as the brand ambassador, Jonty Rhodes is donning the role of a travel host and guide to four lucky winners of South African Tourism’s recently launched contest, “Take me to South Africa”. All travel buffs above 18 years of age, could log on to www.takemetosouthafrica.com, and answer some easy contest questions to win an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa with Jonty. We have seen a great response to the contest and are extremely thrilled about this never-done-before marketing initiative.
In addition, South African Tourism believes that no one can market or promote a destination without having experienced the place firsthand. Therefore, we will continue to invest in hosting media and trade partners to SA and give them an experience of the varied offerings of our country - the beauty, culture, activities, luxury, nightlife, food and lifestyle.
We have a long-term vision for this market and through our sustained engagement efforts with trade and consumers we hope to maximize the opportunities available in India. Last year, we came up with some interesting packages for Indian tourists through various JMAs with our trade partners and we will continue to offer some exciting and unique value for money holiday experience to Indian travellers.
We are continuously innovating, improvising and intensifying our engagement programmes and marketing initiatives in this market through varied trade and consumer outreach programs that help us promote the destination effectively amongst different audiences across markets.
South Africa is well connected from India; various global airlines fly daily flights from India to South Africa. South African Airways operates non-stop daily flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai in India. The increase in frequencies is in line with the market demand as over the last three years there has been a consistent growth in the market between southern Africa and India. South Africa’s entry into the BRICS alliance has also played a significant role leading to noticeable increase in investment activities between India and South Africa. There are also daily flights of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways that connect key Indian cities to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
The South African Consulate (Mumbai) and High Commission (Delhi) are continuously working together to improve the visa process and turnaround time. Establishing the visa facilitation centers (VFS) in Mumbai and Delhi was one such step that they took few years back in order to streamline the process for the travellers, agents and tour operators. Our turnaround time on visas is good, as duly filled visa forms with necessary documents are processed in five working days.
With regard to special offers, it has been our constant endeavor to deliver value for money holiday experience to Indian travelers by offering varied experiences to suit every need and desire. We will continue to design attractive packages for Indian tourists through JMAs with leading travel companies in India like Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, Carnation Holidays among others so that tourists across all segments find attractive offers to visit SA. Through these valuable partnerships with popular travel companies in India, we aim to make the entire travel experience to South Africa highly rewarding and special. The tours created by our expert partners will aim to provide superior travel experience, value, service and comfort. We are confident that with our combined resources and expertise we will be able to put together some unique experiences for Indian travelers across varied segments and age groups.