Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism, reflects on the year gone by and the hope that 2021 promises to hold with the approval of vaccines. With Indians raring to travel, she adds that this year when borders open, they expect good numbers to take advantage of South Africa’s many offerings.
What is SAT’s focus for 2021?
With international travel reopening and the hope of a vaccine coming in by early 2021, we intend to focus on three key aspects: inspire consumers to travel again by making them aware of all processes, requirements and safety measures of the destination or transfer facilities, and target niche communities.
What safety initiatives have been put in place?
We have internationally benchmarked bio-safety systems in place at all private game lodges and government-owned national parks, shopping hubs, restaurants and accommodation facilities. These include lesser number of tourists in a safari vehicle, digital menus, touchless parking, e-payment systems and disinfection stations. Safety measures should be transparent and should factor overall packages, so that there is no extra cost to travellers. We are also in conversation with several airlines to figure how we can best reduce travel costs.
What about the e-visa for Indian nationals?
While pilot runs were going on the pandemic hit us, thereby delaying the process. We want to assure Indian travel agents that we are focused on introducing e-visas as soon as possible.
What kind of experiences will you focus on in 2021?
We expect self-drives to be popular with Indian travellers, given that South Africa has some of the most beautiful self-drive routes in the world. Safe car rentals will play an important role in the tourism ecosystem. The fact that Indian licences are valid in South Africa is a huge bonus! We want to invite biking groups to explore the vast South African terrain. We are also looking at having more runners from India participate in our ultra-marathons like the Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Marathon.
What about other traveller segments?
In India, experience-seeking millennials, HNIs and the family-oriented middle-class segments are anticipated to be the driving force behind leisure travel recovery. We are also looking at introducing newer, customised experiences and itineraries for the FIT segment. We anticipate that South Africa’s new regions and geographies will be a hit with Indian travellers in 2021. Travellers can enter through cities that have restored international connectivity, either through Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban, and use these cities as a gateway to the rest of these new regions, including the relatively unexplored Port Elizabeth, Robertson, West Coast, Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, Panorama Route (Mpumalanga) and Garden Route.
Our travel trade partners tell us that Indians are raring to travel. We are already seeing plenty of interest, especially from Indian business and leisure travellers. We expect to see Indian traffic to the destination early in 2021, subject to border restrictions and connectivity.