Aiming high:100k Indians in ’24

South Africa’s tourism industry is rebounding with significant support from India. In 2023, 79,774 Indian tourists visited the rainbow nation, nearing pre-COVID levels. Their goal is to attract 100,000 Indian tourists in 2024.

Janice Alyosius

South Africa’s tourism industry is in the midst of a robust recovery, and much of its success can be attributed to international partnerships, particularly with India. In 2023, South African Tourism witnessed 79,774 Indians visiting the country, which was almost 82 per cent of the pre-COVID numbers of 95,000. They are now aiming to attract 1 lakh Indian visitors in 2024. A strategic plan for this was highlighted by key speakers at Africa’s Travel Indaba 2024 held recently. The trade show, held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre (ICC), Durban, brought together key delegates from around the world, ready to do business with Africa. It emphasised on the pivotal role of Indian travellers and the concerted efforts being made to enhance their experience.

Expressing gratitude towards India at the event, Patricia de Lille, Minister of Tourism, South Africa, said, “I want to use this opportunity to thank India for their support. It has assisted us, allowing us to say that we have at least equalled or slightly exceeded our 2019 figures. This milestone is significant, considering the setbacks faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

de Lille further highlighted the importance of understanding the preferences of Indian tourists to curate better tourism packages.

Addressing logistical challenges, particularly concerning visa policies and air connectivity, de Lille acknowledged the complexities involved. “As you know, visas are not under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Tourism but the Minister of Home Affairs. However, we have escalated the visa waiver for up to 90 days for both China and India to the President. The President, Cyril Ramaphosa has directed the three ministers—the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Minister of State Security—to come together and provide a joint report,” she said.

The air travel situation, particularly the Johannesburg to Mumbai route, remains a concern. “With India, we have engaged with South African Airways, but they have not fully recovered since COVID-19. After the pandemic, they went into business rescue, and a private partner took a 51 per cent share, allowing some routes to return, but not all. The Johannesburg to Mumbai route has not yet resumed,” de Lille explained, adding that efforts are on to streamline air access, including discussions with Air India.

Fish Mahlalela, Deputy Minister of Tourism, South Africa, provided a broader perspective on the recovery and future targets of South African Tourism. “We made a decision before COVID, but unfortunately we were then hit by the pandemic. In 2019, we decided that we wanted to achieve 21 million arrivals by 2030. However, in 2020, we were struck by COVID-19, which set us back by 10 to 15 years,” said Mahlalela, adding that despite the setbacks, there is optimism, with industry recovery at 96 per cent. He underlined the economic significance of tourism in tackling unemployment. “Tourism is a critical and important sector of our economy because it is the biggest employer. We have challenges with unemployment in the country, and tourism is a key solution to this problem,” he said.

Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – Middle East, India & South-East Asia, South African Tourism, provided insights into the business travel segment. “We have engaged with over 500 corporations in India. I do not sell to them; I engage with them. My ROI (Retrun On Investment) is 30 per cent,” she said.




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