South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom visited India to engage with the travel and tourism trade in the country. The visits were part of South African Tourism’s roadshow to boost tourism from key source markets. India is an important market for South African Tourism, with a booming outbound travel market.
“India has emerged as a key market for tourism in South Africa, with the highest growth potential. We have seen a strong revival in bookings in the last quarter and we expect strong growth in arrivals from India in the future,” said Minister Hanekom.
India’s large diaspora and growing middle-class tourists has stimulated foreign travel, especially among younger generations. The UNWTO predicts the Indian outbound travel market will account for 50 million tourists by 2020 and that total outbound spending is expected to cross the US$28 billion mark by 2020. South Africa is among the emerging countries that is fast becoming a destination of choice for Indian tourists.
“We have had constructive discussions with the tourism trade on how to meet the growing demand for our destination. The response from the trade about the destination has been positive and they have appreciated our presence in the country,” said Minister Hanekom. “The Indian trade partners have been forthcoming with their feedback and welcomed the various measures we are planning to introduce to ease travel for Indian visitors to South Africa.”
As a part of ongoing efforts to ease visa application processes, South Africa has announced four new visa facilitation centres that will be opened by the end of 2017. South Africa also announced a provision for BRICS nationals who apply for visas to visit South Africa for short-term business purposes will now receive a long-term visa allowing them multiple entries for up to 10 years, while frequent travelers can be granted up to 3-years multiple-entry business visa.
The Minister also said that a proposal to ease measures of grant visa-on-arrival to those who hold a valid visa for the US, UK or other countries that have follow a stringent visa verification process was under consideration.
In India, travel and tourism operators appraised Minister Hanekom of the delays they experienced in processing visas to visit South Africa. The delays are a result of India’s unique travel calendar that results is sharp peak periods and a corresponding shortage of personnel to process documents in the visa processing centres. The establishment of new visa centres as well as new multiple-entry visa categories will have the effect of easing the number of applications during peak seasons and will improve overall efficiency and the turnaround of issuing visas
“The direct engagement with the trade in India has been extremely useful,” said Minister Hanekom.
The Minister reassured the travel and trade partners that ensuring easy accessibility was of prime importance to the continued growth of tourist arrivals from India. Accordingly, SA Tourism has been working with various airlines to ensure sufficient arrivals into key cities including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, through marketing alliances and code-sharing.
“We will work with our sister government departments and with the trade to restore the number of arrivals from India. There are strong family ties between people in India and South Africa, and people on both sides will benefit greatly from improving the visa application process. Tourism also contributes to growing the strong cultural and business links between our countries.”
Tourism is one of the key contributors of growth to the South African economy. Directly and indirectly the sector contributes to over 9% of the total GDP. The World Travel and Tourism Council have estimated that one new job is created for every 12 tourists arriving into South Africa.