Ms. Hanneli Slabber, Country Manager – India, South African Tourism shares the overview of 2016 and forecast of 2017 about South Africa.
2016 has been absolutely stellarfor South African Tourismfor various reasons. Arrivals spiked by 26.6% in comparison to 2015. By September 2016, our arrivals had hit 73,902. This makes India, South Africa’s 8thlargest long-haul tourism source market.
We have also had some significant developments both on the consumer & trade fronts propelled bya fresh outlook on how we engage with the Indian market.
The stupendous response from our South African and Indian partners for the 4-city roadshow held in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkataat the beginning of the year was not just encouraging but also insightful. The trends and feedback that emerged in these interactive sessions have proved valuable for our partners and us at South African Tourism to better streamline our offerings and consumer engagement. We also learned that we are on track to furthering our goals in India.We started the year with a dual goal: we want more Indians travelling to South Africa PLUS, we wantthem to stay longer and undertake more activities.This will help us to eventually also drive traffic to newer regions and develop a loyal repeat audience.
We learned at last year’s roadshow and during the course of the year that the market is definitely moving towards experiential travel i.e. there has been a marked shift from seeing to experiencing. Second, South Africa has cemented its position as a mono-destination, which also speaks volumes of the market’s evolution. Both these factors contribute directly to a third trend – increased spends. A higher awareness and tendency towards South Africa’s amazingly unique experiences is resulting in a willingness to spend more to experience more. People are happy to invest in experiences. We’re delighted to say that total foreign direct spend from India has hit ZAR 1 billion.
The average number of nights spent by Indian tourists in South Africa is now at 11 days for holidays. Interestingly business travelers have notched up their stay – going from 14 to 19 days. I reckon that they’re taking some time off to explore South Africa after the conclusion of their work in SA.VFR is at 21 days average stay and I am assuming that host and holiday-maker are holidaying within South Africa together.
Additionally, Indian travelers have become more adventurous with activities. Bungee jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge (the world’s highest commercial bungee) is becoming a much sought-after activity. It has become one of those very aspirational activities amongst evolved Indian travelers and has become a must-do on the check-lists of many Indians coming to South Africa. Shark-cage diving, croc-cage diving and hot air balloon rides now feature prominently on Indian itineraries. This makes complete sense when we look at arrival demographics out of India. The number of 18- 34 year old holiday makers has increased over last year and more than 50 % of our holiday traffic is younger than 44.
Experiments with food have continued surge far beyond demand for authentic, local cuisine to also includebomadinners (an idyllic outdoor dining experience, most often held at a game park with traditional drum performances for entertainment)and visits to local vineyards complete with pairing-focused meals.This, alongside, fairly widespread availability of vegetarian food coupled with understanding of Indian culinary requirements has further propelled destination South Africa’s equity in the holiday consideration set for Indians.
Another interesting fact that has emerged is that we’re seeing a growth in lesser visited provinces like Mpumalanga and North West. This definitely points to a more explorer mindset – a lot of these are most likely repeat visitors.
The Airbnb story is also working out positively for SA. While we’re witnessing an increase in the used of paid accommodations, we’re also seeing a lot of interest and demand for self-catering. This indicates a growth in independent explorers.
We invest in and conduct research on the Indian market continuously and during 2016, we have come across some interesting facts:
l Africa’s perception scores have improved over the previous wave held six months earlier
l Perception scores for ‘Affordability’ ‘Suitability’ and ‘Trajectory’ have increased slightly
l ‘Opportunity to experience the natural attractions’ continues to be a driving factor but interestingly other aspects have seen a leap forward: people are now also seeing South Africa as offering an authentic (cultural & culinary) experience, as welcoming, as breath-taking, as adventurous and as enriching and varied
l When asked about various questions about their awareness, likeliness to seek/ not seek information, never visited/ recently visited/ plan to go etc, ‘Likelihood to seek information’ and ‘Recent Visitation’ registered the maximum increase
l Over the last two years we have seen nearly 30% increase in average spend and this is very encouraging because it can only mean that people are loving the product
l We are also seeing a development from tier II markets. With an office in Mumbai, a few years ago most of our arrivals came from Mumbai but now we’re seeing more geographical scope. Today, Mumbai stands at about 40%, Delhi at 30% and markets like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata showing between 5% and 7% contribution. Amritsar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Vadodara and Pune are also starting to show up on our graphs.
We recognize that much of the market’s evolution has emerged, thanks to working strongly with the travel trade. South Africa is still fairly new and exciting for the Indian traveler and as such travel agents enjoy more dependency for itineraries, packages and eventually bookings.During 2016, SAT India launched Chalo South Africa, a portal designed for our SA Specialists to feature and promote their best packages at no additional cost while being authenticated and promoted by South African Tourism. We’re going out of our way to support and incentivize the travel trade. Another example of this is the ‘Fastest 50’ Campaign which will culminate with 20 top-selling trade partners winning an all-expense paid trip to South Africa in February 2017. Additionally, there have been numerous joint marketing associations with trade partners across various regions of the country.
In the consumer space, 2016 saw the launch of our new global campaign “South Africa – wow in every moment” inviting more travelers to the Rainbow Nation to find their own “wow in every moment”. Travelers and travel agents will soon be able to get a look at what 24 hours of wow in South Africa will look like -a shiny new and improved website that will revolve around the wow theme.
Forecast for 2017
Asalways, we are extremely optimisticabout the New Year. We will aim at surpassing our achievements during 2016 and we look forward to setting new benchmarks internally as well as in the industry. We’re hoping to achieve a 10% increase over last year’s arrivals and to ensure that we continue to draw in over 100,000 Indians in the coming year.
At the moment, a lot of Indians are using Air Seychelles to fly to South Africa via Mahe and our sources tell us that an additional flight to Durban is likely to be announced soon, starting March next year. We hope that this will add convenience and offer choices to the traveler. Ethiopian Airlines added Cape Town last year and this means a lot more seats on our route.
We will, as we do annually, set the pace for the year with our4-city roadshow in January. We are tremendously excited about re-connecting with all our trade partners in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. The upcoming edition of the roadshow already has nearly 60 registered suppliers coming in from South Africa.
Our focus for the year will be bringing to life our new“South Africa – wow in every moment” campaign through aggressive consumer and trade engagement across India.
Also on the cards is the launch of a Facebook page, especially for India which will help travelers get a better virtual feel of the destinationthus converting intent to travel. Posts and content on this page will be tailored to suit the Indian market’s aspirations and ideas of a perfect holiday.
A host of on-ground consumer events and a serious push for awareness, education and of course demand in the consumer space is likely to translate into increased queries for South Africa and we encourage travel agents to keep themselves up to date with product information.
WHY SA? WHY NOW?
But there’s still, some more good news: The ZAR has seen a devaluation and since the SA product quote comes in ZAR, not USD, Indian travellers were able to buy more experiences and activities for less money. From the agent’s perspective, he’s able to offer comparatively better deals to travelers.