Deputy minister of tourism Fish Mahlalela flanked by Tourism KZN chair Makhosazana Khanyile and head of marketing at SAA Nothando Mathe at the launch of the Africa Travel Indaba on Tuesday.
Image: Mfundo Mkhize

South African plans to harness the spending power of intracontinental travel in boosting tourism arrivals into the country.

Deputy tourism minister Fish Mahlalela said the introduction of visa-free travel between South Africa and Kenya had resulted in a 99% increase, to 42,403, of arrivals from Kenya in January and December 2023 compared with the same period in 2022.

Mahlalela was speaking during the launch of the Africa Travel Indaba which will be held at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from May 13-16.

“The power between Kenya and South Africa highlights the importance of intercontinental travelling. This visa-free travel,” he said.

He said they were also witnessing similar success between Ghana and South Africa since the announcement of the visa waiver on the November 1.

“This has allowed citizens of this country to travel visa-free. It allows for the period of travel within calendar for the purpose of business and tourism,” said Mahlalela.

Mahlalela said more than 990 exhibitors and buyers from more than 26 neighbouring countries will participate in the tourism trade show, which last year generated R1.2bn for the economy.

“It’s a truly global show that cannot be missed,” he said.

Mahlalela said the tourism ministry had learnt hard lessons post-Covid which included bolstering the domestic market.

“After Covid, we realised that domestic travel should be the backbone of travel so that in future the industry does not collapse,” Mahlalela.

He said though there were marketing agencies in all the provinces, they realised there were historical imbalances and financial challenges with regard to selling a tourism destination to Western countries.

“Some time back I spoke to a representative who complained about the costs attached to visiting the country and how Cape Town was front-runner when it comes to products,” he said.

He remained hopeful that the signature tourism trade show would create more jobs, more business and economic growth for the country.

Provincial economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Siboniso Duma agreed, saying he was concerned at how the country and provincial marketing was lagging when it came to attracting Western visitors.

“There is an ugly impression created that the Western Cape is another country. We are one country and we should complement each other in our marketing efforts,” said Duma.

SAA’s Nothando Mathe said the indaba was one of the crucial platforms the airline used to test its route strategy.

“This is after getting so much data and feedback from the exhibitors who attend Indaba. We test if the routes we selected meet the demand. Sometimes numbers don’t match but at least we would have done the business case studies that test what we have,” said Mathe.

She said the two indabas held since the pandemic have shown that there is exponential growth, especially in African markets.

“Tourism data is absolutely important to SAA, especially as we have celebrated 90 years in aviation,” she said.

A board member of the SA Township and Village Tourism Association, Mel Ntombela, said: “It’s valuable for us to be to be here. It puts us on the dot and proves that we also exist. Townships have for the longest time never been marketed as ideal destinations. There are hidden gems among the townships and villages, “said Ntombela.

Another exhibitor, Paul Paine from 1,000 Hills Tourism in Durban’s outer west, said the country was “a gold mine when it comes to tourism”.

“Tourism is the only industry that gives back money to the community of all industries. We are the bread and butter of small business.”

He said the indaba was a great opportunity to connect with buyers.


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