Hub Head: UK & Ireland, Tolene Van der Merwe said that while arrivals from the UK, one of South Africa’s core international source markets, between January and August this year were up 2.4% year-on-year, growth had slowed compared with the 9.9% increase in visitor numbers for the full year in 2016.
Speaking to TTG@WTM Van der Merwe referenced the weaker exchange rate post-Brexit and the recent interest rate hike and said she was concerned that people will have less disposable income meaning value for money is a very important message.
One means by which the tourist board will promote its message is via the SMME’s, a tourism incentive programme that encourages small business owners to engage with tourists.
“You get someone who has their own little business and they have grown it from scratch. We want to focus on promoting these products within the trade as they will help to make South Africa seem more affordable,” said Van der Merwe.
Arrivals from other western European countries to the African nation are booming however with France and Germany showing double-digit growth and Spain and Portugal also “doing well”.
Van der Merwe said that with Eurowings new routes from Germany into Cape Town should only serve to boost this further. She added that airlift is “something we have to work on [from the UK]. If we could get a direct flight into Durban it would really open South Africa up”.
The country is focused on its Five in Five strategy that aims to gain an additional five million tourists within the next five years. The aim being that four million are from international markets and one million are domestic tourists.
With such growth in arrivals the tourism board is conscious of the pressure this may put on the Western Cape where availability is an issue. Van der Merwe said that Wesgro, the tourism trade, tourism and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, had engaged with Airbnb to look at more options for capacity.
In addition she highlighted a focus on geographical spread and the fact that in regions such as Mpumalanga and Limpopo, in the north-east, visitors could easily find accommodation and there were experiences available that are relatively undiscovered creating a sense of adventure.
Van der Merwe also asserted that the cruising market had huge potential for South Africa and that it was currently just seeing the “tip of the iceberg”.
“Cruise eliminates the availability issues we are seeing in the Eastern Cape,” she added, saying that as long as passengers come ashore and eat in local restaurants and try local activities, the market presents a great opportunity.
Another initiative that the tourist board hopes will attract potential visitors’ attention is the centenary of Nelson Mandela next year. Van der Merwe said the UK would welcome an exhibition in June and a statue of Mandela would be unveiled in Glasgow as well as a range of events in South Africa itself.
Van der Merwe asserted: “Madiba’s legacy is ‘ubuntu’ – I am because you are. We want to focus on the person he is to South Africans and I believe that we can use that for creating a broader positivity for South Africa as a destination.”