South Africa Targets Africa’s Giants in Tourism Sector Growth Plan

Nothing would give Phumi Dhlomo South Africa Tourism’s regional director for Africa and domestic markets and his team pleasure than to see the number of tourists from Kenya to South Africa double.

The team has been in the country for a week to market their country as a tourist destination in a new strategy that focuses on Africa as the key market to grow South Africa’s tourism industry.

The strategy takes into account the various characteristics of source countries for South Africa bound tourists and hopes to integrate the outcome into a viable marketing strategy tailor-made for each of the countries.

Parameters considered include analysing the attractiveness of each market in terms of volume and spend in South Africa and the country’s potential as a launching pad in the region it falls.

Market context that will reveal the political, economic and technological landscape as well as the business environment of each country including population characteristics and consumer travel behaviours will also be considered.

“The decision follows a comprehensive research that took up to six months looking at mostly the east and west African nations. We hope to communicate with each of them in a particular manner that meets their needs,” says Mr Dhlomo. The broader goal of the strategy is to impact the frequency of travel, length of stay, seasonality of trips and geographical spread of the tourism.

In short, it is a show of renewed energy to capture and maintain a firm grip of Africa as a source market in tourism.

The move is timely in the emerging global tourism trends that have seen growing interest specifically in business tourism.

Over the years, Africa has been a stable source of tourism for South Africa going by the growing numbers of Africa based tourists to the country. Between 2003 and 2010, Africa’s contribution to the total tourist arrivals to South Africa increased from 68.1 per cent to 77 per cent compared to a growth of 3.3 per cent from the rest of the world during the same period. According to Mr Dhlomo, the value that Africa brings to the South African economy stretches beyond the tourism to other sectors, especially manufacturing industries.

Under the new strategy, Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola have been earmarked as key countries of focus that have the potential of not only contributing to tourist numbers but also influencing neighbouring countries.

Compared to other continents, Africa accounts for the largest share of tourists to South Africa with an average 10.3 per cent between 2003 and 2010. However, last year due to the historic World Cup the number of visitors from central and south America shot to a high of 18.2 per cent. In normal seasons, this averages at 8.3 per cent reflecting a rise of 9.9 per cent linked to the World Cup.

In East Africa, Kenya takes the lead in tourist numbers to South Africa. Last year, out of 70,000 tourists from the region that visited the country 32,000 were from Kenya in the business and leisure travel categories.

This is what informs the choice of the country as the regional hub to attract tourists to South Africa from the rest of East Africa. Mr Dhlomo underscores the role of the East African Community saying that South Africa would use the existing network among the countries to push for a bigger share of the region’s tourists.

“Arrivals from Kenya alone make it a preferred hub to enable us to explore the rest of East Africa,” he says.

The emerging middle class in Kenya and the rest of East Africa is another reason why South Africa considers the country a viable source of tourists.

From a research conducted by Grail Research and Monitor Analysis, target consumers in Kenya would be the emerging middle class with no children and a big appetite for travel.

These are defined as fledging explorers and are adventurous, seeking freedom, new activities and experiences.

Similarly, Nigerian travellers are young and accomplished middle class looking for nightlife and networking opportunities.

African experience

The country also has mobile middle class often aged above 35 whose mission is to achieve unique African experience for themselves and their families.

With this understanding, South Africa’s tourism sector hopes to develop packages that are specific to each of the regions.

“We want to ensure that we have packages that run all year round and are affordable to the various classes of tourists. Visitors to South Africa should be able to extend the number of activities they engage while in the country and this goes for both existing and new tourists,” says Mr Dhlomo.

The classification of target markets for South Africa’s tourism industry into four countries aims to tap into the various opportunities presented in them that will allow her to venture into neighbouring countries, a move that if successful will achieve South Africa’s main objective to source for business from Africa.

For example, while Kenya’s wide technological uptake gives her advantage over other countries, future prospects of a stable political climate in Angola makes the country a preferred destination over DRC whose political uncertainty still remains a hurdle to a good investment destination. Nigeria, which accounted for about 50,000 travellers to South Africa last year, the focus will be to boost the numbers of visitors to the country.