Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane is optimistic about the ability of the South African tourism industry to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa's challenge to double international tourist arrivals from 10.5 million to 21 million by 2030.
India was identified as one of the countries that could stimulate South Africa's tourism arrivals - both business and leisure tourism. Between January to October 2019, there were 81 000 tourist arrivals from India to South Africa - 5.5% year-on-year increase.
Kubayi-Ngubane recently returned from a visit to India where she looked at growing tourism from this market and met with key stakeholders. This follows on similar visits she did last year to China and Nigeria.
The main aim was to obtain feedback on what is affecting those countries as source markets for the South African tourism industry.
"I wanted to make it clear that, when we talk of increasing tourism numbers, it is not just about talking, but about making sure issues raised in those markets are resolved," she told Fin24 on Friday.
"We made progress with a pilot project for online visas offered in India. It is still in a testing phase, but we received good feedback about it."
An area in which she sees good potential from the Indian market, is for hosting large conferences or group events in South Africa.
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One factor which it became clear would enhance the ability to tap this market segment, however, is to have a direct flight between India and South Africa. Kubayi-Ngubane is well aware of this.
"I was told that Indian tourists do not plan long-term. Therefore, they want logistics of travel to be better and simpler. That is why we called on airlines to engage with us as the SA government about the possibility of a direct flight," she said.
The issue of safety and security was raised during her trip and, in her view, the South African public needs to be educated more on understanding the impact crime and attacks on tourists have on the country's economy. Her department is also working with the SA Police Service to address safety and security in the tourism industry.
Another popular trend in India is to have so-called destination weddings in foreign countries. The minister raised awareness of what SA can offer in this regard during her trip. She also met with film and other production companies to inform them of the wide range of options there are in SA for them.
Asked how she feels about SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona returning to work after having been suspended for almost 9 months before an investigation cleared him of all charges, the minister said she is excited that the matter is now in the past and she is looking forward to working with Ntshona.