Country Manager - India, South Africa Tourism
Redefining Tourism for Indian Market
India, being one of the focus countries for tourism, is an important market for South Africa. With over five years of experience in the Indian market, Hanneli Slabber talks about the specificities of Indian tourists and the strategies of South Africa Tourism to mould itself.
With your experience in India over the years, what according to you are its specificities and how do you foresee the market?
India is an incredibly interesting market from South African point of view. One of the reasons government chose tourism is because it’s the quickest way to create jobs. And when we did the GCP (Good Clinical Practice) studies in 2009 they told us exactly which segments to create the jobs. And Indian market is like a test case study. They enjoy adventure, they enjoy activities, they like huge amount of activities. They buy double, triple the number of activities than any other nation coming to South Africa. So from academic investment point of view, we were all clear India is a market that we want to get in. And then arriving there has been such an enormous eye opener for us. First of all we have done a lot of things, we have been in the market for a couple of years, we realised that fun in the Indian context is not necessarily the same as fun in the South African context. And we needed to redefine the words. When we say to South African tour operators, Indians want adventure, what is it that I mean? So redefine definitions and make sure we deliver as per the expectations of Indian market specifically. For instance, adventure in South Africa is one of our best sellers; Indians are one of the biggest buyers and it’s led by Indian women. So we have more Indian women who do the bungee jumping, , more Indian women than men who do abseiling in Cape Town, so as a woman that’s quite nice to me that Indian adventure is led by the women.
What are the challenges you face in the market as compared to other markets?
I think the biggest challenge for us as tourism board is that the market books incredibly late. We have over 60, 000 tourism products in South Africa and when a market books so late, it doesn’t give you a lot of time to explain to people all the options. Nobody wants the information overload at the last moment and we work very hard to make sure we have got many itineraries in the market. Because of the time pressure caused by the long working hours with the added traffic, Indians are out of home for a lot of time. So we did try to make it easier, we started with an online portal on our website – Go Travel South Africa (www.gotravel.co.za) – which is free of charge for consumers and tour operators. So there is no commission changing hands on that platform but Strategy 29 July-August 2016 India Outbound we will ensure that the tour operator you are dealing with is a South African specialist and the itineraries are proper, they are not selling you the bare bone basics, they are putting a really nice package of South Africa together to try and facilitate at that.
South Africa T ourism has recognised India along with China and US as its focus market, what does it mean? What are the highlights for India in 2016?
India is a core market for South African tourism which means a big part of the focus of South African tourism and national department of tourism is focused on India. There is preferential treatment for getting anything sorted as quickly as possible. It is an incredibly important market for us. In terms of campaigns we are launching a brand new global campaign on September 1 this year. We are incredibly excited about it and India will be the first market for the launch. I can’t tell you more about it.
Many celebrities from India come to South Africa, how do you cater to that market?.
Two big things for us in India is of course – Bollywood and cricket. We incredibly like the South African cricketers because they truly understand the value of tourism in the country. Because we are not a commercial entity, a lot of them do work for us absolutely free. It’s lovely. When our cricketers tell people – oh you must come to South Africa and do this and do that – people do that because they like to travel. Not because we have officially asked them to say that. There is a lot of crossover and it does help us. We have a trade campaign and we are enhancing the trade campaign to help in selling new adventure activities. A lot of cricketers have holiday homes in South Africa, they often come down as we don’t have a huge celebrity culture. So a lot of Bollywood stars have got property in Cape Town, because they can come here and go to the corner cafe, they can go to the movies and they can go to the restaurant. Bollywood, of course, as an industry is a big market, there is nothing like showcasing your country in a Bollywood movie because they give you opportunity to go big, to show sky and big landscapes which you can’t do in a television ad or a print ad. So we try facilitate as much as we can.
You mentioned the FITs. What about the corporate travellers and South Africa as a MICE destination?
Corporate travel for us is business travel. Its people coming down for business. So to ease their travel we have come up with stuff like ten year BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) visa. We also do a lot of marketing of our tourism products. We say you are here for a meeting on Thursday, Friday and Monday but here is what you could do on the weekend. So you got 24 hours, and we have your 24 hours covered whether you are in Cape Town, Bela Bela or anywhere – this is what you need to do.
So we try and push a lot of our business travellers to experience some leisure tourism. One of the things that South Africans do incredibly well is programmes instead of an itinerary. So we had Indian companies coming to us and saying we have merged two businesses and we need to do communication between these two people.
So we put a program together which is not just a holiday but by the time they leave they are better at communication or whatever activity the company has identified. We have also seen lot of big strategic meeting using smaller South African venues. We had a group recently hat went to one of the game lodges.
How are the Indian tourists different from other s?
Indian tourists tend to buy the complete package. What we also found that very often they don’t want long. They would do a rather short version of canopy tour and be able to do two more activities. When South Africans do canopy tour it takes four and a half hours, while the Indian canopy tour – called the Indian express takes 90 minutes. You go in and out, and it allows you to do something different.
Also from the packages, if the Germans go for lunch in the Vineyards it takes three and half hours. Our Indian market doesn’t want to take that long. They go, ‘’we enjoyed the lunch, but we got thing s to do, can we speed it up.” so overall is a very different market.
It’s a faster itinerary, it’s got more inclusions and when it comes to the cultural side, there is incredible understanding between India and Africa. If you look at India and Africa, we are not scared of bold colours. We don’t do pastel. When Indian travellers come here, specifically when they look at the fabric they realise that in Africa the fabric, the choice of colour and how the colour goes together tell a story.
Has tourism from India increased in last two years and what is the outlook for next two years?
We had an incredible time between 2009 and 2013. We doubled up numbers into South Africa. In 2014 and 2015 we had huge visa backlogs and we lost our international flight at that same time. So our numbers were very stagnant for those two years. At the moment we have got our visa situation sorted, we brought extra staff into India. So visa process now takes five working days, you hand it on a Monday you get it back on a Monday. So we are happy, that is sorted out. We are always working on more flights. We foresee a double digit growth in 2016-17. There were 80, 000 Indian tourist s in 2015.