While 2015 is set to be a challenging year, with the effect of SA’s new immigration regulations and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa deterring travel, with the help of the trade, we’ve identified five opportunities for the inbound tourism industry.
1.The exchange rate: Martin Wiest, CEO at Tourvest Destination Management, says the rand has depreciated to such an extent that SA has become competitive again. “If you take a global view, we are absolute value for money at the moment and beat our direct competitors, including Australia and Brazil,” says Wiest. Mark Jakin, Group Marketing and Regional Operations Executive at Peermont, says: “The weakness of the rand provides an opportunity for the South African tourism industry and hotels, car rental and airlines, as well as other establishments to price for gain. Long-haul travel costs become cheaper for international visitors and demand is expected to increase.”
2.Increased air access: Jakin points out that a number of international airlines have increased their frequencies to South Africa and also expanded their distribution network to include Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. “The number of international travellers can really only increase subject to international airlines having enough flights to South Africa.” Recently, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal partnered with Rainbow Tours and Akilanga Destination Management Company and Events in a venture that is bringing charter flights from Poland to the province. Sub-Saharan Africa has also seen the launch of new low-cost carriers, while existing LCCs have expanded operations.
3.Displacement from East Africa: According to Wiest, because of the proximity of East African destinations to conflict areas, including Somalia, travellers who would have travelled to East Africa are visiting Southern Africa. “On the African continent, East Africa is the material competitor to travel to Southern Africa,” says Wiest. He adds that this is likely to be a temporary issue.
4.Incentive and group travel is growing: Wiest says the global incentive market is growing again. “Companies have saved for a while now and we are seeing more buoyancy in the incentive market.” He adds that the group market is also growing.
5.Political will: “With the current economic pressures on the mining industry as well as other sectors, there is political support as well as recognition that the tourism industry is a fundamental growth opportunity for South Africa’s GDP performance,” says Jakin. Tourism has been identified as a priority sector by the national government and dubbed the ‘new gold’ by members of the government at a national and provincial level.