Brics tourists remain untapped market for SA

Posted On Wednesday, 27 March 2013 08:20 Published by eProp@News
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Brics nations, despite high growth in tourist arrivals from these countries last year, remain an untapped resource for South African Tourism.

South African Tourism, the government agency tasked with marketing South Africa as a destination, is due to open its first office in Brazil in the next two months. In Russia, "we are going to start off with a trade-relations manager to develop the market — this will begin in 2014".

Joint marketing agreements are also being signed with local travel agencies, tour operators and media houses.

Growth in tourist arrivals from Brazil, Russia, India and China has far outpaced growth from SA’s traditional markets, says South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima. Arrivals from Brics countries now probably equal arrivals from the UK — traditionally SA’s top market.

There is a "growing business tourism component" in Brics arrivals — a good number of these business people can be seen at events such as the fifth Brics summit, under way in Durban at present, Mr Nzima says.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism says the number of inbound tourists from China grew 63.5% between January and September last year, making the world’s second-largest economy South Africa’s fourth-biggest overseas tourist market. Mr Nzima says China is the top-performing country in the Brics group in terms of growth and arrival numbers, with 122,000 arrivals between January and November last year. However, this is still well below potential, given China’s size.

The Asian giant has about 83-million outbound tourists a year — a number that grew 18% last year.

South African Airways’ newly introduced flight between Johannesburg and Beijing has helped drive this growth, Mr Nzima says.

Arrivals from India were about 97,000 for the same 11-month period, while 70,000 Brazilian tourists visited South Africa, Mr Nzima says.

However, Russia is "lagging a little … and quite understandably so", given the lack of a direct air link between South Africa and Russia.

Brics tourists also spend more in South Africa than other tourists, he says.

"On average, a visitor from China will spend about R15,000 per trip to South Africa, whereas our average with all markets collated … is just below R9,000."

However, South Africa’s inclusion in the Brics grouping was not necessarily the catalyst for the growth of tourism from the Brics countries.

South African Tourism had already been forced, by unforeseen circumstances, to focus on expanding investment into emerging, high-growth markets.

Brics countries are large markets with growing middle classes, with India having the "biggest middle class in the world after America".

Given the population of the Brics nations, "we are scratching the surface of the full potential".

"We also learnt from the global economic meltdown … when that happened, our traditional source markets — what we call the core markets of Europe — did not deliver the numbers."

While South African Tourism intends to protect the European market share, "we expanded our investment into the emerging markets, and this paid off very quickly".

Laurent de Chorivit, GM of Club Med’s UK, South African and Nordic operations, shares this enthusiasm for Brics. He says the company — an international resort operator — has seen "huge increases" in the number of tourists from China, along with other Asian countries, Brazil, Russia and South Africa, to Club Med destinations around the world.

Mr de Chorivit says China is the country with the most potential, given that it is "a huge market".

Club Med has about 25,000 clients a year from China, although it is aiming to quadruple this to 100,000 Chinese clients annually within the next three years.

According to Mr de Chorivit, Brics countries have growing economies and, similarly, their outbound holiday markets are growing.

"The Brics are clearly the countries where Club Med wants to grow quicker than the average GDP (gross domestic product)."

Source: BD

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