SA Chinese arrivals outlook
20 Nov 2017 – Tourism Update
2016 was a bumper year for Chinese arrivals for various reasons, not the least of which was the very low selling price of some of the bottom-end packages offered.
While Chinese arrivals in South Africa saw a dip in the first few months of this year, the industry reports that the market has now stabilised and is forecast for growth.
Terry Fenton-Wells, MD of SA Magic Tours, says: “2016 was a bumper year for Chinese arrivals for various reasons, not the least of which was the very low selling price of some of the bottom-end packages offered.
“The dip in Chinese arrivals to South Africa in the first few months of 2017 was as a result of a correction in the pricing of this product, which was instituted by a number of large operators at the beginning of this year. I am happy to report that the arrivals have now stabilised and are forecast to increase. The market is in good shape and there is no cause for concern.”
News that a RN65 (€8,3) charge will be added to Chinese visa applications for the provision of a courier service, has concerned members of the trade, though. Fenton-Wells says: “This is standard procedure for most embassies worldwide and is now an option available to Chinese travellers [visiting South Africa]. I do not believe this will have a negative impact on the market.”
The trade has also raised concerns that the recent publicity surrounding follow-home crime could be deterring the safety-sensitive Chinese market. However, a source points out that South Africa is fortunate not to be affected by acts of terrorism and could be viewed as a safer travel option. “While crime exists, the crime rate affecting tourists is not as high as many are led to believe. South Africa’s top priority remains the safety and security of visitors, citizens and businesses.” Fenton-Wells agrees: “Safety is always our number-one priority with guests.”
To combat concerns, Chinese visitors are advised to always adhere to safety guidelines from guides and local South Africans.
The source suggested that visas might be a larger barrier to entry for the Chinese market, saying that Chinese travellers book 14 to 10 days before they want to leave. “As a result, they cannot afford to experience a delay in visa applications.” However, Fenton-Wells feels that this is not a major factor. “Chinese travellers have displayed this consumer behaviour for the last 20 years. I do not believe that this had a big impact in 2017.”
However, the source added that Morocco had been South Africa’s biggest competing African destination this year because they relaxed their visa regulations. “They now allow Chinese travellers in with no requirement for a visa and, as a result, their arrivals grew by over 350%.”
Fenton-Wells acknowledged that it might have had an impact on arrivals, as Chinese travellers were always looking for new destinations. “However, this has not impacted our numbers picking up again as the South African market stabilises, and forward bookings are looking very strong.”
Bradley Brouwer, President of Asia Pacific for SA Tourism, said the government, SAT, and the trade had collaborated on a number of initiatives to increase Chinese arrivals.
“Our tour companies have introduced Mandarin-speaking guides, along with promotional materials in Mandarin. Tourism operators and department stores are beefing up their Chinese language service for shopping guides. For ease of shopping, shopping malls are increasingly catering for Chinese visitors by adopting Alipay.”
He said credit card discounts were also offered with the launch of a new Bank of China ‘BOC Inspirational South Africa FIT Credit Card’ in partnership with SAT, along with another new card called ‘I Go South Africa’, being launched by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China ICBC in partnership with Standard Bank of South Africa.
“In China, a robust calendar of travel trade events includes promotions and exhibitions in major cities, familiarisation tours, travel trade learning programmes and trade and media roadshows. Marketing initiatives extend to showcasing South Africa as a world-class MICE destination, and building strong relationships with leading Chinese travel agencies and tour operators, including online courses equipping trade partners to better promote South Africa as a tourist destination.”
He added that, in response to a boom in ‘education tourism’ from China, SAT was also partnering with popular travel website, TripAdvisor, on a project called ‘Little Marine Ranger’. A package offering eco-adventure trips designed specifically for young children in China. These take the form of 10-day study trips, where participants learn about South Africa’s marine environment. “South African Tourism is also focusing on strengthening relationships with key airline partners,” Brouwer concluded.
SA Chinese arrivals outlook