Q&A: SAT – On track

May sees South African Tourism once again hosting Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban, so the timing was good when catching up with Acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini, who was reflecting on the progress SAT has made and where its focus areas currently lie.

Q: What progress has SA Tourism made with regards the ‘Five in Five’ goal of achieving five million more visitors to South Africa by 2022?

A: In 2018, South Africa welcomed 10.5 million foreign tourists to the country, which was a 1.8% increase on the previous year. Domestically, 17.7 million trips were made by local travellers – a 2.8% increase on 2017. While the figures show an increase in travellers, we still need to attain higher growth numbers in order to achieve our ‘5-in-5’ targets.

Q: What key markets have you identified to help SAT achieve this goal?

A: Through our Market Investment Framework, we have identified 44 markets globally. Further attention will be placed on the following six markets – USA, Germany, Australia, China, UK and India. In Africa we are focusing on the Nigerian market. Areas we need to focus on include how we process visas, what products and experiences we need to tailor for these visitors, and factors such as airlift to and from these countries. These markets were alluded to by President Ramaphosa as focus markets for us to reach the 21 million tourist goal for South Africa by 2030.

Q: What are your thoughts on the developments made in the visa space and their impact on encouraging visitors to SA?

A: We know that globally, easing of immigration regulations stimulates tourism growth. We have seen this on the African continent as well, where countries have relaxed immigration regulations and tourism numbers have improved. In South Africa, we saw similar increases when visa regulations for Angolan citizens travelling to South Africa were relaxed. We are encouraged by the efforts of the South African government to address visa issues and look forward to seeing the roll out of the e-Visa programme.

Q: What’s your view on domestic tourism and the role it plays in the SAT strategy?

A: Domestic tourism is a cornerstone of any destination’s tourism industry and SAT aims to promote it as part of its enhanced strategy for growth. This is further reflected in the ‘5-in-5’ strategy, whereby SA Tourism looks to increase domestic trips by one million by 2021. However, in recent years, loyalty in South Africa has seen a decline due to the tough economic conditions. For South Africans, affordability and lack of information are the key barriers to domestic holidays. We have also placed a strong emphasis on ensuring that domestic travel is accessible and can be enjoyed by all South Africans with the Sho’t Left campaign, which looks to:

  • Engage South Africans by inspiring them with the breadth of experiences that can be enjoyed within the country
  • Turn that inspiration into action by calling on all South Africans to book, experience and enjoy all that our country has to offer
  • Evolve South African’s travel culture to the extent that they themselves want to proactively explore more of their country
Q: How is SAT using technology to achieve its goals?

A: We have partnered with Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, to provide travellers with alerts and directions to all Tourism Grading Council-graded establishments in the area, in real-time. We have also partnered with Flight Centre in promoting its Travel Stokvel, which encourages South Africans to save for travel within the country. During Tourism Month last year, we also introduced the Sho’t Left Travel Week, which saw South Africa go on sale for an entire week with massive discounts by accommodation establishments, airlines etc.

Q: What can South Africans do to promote tourism in the country?

A: Locals need to be the storytellers; to travel and tell their stories to paint a picture of our country. We also have the “WeDoTourism” movement. This initiative seeks to remind South Africans of the importance of the tourism industry and the role they can play as advocates for South Africa and for tourism. We aim to remind South Africans that tourism is everyone’s business, because all South Africans benefit from tourism.

Q: Where would SAT like to be in 10 years’ time?

A: By 2029, we would have hopefully achieved our ‘5-in- 5’ goal and be on our way to achieving the 21 million inbound tourist mark. With tourism being affected by the disruptive technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I see South African Tourism partnering with more tech companies that can bring value to the tourism industry. And our mainstay events – Meetings Africa, Africa’s Travel Indaba and the National Lilizela Tourism Awards – would have helped build stronger relations with tourism stakeholders across the continent.