SOUTH Africa’s struggling tourism industry has been given a boost following an agreement that could expose local tourism companies to the lucrative Middle East market.
Emirates airline on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the SA Tourism Board to jointly promote tourism and boost visitor arrivals and inbound traffic to South Africa from key markets across the Emirates network.
The MoU was signed on the side-lines of the international travel trade show Arabian Travel Market by Badr Abbas, Emirates’ senior vice president commercial operations for Africa, and the SA Tourism Board’s acting chief executive, Themba Khumalo.
Khumalo said the partnership would support South Africa’s tourism recovery efforts after Covid-19 travel restrictions nearly brought it to the brink of collapse.
“The Middle East is a critical market for South Africa so this partnership will be very instrumental in ensuring ease of access to and from South Africa for travellers from this region,” he said.
“This will increase direct airlift, making room for more travellers, and as our tourism sector recovers we look forward to welcoming more visitors from the Middle East.”
This as the World Travel & Tourism Council’s latest Economic Impact Report reveals the African travel an tourism sector is expected to create almost 14 million new jobs over the next decade.
The global tourism body’s annual report also shows further optimism for the region’s travel and tourism gross domestic product, which could approach pre-pandemic levels by 2023 - just 9 percent below 2019 levels.
Under the MoU, Emirates will explore opportunities to promote South Africa and encourage travellers to experience the country’s attractions across its network of more than 130 destinations.
The SA Tourism Board will also work closely with the airline to support travel trade partners and tour operators across the Emirates’ network to develop and promote itineraries, introduce special packages and promotional giveaways, and encourage incentives.
Both parties also committed to explore opportunities to collaborate on joint advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as familiarisation programmes on South Africa for travel trade and media representatives, among other initiatives.
Emirates will also support the transport of SA Tourism’s marketing collaterals to select destinations in its network.
Emirates chief commercial officer Adnan Kazim said Emirates was well-placed to support the recovery of South Africa’s tourism sector and help raise the profile of the destination again.
“We’re working hard to restore our services to pre-pandemic levels to help generate more opportunities for travellers from around the world to experience South Africa’s unique natural experiences, world-renowned cuisine, and local culture,” Kazim said.
Emirates currently serves South Africa with 26 weekly flights, including double daily services to Johannesburg, daily services to Cape Town and five weekly flights to Durban.
Customers can also access popular regional destinations across South Africa via the airline’s codeshare agreements with South African Airways and Airlink, and interline agreements with FlySafair and CemAir.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE