23/01/2012 Asian tourists seen at the Union Buildings. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg - China has become South Africa’s fourth-largest source market for tourism, with the number of Chinese tourists rising by 63.5 percent between January and September last year to 96 747 compared with 59 197 in 2011. The number is believed to have passed the 100 000 mark by year-end.

South African Tourism aims at an even bigger increase through a road show opened by the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, in Beijing this past week that will also visit Shanghai.

It is the latest in a series of promotional activities to increase awareness of South Africa, which have included awards to members of the Chinese media for their support.

A large number of Chinese visitors are expected to arrive in this country next month, when the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Snake – begins on February 10 and families go on holiday. Hundreds of Chinese business people living in this country have booked flights to China to celebrate the holiday with their extended families.

In addition to SAA’s non-stop flights to Beijing, started last year, many Chinese arrive in this country with Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Van Schalkwyk said joint marketing agreements had been concluded last year with seven trade and marketing partners in China, “to build education and understanding of South Africa, to package and promote a larger variety of products and experiences and to make this country as affordable and accessible as possible to Chinese travellers”.

The minister said the opening of two visa application centres for South Africa had made it easier for Chinese visitors to come here. “We are confident of continuing our exciting growth in a market set to become one of the most important in the world.”

Business Report