In this Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 photo, a Saudi woman poses for a picture as she wears a colorful flower crown native to the region during the al-Soudah festival in Abha, southwest Saudi Arabia. The al-Soudah festival, which ran throughout the month of August, gave visitors a chance to experience a unique region in Saudi Arabia and take part in outdoor sports like hiking, mountain cycling, paragliding, horseback riding, zip lining and bungee jumping. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

JOHANNESBURG  - National travel agency South African Tourism says it is making efforts to promote Halal tourism, having identified countries like Saudi Arabia as key growth markets.

In a statement, South African Tourism said it had recently concluded a successful visit to the Saudi capital Riyadh, where it met key travel partners in the wake of a visa waiver for that country's nationals from the department of home affairs.

Head of the national tourism agency's Tourism’s Middle East, India and South East Hub  Neliswa Nkani stressed the need to increase the product offering for Saudi Arabia.

"It is critical that the travel trade in Saudi Arabia be afforded the opportunity to engage with the varied trade partners that can service their needs," Nkani said.

SA Tourism said Saudi Arabia travellers were among the highest spenders, with a keen interest in safari, culture and scenic beauty coupled with the facilities offered to Muslim tourists.

It cheered Saudi Arabia's recent announcement that women over the age of 21 would now be allowed to travel on their own.

"The demand for beach holidays is also growing in the Saudi market which makes South Africa an ideal destination for honeymooners and family holidays," it said.

"Having prioritized Saudi Arabia as a key growth market, South African tourism and its partners are also making efforts to promote Halal tourism in the region."

The agency said it would embark on a roadshow next March to connect, engage and showcase South Africa’s diverse tourist offerings "with an aim to facilitate a more collaborative and mutually beneficial learning environment".

This however comes as the image of Africa's most developed country has taken a knock from xenophobic attacks in which angry mobs have looted burnt small businesses owned largely by immigrants from elsewhere on the continent and Asia.

- African News Agency (ANA)