KZN gears up for more Chinese travellers

Time of article published Dec 10, 2019

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A conference to strengthen trade relations between China and South Africa and to attract Chinese travellers to the country took centre stage at a China Ready trade engagement hosted by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal in partnership with South African Tourism Asia Pacific in Durban recently.

To better understand the needs of discerning Chinese travellers and to ensure KZN’s readiness for this market and imminent growth, a workshop with key role players was held to share market insights with the trade; to equip trade on how to better package KZN for the Chinese market; to gain an authentic cultural experience; and to strengthen trade relations.

Mansoor Mohamed, Hub Head for SA Tourism Asia Pacific said: “It is worth noting that South Africa is already receiving a sizeable share of the Chinese market and we believe that if we go into this market with more travel options, we can possibly increase this market immensely. We have done in-depth research on this market and we truly believe that KwaZulu-Natal has all the makings of a destination that this market will be keen to explore. The Chinese market is keen to experience different historical sites, places of rich history and heritage and breath-taking sceneries, all of which KZN has and more.”

China is a key source market for KZN. South African Tourism confirmed in 2016 Chinese travellers made more than 117 000 trips to South Africa, a 38 percent increase from the previous year and of which 1350 came to KZN. 

According to Stats SA, about 96 900 Chinese tourists travelled to South Africa in 2018.

In January 2019, tourism spend increased at 22% over January 2018 and in 2018 increased at 69% over 2017 mostly due to the increase in length of stay and an increase in average daily spend.

Research indicates that as personal disposable income increases year by year, Chinese people tend to spend more on traveling. The demand for China outbound tourism grows continuously. It is expected that the number of China outbound trips will reach 178.4 million with the total tourism expenditure of about CNY 1.2727 trillion (R2 647 679 896 604,60) by 2022.

75% of Chinese tourists believe that travelling is a vital factor for improving their life quality and happiness.

Thulisile Galelekile, General Manager: Marketing for Tourism KZN, said: “We’ve been engaging with South African Tourism regarding markets to target for us to grow the impact of tourism in the province. China has been identified as one of the biggest tourism markets in the world and we definitely have our eyes set on having a piece of that pie. It is for this reason that we wanted to make sure that our trade partners on the ground are better prepared to host this market. Each market is different and it is important for us to make sure that when we go out there to source business from this market that our trade is fully prepared to give them the best possible experience.

“We are also reviewing our marketing tools to better promote KZN to this market. Key market insights indicate that We Chat is a massive marketing tool in China and we are definitely looking to explore such avenues in our marketing efforts to conquer this market.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), a strong growth of international tourism is evident with a forecast of 1.8 billion border crossing trips being reached by 2030, adding 400 million to the 1.4 billion of 2018.

Already today about 11% of all arrivals are generated by Mainland Chinese. By 2030 more than 20% of all arrivals will be generated by Mainland Chinese, thus pointing to the need to better understand, engage and serve this important market who are sophisticated and tech savvy. 

Members of the tourism trade in KZN in attendance at the trade engagement were excited at the prospect of penetrating this lucrative market.

Sastri Ramiah, a panel speaker and the owner of the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, said: “I have been travelling to China for the past 12 years on business and the country fascinates me.  

“I attended the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China to experience the largest import and export trade fair in the country which brought about different ideas for expanding the Olive Convention Centre and Ice Rink, which we believe could be one of the must visit attractions for that market for KZN.”

Vusumuzi Kweyama, a panel speaker and Director at Vuka Africa Tours and Training in Botha’s Hill and Co-founder and Director at 1000 Thrills, a tour agency in Inchanga, west of Durban said: “What we have learnt is that the China market is very techno savvy and therefore, we are also looking at ways in which to improve our facilities to ensure that our products and service offerings deliver what they are accustomed to.

Bradley Glenn, Director at Inside Edge, a travel agency in Ballito, north of Durban, also on the panel said: “The Chinese want to feel welcomed in KZN and we do not need to do big things.

“We need to carefully look at how we sell our products so the Chinese can trust the trade market to conduct business in KZN.”  

Mohamed also indicated that South African Tourism is working closely with the Department of Tourism to train trade and tour guides on this market countrywide which will include ensuring that tour guides at various tourism attractions across the country and KZN can speak some of the Chinese languages.

“When travellers are away from home, they still want something that connects them with home, so the basic understanding of the language will go a long way in cementing KZN as the next must visit destination for China,” concluded Mohamed.

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