According to Corporate Traveller general manager Bonnie Smith, though inflation, electricity issues and rising interest rates may paint a challenging picture for many South African companies in the upcoming year, there is a ray of hope as business travel is anticipated to make a comeback in 2024.
Smith said a Deloitte survey estimated that by the end of 2024, spending would have returned to pre-pandemic levels, while a GBTA report in Q3 2022 indicated a spending return to near 2019 levels by the end of 2025.
“This business travel revival could be seen as an opportunity driven by both political will and the opening of new routes into emerging markets. These developments may offer South African business travellers fresh avenues for growth and expansion beyond their domestic constraints,” she said.
When it comes to destinations for business, Smith said the UAE, India, Singapore, China and Nigeria were promising emerging markets for South African travellers.
“The governments of these emerging markets tend to implement policies that favour industrialisation and rapid economic growth. To tap the potential, South African executives will need boots on the ground frequently to network, size up the competition and build relationships.”
Smith said that from agriculture to tech start-ups and infrastructure to green energy, savvy South African companies across emerging sectors had gateways to turbocharge growth across new markets.
“According to several economic institutions and global agencies, India is projected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030, providing a wealth of new and emerging opportunities for South African businesses.”
With the opening of gateways into emerging markets, there was also an opportunity for new aviation routes.
“As the gateway to Africa, South Africa is ideally positioned to tap into the growth opportunities presented by emerging economies. However, there is still a need for greater air connectivity.”
Smith said that since the start of 2022, South Africa had inaugurated or re-established direct flights from markets such as Beijing-Shenzhen, Hong Kong and São-Paolo.
Moreover, the country was in talks with Air India to establish direct flights to Delhi and/or Mumbai.
Gauteng Department of Economic Development MEC Tasneem Motara said the department was targeting airlift from India and that airlift from China remained challenging, so an increase in frequencies from Air China was a priority.
“These talks lay a solid foundation for more direct flights, better airport infrastructure, and increased frequency of air travel – music to the ears of South African businesses and emerging industries,” said Smith.