India SA’s biggest market in Asia; will continue to invest more here than in China, says Hanneli Slabber

Hoping to regain the lost steam because of the visa mismanagement issue, Hanneli Slabber, Country Head, South Africa Tourism is betting big on the Indian outbound. She divulged that India remained a key market for creating more jobs back home, and thus SA was looking at profound investments into boosting its profile here.  An excerpt of the interview: 

India SA’s biggest market in Asia; will continue to invest more here than in China, says HanneliSlabber‘The Rainbow Nation’ is no stranger to India and vice-versa. A relationship that commenced with waves of Indian migrants heading to the southern tip of the African continent to work in mines, almost a century ago, has sustained and grown through the years. SA hosts a huge Indian Diaspora which oozes through the multiculturalism and fusion cuisines it offers.  The bilateral relation that has a strong business connect – India and SA are members of multilateral groups like IBSA and BRICS – is slowly gaining in the leisure segment, too.  As the South African Tourism brought a number of partners under one roof in a road-show aimed at showcasing its products in the top Indian markets, Hanneli Slabber, Country head hoped to regain the momentum after a temporary blip caused by the visa issue. “We lost out on a number of potential tourists because of the visa issue. It was simply take too long to sort out the process,” she admitted.  “It is not a case of having more people in the Visa Immigration office, I might have more people there but I also need accreditation from India. India is exploding in the international arena, and everybody is sending more people here,” she reasoned. She argued that every nation was establishing more consulates in newer cities, so instead of a hundred, now they had to cater to a thousand people asking for accreditation. “Now that we have more people in more offices, so we are confident that we will be able to cater to larger numbers of Indian outbound. It will make a massive difference to the destination. The slump in our numbers came because we were simply not able to process what we were getting,” she said.

Elaborating what made the tourism connect work well, she shared that there were just plethora of elements that were interwoven into SA’s fabric – from constitution to food, and culture – that cemented the connect between the two nations. “In fact, one of the biggest synergies is the food. You will find non-Indians cooking some of the best Indian curries. Everybody cooks and eats Indian food in SA,” she said.

She told us that India was a stronger market for them than China. Explaining the dynamics of the outreach, she noted that one of the reasons that the government put money into augmenting footfalls was for creating more jobs. “We are very clear about it. We spend millions trying to work out that how do we create more travelers; how must they stay longer? What is the tipping point that creates more jobs? We know the combination that we require for travelers that helps us create jobs back home.  It takes less Indian travelers to create more jobs than the Chinese. So, we will spend more money in India than in China,” explained Hanneli. “For job creation, India is right at the top. Indians indulge in so many activities. For instance, travelers from the USA or Europe might be engaging into something in the mornings and evenings, but I have not seen an Indian’s itinerary with time for leisure of the list,” she added.

Noting that an Indian traveler was open to more experiences, she divulged that “even from a product point of view, they are open to experience more. They might have a day on them, but they do make sure they make the most of it.”  She further stated that almost forty percent of their business came from return travelers. “If we give them a taste of everything, when they come back they want to experience it again – in more detail. That is more than what we can ask for; when you get travelers who tell you that there is so much more to experience that I am coming back,” shared Hanneli, detailing why Indian outbound remained key to them.

Describing the product in further detail, we were told that safari remained a top-draw from India. “We have a huge variety on offer. There are open-vehicles that take you up-close to the wild-life; people really like that. It is very easy to spot a Lion. Another facet that really surprises us is that Indian clientele are the biggest buyers of adventure products, after the South Africans,” Hanneli said.  Sounding confident of crossing the hundred thousand mark this year, she told us that last year SA had catered to some eighty-six thousand Indian. “We are confident to achieve the numbers – especially, now, the visa issue is behind us,” noted Hanneli.

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