South African Tourism
South Africa has launched a new tourism campaign this year, with the slogan Inspiring New Ways. The republic got a big boost during the 2010 soccer World Cup, but it is now looking for go beyond that.
Japan is one of the target markets. In 2010, there were 27,577 arrivals, while in 2011, the figure was 26,284 (which is an increase if you take away the 4,000 Japanese who went there just for the World Cup). The total number of visitor arrivals in South Africa in 2011 was 8,339,354.
In charge of the tourism campaign is Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism. Prior to taking up his current position in January, Nzima was with AVIS Rent-a-Car, South African Airways and the South African Travel Centre.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros catches up with Nzima while he was in Tokyo recently.
What were your key objectives when you took this job in January?
My top priority to make sure I execute the tourism sector strategy. That involves several key objectives. No. 1 is to create tourism-related jobs—225,000 jobs by 2020. No. 2 is to make sure tourism contributes positively to the GDP of South Africa by encouraging tourists to stay longer. No. 3 is to make sure we spread tourism geographically, not concentrate on well-established routes, but make sure every part gets a fair share. No. 4 is to make sure we increase tourism arrivals to 15 million by 2020. In 2011, we had just over 8 million arrivals, a 3.3% growth over global trends of 4.4%.
To achieve these objectives, everyone has to play their part, from airlines, immigration officers, hotels and restaurants. We are carrying out a domestic campaign aimed at getting South Africans to get to know their own country and become knowledgeable and proud of it. In doing that, they find new tourist attractions, which we can then add to new itineraries, broadening our product range.
What would you say are South Africa’s most appealing aspects?
South Africa has got a lot more to offer than most people think. In fact, this distinguishes us from other destinations in Africa that might just offer safaris. Of course, we have safaris also, but besides seeing one of the Big Five—lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo – you can see Plus 2 – whales and sharks.
Beyond that, a major appeal is that you can experience our heritage, culture, scenic beauty and interact with people. That’s what people remember the most, not the elephant behind them in the photo. It is how they interacted with the people and the emotional connection.
Then there is casino gambling and some of the finest golf courses in the world – Sun City or the Legend Golf & Safari Resort, for example.
What are your key markets?
Currently, most tourists come from Europe, then the Americas. However, Africa and Asia are showing growth. From Japan, we had 27,000 arrivals in 2010, of which 4,000 went for the World Cup only in June. At the end of 2011, that number was down 4.7%, but if you take away the impact of the World Cup, it was an increase of 11% over 2010.
There are no direct flights from Japan to South Africa. Is that an obstacle?
There is no need for direct flights. It is not a deterrent to people coming to South Africa. There are a lot of markers which do not have direct flights to South Africa. Airline models work on the basis of alliances and hubs. As long as tourists do not spend a lot of time at connecting airports, and there is a through service, and as long as airfares are affordable, the absence of direct flights is not an issue.
How do you approach the Japanese market?
We are well informed when we approach a market. We don’t shoot from the hip. We make sure we have done sufficient research. In Japan, we have received very good consumer insight into what Japanese want when they travel abroad to other destinations such as the U.S., Australia, Europe. So we look at what we can we offer them that is unique, and design our marketing communication messages along those lines.
Japan’s challenge is that people don’t have long vacations. So if they have 8 days’ holiday, they don’t want to spend two days getting to a destination. They want to be there as quickly as possible.
What is the awareness level of South Africa like in Japan?
It has been a bit low. Before the soccer World Cup, Japanese thought there was crime all over. Once they visit us, their impression changes and we get a huge number of repeat visitors. Japanese love to experience interaction with penguins, go to townships and dance with people, learn about our history and the challenges in achieving democracy. Many tourists go to see where Nelson Mandela was jailed.
How is the infrastructure?
Mind-boggling. One of the benefits and legacies of the World Cup is that a lot of hotels built additional rooms. Many hotels now are reporting 78-80% occupancy levels.
What needs more attention?
We probably need more language specialists to help visitors and signs in various languages.
How are you using social media in your marketing campaign?
Social media is very important. If you go to our Facebook page, you’ll see stories told by people, not paid advertising, but their own experiences. We even have TripAdvisor linked to our website where people post their own itineraries and advise others of the best routes. In addition, we are using Twitter and mobile sites.
What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
The excitement of creating new experiences.