Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane at Maropeng’s Cradle of Humankind in the western corridor of the Gauteng Province.

THEBE MABANGA

SOUTH Africa will have to attract tourists from non-traditional international markets such as the Middle East and Asia to boost the recovery the of the tourism sector.

This was announced by Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who hosted a World Tourism Day event at Maropeng, Cradle of Humankind, West Rand, on Sunday.

World Tourism Day is a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) initiative observed annually on 27 September to highlight the sector’s contribution to the socio–economic development of nations, and the advancement of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“The sector Is well positioned for recovery but we need to work hard at attracting new tourists and look at pricing to make products attractive,” Kubayi Ngubane told Inside Politics in an interview on the sidelines of the World Tourism Day event on Sunday.

The minister had earlier called on the sector to explore a two-tier pricing system, which caters for domestic and international travelers.  

The event took place as the sector is reeling from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and as the country prepares to re-open borders on October 1.

South Africa’s traditional tourism markets are experiencing a high rate or second wave of coronavirus infections and deaths.

These include the United Sates, whose death toll has passed 200 000 as well as many countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom and France, which are facing a resurgence in infections and contemplating various forms of lockdowns. 

Kubayi-Ngubane said government will release a list of high risk countries for which travel to and from will be restricted and this will be reviewed every two weeks.

Speaking to Inside Politics, the Tourism Minister noted that the list is likely to include countries that have high infection rates.

On Sunday, British Airways announced that it will resume its dally flights operations to Johannesburg and Cape Town, where the airline operates seven weekly flights to each of SA’s major hubs.

The minister said South Africa has made travelling easier by scrapping the requirement for foreign travelers to undertake a mandatory two weeks quarantine on arrival.

Instead, visitors will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test that is not more than three days old.

The two week review will also focus on how countries react to South Africa’s reopening of its borders, including whether those countries issue a travel warning to South Africa, which the minister describes as safe to travel to due to their low infection rate and high recovery rate.

Kubayi-Ngubane said South Africa must use the recovery to attract a new category of tourists, starting on the African continent, where the country already draws 71% of tourists.

Kubayi-Ngubane noted that big spenders from countries such as Ghana and Nigeria still go to London for shopping.

Kubayi-Ngubane argues that South Africa can offer its leading shopping destinations to these tourists.

South Africa’s shopping meccas include Sandton City in Johannesburg and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

The minister says South Africa must aim to attract tourists from the Middle East, where Israel is faced with the prospect of a fresh lockdown while other countries appear to have the virus under control.

Another market that South Africa aims to tap into is that of Asia, most notably China, where South Africa currently attracts 1% of travelers.

Kubayi-Ngubane says research shows that South Africa has the product that Chinese travelers want, including wine farms, game for viewing, hunting and other outdoor leisure activities.

“The feedback we receive from that market is that the problem is language barrier,” said the minister.

To address this, some tour guides are being trained to speak Mandarin and South Africa is exploring ways of ensuring that signage written in English can be instantly translated in order to be shared on Chinese social media platforms.  

Kubayi-Ngubane said she was encouraged by the resilience of the domestic tourism despite difficult economic conditions.

She pointed to the fact that tourist meccas like Sun City and the Kruger National Park are currently fully booked from the tourist hub she has visited.

She says the challenge is to maintain health protocols to ensure that a ‘New Wave’ of infections does not take root.  

The United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimates that in 2018 tourism contributed 10, 4% to global GDP and employed 319 million people.

(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)

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