The South African Tourism Board has not only invested in new strategies but also appointed a dedicated and resourceful professional to spearhead the team in the right direction. Sadiq Dindar, Marketing & Promotions Manager for Middle East, shares the strategies to lure clientele from the region.
What plans has South Africa Tourism Board arranged for the Middle East market?
South African Tourism did a complete review of the globe starting nearly two years ago in order to realign our marketing investment. We reviewed our investment framework and made many in-depth research on various markets, focusing specifically on areas of operation and budget (cost of acquisition). The Middle East has shown enormous potential for tourism to South Africa and it was established as one of the markets that will be serviced from the India hub (together with markets in South East Asia and Turkey). Although the region is clubbed with India, the marketing and trade support will be rendered from our offices in Johannesburg.
How is the growth potential from the Middle East to South Africa?
We have seen incredibly good growth from the Middle East with 2016 being our best year ever. We recorded 53,536 arrivals, a 36 per cent increase on the previous year. (Arrivals figures only includes passport holders from Middle Eastern countries and excludes all expatriates travelling from the Middle East). January to June 2017 shows an increase of 13 per cent over the same period in 2016. Seasonality from the Middle East region is fairly flat, with slight peaks in March, July and August.
What are the unique features of the Middle Eastern traveller?
Safari and wildlife is not a significant drawcard for this market and the average requests venture more towards city life and shopping. We have found that our Middle Eastern travellers like to base themselves in a central point and explore from there. Our Middle Eastern clientele also travel with shorter notice period, in bigger family groups and very often multi-generational.
South Africa has a wide variety of accommodation available – everything from villas (serviced or self-catering if you prefer to bring your own chef) to hotels to apartments. Owing to the varied requirements from our target market, we have extended our grading criteria to cover all types of accommodation. This is an excellent quality guarantee and peace of mind not only for the travel agent, but also for the traveller! Although our travellers from the Middle East are bigger spenders than some of our other markets, they have a keen eye for quality and value for money. South Africa is able to offer both of those – we have exceptional value, offer high quality goods, impeccable service – and that all in the same high standard of luxurious shopping centres that our visitors are used to in the Middle East. We have seen an increase in bleisure travel from the region – a mixture of business and leisure – and South Africa is perfectly position to give you the best of both worlds.
What are the strategies to lure more ME travellers to South Africa?
South African Tourism has a very deliberate strategy for the Middle East and the centre of the strategy focuses on the travel trade. Our research shows that the majority of our travellers book through the trade, hence we have worked our strategy around education, training and support for the trade. The activation of this strategy would be done in different ways, inclusive of training workshops, online training offerings, hosting of familiarization trips, joint marketing agreements, exposure to Indaba and Meetings Africa, etc.
We are working very closely with the South African trade in order to offer the perfect experience to the Middle Eastern traveller. South Africa has a substantial Muslim population and Halal food is available all over the country. We also have a number of Muslim tour operators that specialize in the Middle Eastern market. We are seeing more and more of the bigger operators as well as niche operators venturing into the Middle East as they recognise the potential.