3 August 2011

Media Statement by South African Tourism Board Chairperson Jabu Mabuza

It is now even more critical to band together to sustain and grow our tourism industry

Mr Jabu Mabuza Mr Jabu Mabuza, Chairperson SA Tourism Board

...In these challenging times, it is now even more important for us as the entire tourism sector to work even harder as a cohesive, co-ordinated collective to analyse and react to tourism trends and aggressively promote our destination locally and internationally as a value-for-money destination, given tourism’s significant contribution to our country’s economy and sustainable job creation.’ - Mr Jabu Mabuza, Chairperson SA Tourism Board

South Africans are proud of our country’s innate ability to triumph in the face of adversity.

When the world was experiencing its most severe global economic crisis, South Africa was bucking trends, and investing heavily in public capital expenditure, hosting the Indian Premier League, FIFA Confederations Cup and British and Irish Lions Rugby tours, all in 2009.

As economies the world over crashed, and amidst immense global pressure and scrutiny South Africa then hosted what FIFA called ‘the most successful World Cup ever’.

The huge success of these events gave the destination all-time high global positivity and recognition and saw the tourism industry reach over 8 million tourist arrivals and an unprecedented 15.1% growth in tourism numbers in 2010.

Without that World Cup tourism buffer last year and with our industry clearly still feeling the effects of the global recession, we’ve always known this would be the year to work harder than ever before.

We’re very conscious that business in the travel and tourism industry is taking strain at the moment, as is the case in most parts of the world. We’ve noted the recent Tourism Business Index registering a performance index of 74.5 in the second quarter of 2011, lower than expected.  

Our strong currency, changing travel patterns, including the increasing tendency of tourists to buy more affordable accommodation and other tourism-related products, increasing unemployment in most First World countries and high fuel prices are some of the factors listed as the reasons for lower revenues. The domestic market has also been weaker than anticipated, which exacerbates the impact of lower occupancies on the very substantial increase in room inventory that happened in the run up to the World Cup.

But in these challenging times, it is now even more important for us as the entire tourism sector to work even harder as a cohesive, co-ordinated collective to analyse and react to tourism trends and aggressively promote our destination locally and internationally as a value-for-money destination, given tourism’s significant contribution to our country’s economy and sustainable job creation. Adverse economic conditions in many of our target markets are not expected to significantly improve over the next 2–3 years and unless we succeed in aggressively promoting our value-for-money tourism product offering internationally in the face of an increasingly competitive international tourism environment, the sustainability of our industry will come under even more pressure by 2014, when one of our key competitors will have the benefit of the FIFA World Cup.

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) are indicating that the industry is working hard to ensure tourism jobs are not lost, and as South African Tourism we are ready to work hand in hand with the tourism industry, as we always have, to support their efforts and that of our provincial and local tourism authorities in continuing to grow our sector and on the implementation needed to bring in tourist arrivals.

The current business environment does not necessarily correlate with the consistently good tourist arrivals Statistics South Africa continues to record, which indicate that from January to April 2011 we had 2,750,175 foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa, up 7.5% on the 2,558,715 recorded over the same period in 2010. This growth came from our core, traditional markets as well as our exciting investment markets.

Encouragingly, growth from Europe was up by 4.5% with 458,479 tourist arrivals from January to April 2011 (with our biggest tourism market, the United Kingdom, level-pegging last year’s figures with 162,415 tourist arrivals). North America was up 16.8% (with United States visitors up 15.6%), Central and South America was up 24.1% (with Brazil up 38.4%), Asia was up 29.3% (with India up 51% and China up 25.6%) and Africa grew by 7.3% (with Nigeria up 27.6% and the DRC up 21.2%).

We believe these tourism figures are an accurate reflection and even more importantly that the growth shown in the markets we are focused on provide a clear indication we are on the right track with our tourism target markets and strategies. South Africa has a long way to go to grow demand adequately to meet the current oversupply of rooms and counteract the effects of the strong Rand and, in the short term, the industry will continue to bear the effects thereof. We are working hard to alleviate the impact currently being felt, but it is key we maintain a longer term strategy and focus on marketing South Africa as a destination.

Post the successful 2010 FIFA World Cup, we continue to be aggressive, innovative and cutting edge with our marketing efforts. Our work at South African Tourism is driven by research and by proven consumer and industry insights to choose the right markets for future tourism growth. This is borne out by significant month-on-month increases from the likes of Brazil, India and China, on the African continent and by bullish numbers despite difficult conditions in our core markets of Europe and North America.

We are also looking at the African business and leisure travel market with new eyes and investing over R60-million this year on our marketing efforts on the African continent, identifying in particular significant potential for travel and high tourism spend in South Africa from tourists in Africa air markets such as Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As African economies grow and become more and more globally competitive with more discretionary spending power, we’ve seen huge opportunities to market our traditional adventure and wildlife tourism offerings, but also our lifestyle and exciting and diverse urban tourism qualities to the global and continental tourism market.

Our recently launched second phase of our 20 Experiences in 10 Days global marketing campaign is set to reach over one billion consumers in this financial year. Our work in our 11 country offices will reach billions more and remain predominantly centred on work with trade on deal-driven campaigns to bring tourism numbers to South Africa. While we’re no longer basking in the global media spotlight, we continue to work closely on bringing the world’s media here in great numbers to continue to shine the spotlight on our destination’s unique tourism qualities.

In a fresh approach and with a view to entrenching our work in our core markets and also our new emerging ones, we have in our 20 Experiences in 10 Days campaign recorded the unscripted, authentic travels of couples from the United Kingdom, United States, Nigeria and India in phase one and couples from China, Germany, Brazil and Angola in phase two in an advertising campaign that will be rolled out with our global media partners, online and also in the heart of our consumer heartland in our targeted tourism markets. With research showing that word-of-mouth and the first-hand impressions of visitors of their travels to South Africa remains our biggest marketing tools, the campaign has been well-received globally. Domestic marketing and the Sho’t Left campaign remain the bedrock of marketing efforts as we continue to entrench a culture of travel within South Africa, with its theme of ‘there’s no such thing as a wrong turn’.

And we’re not just talking about being aggressive and dynamic in our approach, we’re demonstrating innovation, targeting for instance the Chinese in their native Mandarin in our marketing efforts and Angolans and Brazilians in their native Portuguese, as well as Germans in the German language.

Pre-World Cup our global deals with the likes of CNN, BBC and National Geographic gave us considerable global reach and effectiveness and post the World Cup we continue to work closely with them, but also significantly we’re looking to target consumers directly through the media and trade in their native languages and broadening our marketing reach.

With the role of E-Marketing assuming a greater and greater significance, we’re increasing our capacity in this area and forging important strategic partnerships with major global E-Marketing tourism players such as WAYN.com and TripAdvisor, mobile and social media to continue to ensure South Africa is top of mind globally and easily accessible.

This year, expanding our tourism offering and showcasing our lifestyle, design, fashion and music attributes has been critical, as has been profiling the urbanisation of our cities. To this end, we’ve heavily invested in and partnered with African Fashion International on events such as the Joburg, Cape Town and Africa Fashion Weeks, as well as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the Macufe Festival and Grahamstown National Arts Festival to name just a few. We’ve also been long-term partners of initiatives such as Design Indaba and more recently the Designing South Africa Project, and are fully behind Cape Town’s 2014 World Design Capital bid, which we’re confident could be yet another feather in our nation’s already-impressive cap.

Last week in particular was a busy week as we actively participated in the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) conference which sought to continue to grow the profile of the business tourism industry and emphasise the importance of hosting major international meetings, conferences and exhibitions. Over 200 major meetings and conferences have been confirmed for South Africa over the next five years, set to bring in over 300 000 international business travellers and this is a critical tourism sector we continuously need to grow. The imminent setting up of the National Convention Bureau as announced by Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk will further co-ordinate and improve our bidding capacity for business events and meetings.

We also played a pivotal role in the formation of the inaugural Sports and Events Tourism Exchange (SETE) in Cape Town, working closely with among others the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry and with private industry partners such as THEBE Exhibitions and Events to look at our country’s approach to bidding for and hosting major international sporting events and developing our country’s sports tourism industry, which has yielded such positive returns in recent years. We have established our global reputation as major event hosts and now is the time for collaboration and co-ordination as we look to entrench that reputation and find ways of effectively utilising our world-class infrastructure and continue to attract sports tourists in great numbers.

We continue to bring thousands of trade representatives, hosted buyers and international media annually to showcase South Africa’s leisure, business, lifestyle and wildlife and adventure qualities and we remain committed to working with the industry to reach the goals of the National Tourism Sector Strategy of making South Africa one of the world’s most desirable – and diverse - tourism destinations.

We will continue to strive to increase our tourism numbers, support the efforts to create the 225 000 new jobs targeted for our industry and to sustain existing ones, while also working with our provinces and city partners on highlighting the critical importance of – and encouraging - domestic travel among South Africans to all nine provinces.

Tourists now have numerous options when it comes to choosing where to stay in South Africa, be it in traditional hotels, bed and breakfast or self-catering establishments. While this is good to showcase the variety of experience and richness of our product offerings, it does lead to strong competition and a challenge to ensure good occupancy levels throughout the year. It is therefore even more critical for us to build our value proposition, adapt our business models to ensure long-term sustainability and remain consistent in our marketing approach. It is important we remain keenly aware of pricing our products competitively in a strong Rand environment.

We take our lead from the formation by the National Department of Tourism of the National Tourism Stakeholders Forum, comprising Government in all its spheres, the business sector and all tourism role players to work together to take collective ownership - and responsibility for - growing our critical tourism industry and meeting the important targets set in the National Tourism Sector Strategy and the National Growth Path.

Issued by South African Tourism

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For further information contact:

Jermaine Craig at South African Tourism                        
Tel: +27 11 895 3000 or 083 2010 121                                                              

Email: jermaine@southafrica.net                           

Website www.southafrica.net

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Inquiries at Ireland/Davenport can be directed to:

Allison MacDonald

Tel: +27 11 463 2252 or 082 771 2541.

Email: Allison.macdonald@ireland-davenport.co.za 

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South African Tourism is the national tourism agency responsible for the marketing of South Africa as a preferred tourist destination. It is headed up by Chief Executive Officer, Ms Thandiwe January-McLean, Chief Operating Officer Mr Timothy Scholtz and Chief Marketing Officer, Ms Roshene Singh.