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1 March 2013

Good growth in India tourist arrivals expected after TAFI convention

The Travel Agents Federation of India has just completed its International Travel Convention, held at the Durban International Convention Centre from 24-27 February 2013.

Aerial view, Durban's ICC The Durban ICC

We are expecting the greater awareness of South Africa among TAFI International Convention delegates to translate into additional Indian travellers to South Africa as quickly as 2013. – Hanneli Slabber, South African Tourism’s country manager for India

The Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) represents an influential segment of India’s travel industry. Their convention was held this week in Durban at a significant time, with the fifth BRICS Summit – which is also taking place in Durban – just around the corner.

Hanneli Slabber, South African Tourism's country manager for India, said South African Tourism was incredibly proud to be showcasing South Africa to such a prestigious grouping of Indian travel agents.

‘We’ve loved every second of it. The excited chatter among delegates at the breakfast table about where they went, how much fun they had, and where the next party should be has been wonderful to experience,’ she said.

Slabber added that the big win would come from the extraordinary uptake of pre- and post-convention tours, and the private tours being undertaken by TAFI convention delegates. ‘We are excited about the packages that will be sold to Indian travellers, following the TAFI delegates' experiences in South Africa,’ she said.

When the January to December 2012 tourists arrivals statistics are released in the coming months, expectations are that the statistics will show that tourist arrivals from India have – for the first time – exceeded 100 000 arrivals. The latest statistics show that tourist arrivals from India grew by 16,8% from January to October 2012 to 87 906 arrivals, when compared with the same period in 2011.

‘We are also expecting the greater awareness of South Africa among TAFI International Convention delegates to translate into additional Indian travellers to South Africa as quickly as 2013,’ commented Slabber.

She added that South African Tourism was continually working with different airlines to ensure as many routes as possible into South Africa were created.

‘We are also continuing to invest heavily in the Indian trade, the lifeblood of our business. Watch out for our new and innovative marketing campaigns that we will soon launch in the Indian market,’ she concluded.

Speaking at the opening of the TAFI convention, South African Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk highlighted the excellent relationship that has existed between South Africa and India over the past 20 years. He said the two countries had much in common, for example in their rich history and in their mutual respect for one another.

‘Both our countries share a passion for sports with cricket as our common denominator,' he added. 'It was to India that South Africa’s international cricket team travelled for the first time at the end of apartheid in 1991. That flight by Clive Rice’s team was the first time a South African aircraft entered Indian airspace. Soon after that, in 1992, India became the first touring team to play in South Africa,’ he reminisced.

This year also marks 20 years since South Africa and India signed their first agreement to establish full diplomatic relations. ‘The bilateral relations between India and South Africa have grown so much stronger since. We have developed very close strategic, cultural and economic ties,’ he told a packed ICC Durban convention hall.

South Africa and India also signed a tourism cooperation agreement in 2008 and share many international platforms.

‘It delights me that our world-renowned South African events and lifestyle offerings have struck a chord with Indian travellers. India is not only a source market for South Africa, but also an emerging travel market with massive growth potential. It is expected to be among the top three global economies by 2050,’ he commented.

He said emerging markets were much more than just attractive source markets. ‘Emerging markets are the most amazing destinations in their own right, with offerings that are unparalleled in the world. They have unmatched natural treasures and offer great value for money.’

He added that emerging destinations were bound to change travel patterns around the world. ‘I have no doubt that the emerging destinations of today will become the centre of the universe for international tourism flows in the future.’

He said this would be linked to the broader shift in geopolitical and economic power from the developed economies to the emerging BRICS economies. ‘It is part of the global rebalancing of forces that will shape our tomorrow,’ he concluded.

South African Tourism has been promoting South Africa in India since 2005, focusing on film, fashion, sports, and food and wine. Three years ago, India was identified as a core market for South Africa, and the organisation set up an office in Mumbai. South African Tourism is currently training more than 1 000 Indian travel agents and tour operators to enable them to better sell South Africa to the Indian market.