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SA tourism minister announces measures to attract Chinese travelers

A photo shows South African Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille during media interviews in Beijing on November 21, 2023. /CGTN

A photo shows South African Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille during media interviews in Beijing on November 21, 2023. /CGTN

More direct flights from China and a streamlined visa process are among the measures South Africa’s tourism minister has committed to in order to attract Chinese travelers to her country.

During a dialogue session and media interviews in Beijing this week, Patricia de Lille, announced upgrades to the e-Visa website – which include translating it into simplified Chinese characters, and negotiations with airlines such as Air China, South African Airways and Cathay Pacific.

De Lille listed the following measures for the visa process: translating the e-Visa application; looking at ways to stabilize the website by creating a unique e-Visa website just for the Chinese market; engaging with Chinese banks to simplify and streamline the verification of financial records and regularly talking and listening to Chinese tour operators on how to adapt the system.

A file photo of an Air China flight. /CFP

A file photo of an Air China flight. /CFP

A file photo of an Air China flight. /CFP

“(Our) friendship makes a Chinese traveler endure a long-haul flight to the southern tip of Africa to feel the sun on their face as the sun rises over the savannah plains of the Kruger National Park. It is this friendship that sees every Chinese tourist determined to get a visa and feel the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean at the majestic Cape Point and the warm waters of Durban (in) KwaZulu-Natal. But more importantly, it is the people of South Africa and its diverse and inclusive cultures. It’s the food and the vibe. From the streets of Umlazi and every township and small town to the rooftop bars of Jozi that make you feel the amapiano beat in your bones,” said the tourism minister, who was previously mayor of Cape Town.

A file photo shows Cape Point in Table Mountain National Park, the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, South Africa. /CFP

A file photo shows Cape Point in Table Mountain National Park, the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, South Africa. /CFP

A file photo shows Cape Point in Table Mountain National Park, the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, South Africa. /CFP

There is currently only one direct route between the Chinese mainland, while Cathay Pacific has resumed its non-stop flights between Hong Kong and Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.

“While we are in China, we are meeting with Chinese airline directors. We want to increase the frequency of flights between South Africa and China. Right now we have a flight from Beijing to Shenzhen, and then to Johannesburg (on Air China). Because China is so big, we are looking at routes that can be shorter for Chinese tourists to travel, without having to change over in another country to get a connecting flight to South Africa,” said De Lille.

“Our own airline South African Airways used to fly between Johannesburg and Beijing. We are working on resuming the South African Airways flight back to Beijing. This is in partnership with growing our business tourism. The airlines want to see a market that is there for them before they decide to fly to a long-haul destination. So with our economic partners and our commercial partners, we are looking for investment from China into South Africa. The airlines depend on business class seats to make their profit. It is a combination of promoting tourism, and business tourism, so that we can create a market… If we can work together and joint-market the two countries, we can drive up the demand and then bring down the prices,” she added.

A file photo shows a trio of giraffes in the South Africa's largest national wildlife park, the Kruger National Park. /CFP

A file photo shows a trio of giraffes in the South Africa’s largest national wildlife park, the Kruger National Park. /CFP

A file photo shows a trio of giraffes in the South Africa’s largest national wildlife park, the Kruger National Park. /CFP

Allaying fears around safety concerns, de Lille said they have created a special security app to assist tourists in need.

“Six months ago, we reactivated South Africa’s Tourism safety forum. We are using R174 million (US$9.3 million) to train safety monitors, and they will patrol 59 hot spots to make tourists feel safer. Through the private sector, we also created the Secura app for tourists arriving in South Africa to be linked to a 24-hour operational center. We are deploying 2,300 safety tourism monitors at our airports, Kruger National Park and some key tourist attractions,” she said in a speech to tourism industry stakeholders at the dialogue event.

A file photo shows people taking a selfie with the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range in Cape Town, South Africa as a backdrop. /CFP

A file photo shows people taking a selfie with the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range in Cape Town, South Africa as a backdrop. /CFP

A file photo shows people taking a selfie with the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range in Cape Town, South Africa as a backdrop. /CFP

In an indication of mutual tourism market growth for both countries, de Lille announced the opening of a China Tourism Office in South Africa, to assist South African travelers to China. South African Tourism already has an existing office in Beijing.

“We will joint-market South Africa and China. We not only want to see more Chinese tourists travel to South Africa, but we also want to see more South Africans travel to China. We are committed to making it easy and seamless for tourists to travel between the two countries. This includes opening a China Tourism Office in South Africa and addressing critical concerns about safety and inefficiencies of our visa application system,” said De Lille. 

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