South Africa Tourism : China is the biggest market

According to a senior tourism official, tourism in South Africa has experienced a rapid rebound this year, although it remains below pre-COVID-19 levels. The official anticipates that an increasing number of visitors, including those from China, will contribute to the country’s recovery.


The Department of Tourism reports that in the first quarter of 2023, South Africa welcomed 2.1 million travelers, representing a 103 percent increase compared to the same period last year and nearly 80 percent of the figure from 2019. Foreign direct spending has also risen by almost 150 percent, reaching $1.4 billion.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, expects this upward trend to continue and reveals that the Western Cape, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng provinces have already reached pre-pandemic tourism levels.

South Africa is strategically focusing on key source markets, including the United Kingdom, the United States, India, and China. Mahlalela believes that group tours from China will contribute significantly to South Africa and Africa’s recovery, emphasizing the strong relations between the two countries as BRICS members and the agreement to promote mutual visits.

Mahlalela asserts that the country’s recovery plan for the tourism sector has shown promising results. In an effort to attract international visitors, South Africa has introduced an e-visa service, currently available to citizens from 14 countries, including China, with plans to expand it to 20 more countries. The e-visa, combined with enhanced security measures at tourist destinations, has contributed to increased visitor numbers, especially from Kenya.

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Abel Yifru, the area manager of Ethiopian Airways in South Africa, reports that the airline is also recovering post-pandemic. Ethiopian Airways has reopened existing routes and is launching new international routes, including flights from Ethiopia to several Chinese cities. Yifru highlights that China has always been a significant market for the airline, promoting business opportunities and attracting Chinese tourists to various African countries.

Namibia, another African destination, is receiving tourists from China, albeit in fewer numbers than expected. The country is working on a memorandum of understanding with China to enhance cooperation in areas such as airlines and national tourism boards, aiming to strengthen the ties between the two countries in the tourism sector.

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20 effective tips to attract Chinese tourists in South Africa:

Here are 20 effective tips to attract Chinese tourists for a tour operator in South Africa:

  1. Understand the Chinese Culture: Research and gain insights into Chinese travel preferences, cultural nuances, and popular destinations in Africa.
  2. Chinese Language Support: Hire Mandarin-speaking staff or collaborate with local interpreters to provide seamless communication and assistance to Chinese tourists.
  3. Promote Local Experiences: Showcase unique African experiences such as wildlife safaris, cultural immersion, adventure activities, and natural wonders.
  4. Be Social in China : Establish a strong online presence on Chinese social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin (TikTok), and maintain an engaging website with translated content.
  5. Utilize Chinese KOL (if you have the budget) : Collaborate with influential Chinese travel bloggers, social media influencers, or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to promote your tours and destinations.
  6. Tailor-Made Itineraries: Offer customized itineraries that cater to the specific preferences and interests of Chinese travelers, including family-friendly options.
  7. Payment Options: Accept popular Chinese mobile payment methods like Alipay and WeChat Pay to facilitate convenient transactions for Chinese tourists.
  8. Chinese-Friendly Guides: Employ local tour guides who are knowledgeable about Chinese culture and can provide insightful commentary in Mandarin.
  9. Safety : Emphasize the safety and security measures in place to reassure Chinese tour opeartoar and address any concerns they may have.
  10. Testimonials Encourage positive reviews and testimonials from Chinese travelers to build trust and credibility among potential customers.
  11. Collaborate with Chinese Tour Operators: Establish partnerships with reputable Chinese tour operators to tap into their networks and leverage their expertise.
  12. Highlight Accommodation Options: Feature a range of accommodation options that cater to Chinese preferences, such as hotels with Chinese-friendly amenities and Chinese cuisine options.
  13. Option for Cuisine and Dietary Preferences: Offer Chinese meal options or ensure that dietary requirements of Chinese tourists, such as vegetarian or halal, are accommodated.
  14. Cultural Sensitivity: Train staff to be culturally sensitive, aware of Chinese customs, and capable of delivering an exceptional customer experience.
  15. Respect Chinese Festivals & Holidays: Organize events or special promotions during Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year or Golden Week to attract Chinese tourists.
  16. Targeted Marketing Campaigns: Develop targeted marketing campaigns in China through digital advertising, social media, and Baidu search engine optimization (SEO).
  17. Build relationships with Chinese travel agencies and provide them with incentives to promote your tours and packages. WIN WIN
  18. Offer Visa Services: Assist Chinese tourists with visa application processes by providing clear guidelines and support to streamline the visa application experience.
  19. Cultural Activities & Shopping: Arrange cultural exchange activities, such as local dance performances or workshops, to create memorable experiences for Chinese tourists.
  20. Quality Pictures and video : Highlight your best photo ans video

Remember, attracting Chinese tourists requires cultural understanding, effective marketing strategies,

cultural understanding + effective marketing strategies

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