According to the tourism minister of South Africa, the number of Indian tourists travelling to South Africa increased by over 122% between 2005 and 2010. Of these, a large chunk of visits were incentive-driven.
South African Tourism has recognized India as an important source market for MICE tourism and is going all out to woo them. For the first time, South African Tourism will be hosting a MICE road show in India to be held in August 2012. This is in addition to the regular road-shows that South Africa conducts.
In this interview with Sahim Salim, Hanneli Slabber, country head, India, South African tourism tells India Tourism Review about tourism products that South Africa can offer Indian MICE tourists.
What are the challenges you face in tapping the MICE segment of the Indian outbound travel industry? Travel experts say the section is fragmented. What has been your strategy to overcome this?
It is true the segment is fragmented and given the size of the country, reaching out to this fragmented segment is a task in itself. But having said that, we are constantly reinventing our programs to maximize our reach. The Learn SA program that we undertake with the Indian market will travel to around 30 cities this year. The program educates front end agents on SA, the destination and how better they could sell it. The program is quite engaging and gives agents the confidence to recommend the destination as well as chalk interesting itineraries customized to a customers needs.
How successful has your advertising campaign 'Chalo South Africa' been? Can you share some details about the campaign and the response it has generated?
The outdoor campaign was undertaken across 21 cities on more than 180+ sites in India and the response we received was quite overwhelming. Our recent arrival figures testify the success of our outreach programs. Our trade partners, who are our ears on the ground, saw an increase in the number of enquiries from their customers, the interest had multiplied and so did the numbers. Our office itself received a lot of walk –in queries. The innovations were much talked about and made the desired impact.
What are the major concerns/demands of corporate houses for organizing a MICE trip to South Africa?
South Africa is a new and exciting destination for the Indian MICE travellers. Corporates are always trying to ensure maximum mileage for their money. We are very lucky in that South Africa offers supreme value for money, and corporates are always pleasantly surprise with how much they can get for their money.
Once corporates have shortlisted destinations, their next concern is normally the logistical issues. South Africa has shown her abilities on hosting big ticket events - from conferences like the World Conference on Sustainable Development to the FIFA 2010 World Cup. With the increase in interest from the Indian corporates, we are continually assisting new South African entrants into the market with our two roadshows during the year. The more familiar Indian corporates become with South Africa, the more specialist enquiries we receive and the more new South African entrants enter the market. We are confident that we have the ground support with the logistical and technical know-how to deal with any Indian corporate enquiries.
Once corporates have dealt with logistical issues such as venues, functions, etc. they are always keen to explore the destination. What counts in South Africa's favour is that the country boasts of more than 60,000 registered tourism products. This means that where-ever in South Africa corporates decide to host their MICE groups, there are plenty of activities for groups to undertake in the immediate area. In fact, there is an abundance of activities that in most cases the delegates’ book a private holiday to come back to the same area to partake in the activities they did not have time for on their MICE visit.
How important is the Indian travel trade fraternity for South African tourism to tap the MICE segment? What are the kinds of offers/promotions/events that you have undertaken to reach out to them?
The Indian travel fraternity is very important to the success of South African Tourism for this market. We value their continuous contribution to the destination. Every year we call out to the Indian agents to submit innovative proposals on promoting the destination in the partnership with us. Based on various parameters we shortlist and engage with these travel firms to come-up with interesting campaigns to enthuse our audiences. In the past , we have partnered with companies such as Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, Ezeego1, Weldon, Beacon Holidays amongst others for such campaigns.
What other offers/promotions/events do you have planned for the Indian travel trade fraternity to further tap the segment?
We are in the process of evaluating the proposals received for our partnership call and accordingly finalize companies that we would like to work with this year. To tap the MICE segment specifically, we are planning a MICE roadshow which is still in the planning stage and premature to talk about.