By Ajong Mbapndah L
2018 is already gearing up to be a banner year for South African Tourism as we celebrate Mandela’s Centenary – his legacy and the culture and history of the country, says Bangu Masisi, U.S. country manager for South African Tourism. With more than 345,000 in 2016,the United States was the second largest international source market for tourists to South Africa behind the United Kingdom, Bangu Masisi said, in a Q and A to discuss perspectives and her work with South African Tourism.
Can you start by introducing South African Tourism for us?
A: South African Tourism is the Destination Marketing Organization for South Africa responsible for the international promotion of South Africa as a preferred tourist destination. We are inspiring visitors from all over the world to travel to South Africa and discover its diverse offerings from the scenic beauty, magnificent outdoors and wildlife, sunny climate, cultural diversity, while delivering value for money.
How important is Tourism as a factor in the economy of South Africa?
Tourism in South Africa has created more than 700,000 jobs, representing 4.5% of South Africa’s total workforce. Tourism has been identified as a key sector with excellent potential for growth and the government aims to continue to increase tourism’s contribution. Tourism contributes 3% directly and 9% indirectly to boosting our GDP.
You head the Americas Division of South Africa Tourism, may we have an idea of numbers when it comes to American Tourists who visit South Africa?
The United States is the second largest international source market for tourists to South Africa, coming right behind the United Kingdom. In 2016, more than 345,000 Americans visited South Africa. As far as 2017, according to the latest figures from Statistics SA as of August 2017, the US continues to demonstrate positive growth throughout the year so far with arrivals from showing steady growth with an 8.4% year-to-date increase.
To those who have never been to South Africa, could you use this opportunity to make the case for your country as a tourism destination, what’s there to see, what should motivate more people to visit South Africa?
Our diverse culture of 11 official languages gives us the competitive edge of unique destination experience. South Africa offers a wide variety of experiences within close proximity, including wildlife safaris in 22 national parks, breathtaking scenery, vibrant and cosmopolitan cities boasting innovative art and culinary scenes, over 2.500 km coastline with Blue Flag beaches, inspiring heritage and cultural landmarks as well as unlimited adventure activities and holidays for any budget. South Africa’s friendly and welcoming people, combined with its diverse offerings and world-class infrastructure, allows the destination to cater for every tourism niche, from business, eco and cultural tourism through to wellness and active getaways.
For many other countries, people complain about lengthy visa procedures and even travel, how smooth is the VISA procedure?
American and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa. For passport holders from neighboring countries on the African continent, I would suggest contacting your local South African Consulate or Embassy for info on visa requirements. Here in the United States there are SA Consulates in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, with the SA Embassy located in Washington DC.
You have worked in Australia, in the Netherlands, and how challenging is it working in the USA now compared to other parts of the world you have served?
The great thing about the three countries is that consumer behavior and marketing strategies have been very different and cannot be compared.
The United States as a region is large and vast! My biggest challenge is being able to seize all the opportunities that are available as I see them almost daily. Another challenge that I never had in the previous countries is that most Americans still don’t have a clear picture of what South Africa offers as a destination. This in itself is an opportunity to educate the consumer, together with our trade partners, with compelling and interactive information in spaces and platforms they engage with. Social media has been our biggest drive to reach the relevant consumer that is already looking for a new long-haul destination that offers value for money experiences. Media plays a big part in our quest to market the destination as they become our “unofficial” ambassadors once they had an opportunity to visit our country and come back to share their experiences with diverse audiences.
People sometimes get nervous too about the cost, how affordable is a travel package or if someone had to safe up some money, any idea on what could be reasonable to get them a great trip?
Travel to South Africa is more affordable than most people think. We have a wonderful range of tourism products that are suitable for any budget. We post travel deals from our US tour operators on our website at southafrica.net/deals and would encourage you to have a look there for several value-for-money package options.
We end with a last word to those interested in visiting South Africa to savor what it offers.
Don’t miss your chance to come and experience #WowSouthAfrica for yourself. The best way to begin is with a safari experience – don’t miss out on the chance to get up close and personal with the BIG 5! While 2017 was a breakthrough year for South Africa as an emerging art destination with the high-profile opening of The Zeitz MoCAA – a new architectural gem which houses the world’s most impressive collection of contemporary African art – combined with the rise in immersive street-art tours in the heart of our cities, 2018 is already gearing up to be a banner year for South African Tourism as we celebrate Mandela’s Centenary – his legacy and the culture and history of the country.
*Visit www.southafrica.net for more information on Tourism in South Africa