Africa has seemingly set its sights on China, however the tourism industry is yet to reap the full benefits of this growing outbound market due to a number of barriers.
According to statistics from the China National Tourism Administration, 131 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas in 2017, an increase of 7% compared with the previous year.
According to Kwakye Donkor, CEO of Africa Tourism Partners, the potential is there, however there are a number of contributing factors hindering Africa’s number of Chinese tourists.
eVisas and immigration
Suzanne Benadie, Sales Director at Tourvest DMC, says issues include problems about obtaining visas for Chinese travellers, immigration issues, and that obtaining the correct visas and immigration documentation is still a rigorous process, as it is time-consuming and expensive.
Donkor concurs, saying there is a problem with ‘policy leadership’, as he believes policy-makers should relook possible ways of improving the issue around visas for the Chinese market. “The level of visa openness has to improve in order to make it easier for Chinese tourists. One could relook e-visas, which have become the norm in the industry, particularly in developed countries.”
Another barrier is that southern and East Africa do not have the right people in place with the capacity to go into the market place and engage with the relevant outbound tour operators in China, as well as authorities. These individuals need to work with the relevant Chinese organisations to ensure Africa starts to gain the traction needed to increase Chinese numbers, according to Donkor.
Thirdly, understanding the technology platforms used by Chinese is key to growing this market according to Donkor, as they do not have access to Google. “A lot of our platforms don’t speak to the Chinese audience.”
The Chinese market is advanced in terms of technology, as they use it for almost everything, says Donkor, from travel to buying and selling, to trade and investment. “I think a lot of African countries still don’t understand what it needs to get on to the appropriate Chinese platforms to be able to reach the Chinese outbound tour operators, as well as the traveller.”
Investment and relationships
The final point made by Donkor was that of investment and relationships, as he says the Chinese operators value working relationships.
According to Lindi Mthethwa, Group Sales Director at BON Hotels, trust is of paramount importance – building a relationship with travel suppliers. “African suppliers need to be consistent – have the same person dealing with a traveller, meet with them, and build a personal relationship. These travellers – Japanese and Korean as well – are extremely loyal to the supplier then, especially when they are happy with the service and itineraries recommended.” Donkor continues: “I believe there has to be proper investment if we are really serious about tapping into this market. We have to invest in the market, conducting roadshows, identifying the right outbound operators and work with them on an annual basis, not just once-off. We must treat it as continuous investment and continuous visibility, because out of sight, out of mind. We are competing against the rest of the world for that particular share of the market, so if we do not take it seriously, or make it a priority market, we will definitely face the consequences,” says Donkor.
ATP’s role is to work with partners, such as the organisers of the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market (COTTM) and other appropriate partners to make a contribution in creating visibility for Africa and its tourism stakeholders, says Donkor.
Therefore, ATP, in collaboration with Global Connection Red Star Travel, is inviting members of the trade to participate in its first China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market (COTTM) and a three cities roadshow from April 10 to 17.
The three cities roadshow will cover business-to-business workshops in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing, all of which are among the top 20 outbound travel departure cities in China.