With China having made significant investments into Africa, there has been an increase in Chinese business travellers to the continent. With this, the tourism industry should look to new, innovative ways to captilise on this trend, turning business travel into leisure tourism.

SAA CEO, Vuyani Jarana told CNN that Asia Pacific is important, especially for SAA, if one looks at the trade relationships which are growing significantly, between South Africa and China.

Kwakye Donkor, CEO of Africa Tourism Partners (ATP), says: “There has been huge business travel into Africa, which a lot of us in the industry have been trying to tap into.”

The reason for this, according to Donkor, is due to the number of Chinese companies now operating in Africa, therefore automatically lending itself to business travel, from meetings to conferences, to individual investors scouting for opportunities.

This was emphasised by Jarana, who told CNN: “We see growth; we see more Chinese businesses on the continent.”

However, despite the increase in Chinese business travel to Africa, Donkor says: “What we haven’t tapped into is converting that into things like incentive travel, where African countries could host groups of Chinese travellers, conducting pre and post tours.”

12% of Chinese business travellers are repeat travellers, therefore hosting pre or post-conference tours encourage this segment of the market to return to a destination, bringing along their friends, families or group tours, if left with a lasting impression.

Chinese group-tours travel is based on price and bucket list experiences, as they want to see and experience as much as possible in one trip, says Suzanne Benadie, Sales Director at Tourvest DMC.

Lindi Mthethwa, Group Sales Director of BON Hotels, says that Chinese business travellers also look for rewards and additional benefits. She mentions that word of mouth is important to the Chinese traveller.

Besides Africa lending itself to incentive travel for the Chinese market, Donkor says that having opinion leaders, such as Jack Ma, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group, who are great brand ambassadors for Africa, are important. “Opportunities such as these we cannot lose out on; Ma visiting Rwanda and South Africa was an endorsement of the African brand, and we believe that endorsements such as these will also help us change the narrative.”

Donkor believes it is imperative that tourism boards across southern and East Africa, as well as provincial tourism players, make a dedicated effort to invest into the Chinese market, investing appropriately, ensuring they have the right people to drive marketing programmes – however initiatives should be on-going, not just once off.

According to Mthethwa, African suppliers need to be active in this space, having constant interaction with travellers.

“The opportunities are there, we are just not tapping into them the way we should be,” concludes Donkor.