South African Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) have kicked off the first leg of their Global Roadshow in Zurich in a bid to boost tourist arrivals to South Africa.

The South African delegation, made up of public-sector tourism leaders, met with key travel partners in Zurich on August 27 to gain insight into how tourists from Switzerland perceive South Africa and how they determine their choice of destination.

South African Tourism Acting CEO, Sthembiso Dlamini, believes that packaging the country’s story in a way that would make it sellable to the world should be the country’s top priority. “We have to rethink how we communicate and what we communicate to the world out there. This would also require investment from both the private sector and government.”

She also points out a number of factors that need to be addressed to ensure European tourists flock to South Africa. These are pricing issues, geographic spread, product availability and negative media reports. Dlamini further says that South Africa has to leverage off the repeat business coming from Europe. “These are the people who will assist us with word of mouth, geographic spread and endorse our destination.”

Understanding tourist needs

TBCSA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, believes the engagement will go a long way in helping both the South African tourism industry and tour operators in Switzerland understand each other’s perspectives. “There are a lot of takeaways in terms of how we are to approach the market. That is the central part of this trip: To understand what the tourists are looking for.”

Marcel Gehring, CEO of Swiss tour operator, Knecht Reisen, says he was pleased at how South Africa’s public and private sectors are working together to solve numerous issues. “There is a lot of work already being done in South Africa and it gives us security that government and private sectors are working together – even more than they have in the past – on the right topics to get South Africa going.”

Gehring says carbon neutrality and sustainability are high on a Swiss tourist’s agenda and South Africa would be wise to promote itself with these issues at the top on its messaging.

TBCSA board member and CEO of Satsa, David Frost, says the European tourist trade have a lot of confidence in selling South Africa. “They reiterated their support for the destination. The big challenge is to convert the first-timers. The insights we got and the issues they raised mean we can sharpen our pencils going back and mobilise resources to actually grow the market.”

Following the successful Switzerland engagement, the delegation will visit Austria next, meeting with key travel partners in Vienna.