An agreement between massive Spanish business organisation (CEOE) and South African Tourism has been signed to host a tourism roadshow in Spain later this year in an effort to grow tourism and increase Spanish investment in tourism infrastructure in South Africa.

“As part of the roadshow, CEOE and South African Tourism will hold an investment seminar to highlight opportunities in South Africa for Spanish businesses,” said Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela.

Speaking to Tourism Update today (Friday) from the side lines of the global trade fair, FITUR – which is being held in Madrid from January 22 to January 26 – he pointed out that South Africa’s cultural heritage and diverse wildlife held particular appeal to the Spanish market.

According to Mahlalela, tourism numbers to South Africa from Spain have grown from 15 000 in 2015 to a projected 44 000 expected to visit this year – but this is a drop in the ocean compared with the six million Spanish international travellers each year.

He highlighted that, to tap into the huge market potential, tourism suppliers needed to move beyond five-star luxury tours and showcase the more affordable tour package options with three- and four-star accommodation options. “Even bed and breakfast and self-catering options should be considered for packages.”

Furthermore, added Mahlalela, currently only two major South African experiences/destinations are being flagged in Spain and the rest of Europe – Kruger National Park and the private lodges, and Cape Town.

“We have so much more to offer and we, as the ministry, have agreed to work with South African Tourism’s country hubs, to meet with all the destination marketing companies to market all nine provinces.”

The Minister also lamented the fact that, of the 13 or so South African exhibitors at FITUR this week, the majority were from the Western Cape with a few from KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.

In terms of air access, Mahlalela said there were several flights to other parts of Europe from South Africa, but there was no direct flight to Spain. “However, once the tourism numbers increase, airlines will be more inclined to see the economic viability of introducing a direct flight.”