Team South Africa made their way to Frankfurt, Germany, for the third and final leg of the Central European Roadshow on August 29.

They met with the German travel trade to gain insight into what makes their tourists choose South Africa as a travel destination and to find ways of luring more tourists to South Africa.

The roadshow forms part of the larger Global Roadshow that will take South African tourism leaders from the private and public sector to the UK, USA, India, China, Nigeria and Australia.

South African Tourism CEO, Sthembiso Dlamini, said it was encouraging to find that German trade partners were looking for a more inclusive tourism industry in South Africa. They called for black tour operators and smaller service providers that will expose the German tourist to more authentic South African experiences. “I thought that was a breath of fresh air because they are saying, ‘We have dealt with big names before and right now we want to actually engage with smaller operators’. Tourists are looking to live like locals. The travel trade believe that those are some of the opportunities that we will be able to give.”

Andre Thomas, Senior Product Manager of Africa at FTI Touristik, suggested that government needed to make tourism an attractive career for learners if they wished to increase black ownership in the industry. “Tourism needs to work together with the Department of Education and the other departments to make tourism sexy as a job creator, job provider and a choice of career for South Africans.”

Public-private partnerships provide boost of confidence

Ian Utermohlen, South African Tourism’s Regional General Manager for Europe, said trade partners at the event had gained a boost in confidence seeing the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and South African Tourism working together. “A lot of partners have said that it is fantastic to see a public and private partnership and dedication to fixing the barriers.”

He added that investing the time and effort to visit Europe and listen to the travel trade would bode well for the future of South Africa’s tourism sector. “If you look at the arrivals in Europe heading into June, we have slowly turned the corner. The forward bookings are looking great for the UK, Ireland and Germany. If we get that right, I really believe 2020 is going to be a great year for South Africa’s tourism coming from Europe.”

Call for more leniency at immigration

German travellers make up one of South Africa’s largest tourist markets, accounting for 343 229 of the 431 668 visitors from the Central European region in 2018.

Thomas spoke about immigration as one of the main issues that have deterred German tourists from choosing South Africa as a destination of choice. “Remove the unabridged birth certificate issue to make immigration for families easier.”

TBCSA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivenghwa also expressed his disapproval of the problems German tourists face at immigration. “There are many people here who are keen to come to South Africa. But lots of people are even being turned away at the airport, and there are stories of kids crying. We need tangible measures on the ground that address these issues, to give confidence to the market.”

South Africa is full of positive stories to tell

Ines Batz, Director of the Africa and Middle East region at DER Touristik, said telling positive stories about South Africa would help to create more awareness among German travellers. “There are a lot of good news stories about South Africa, especially when it comes to sustainability. There are lots of brilliant products and initiatives, which need to get out and be marketed and promoted.”