“The market responds almost as herds do on migration when they have to cross a river – as soon as one jumps, the rest easily follow, feeling assured.” This is how David Dai, Ker & Downey Africa’s Regional Director of Sales and Marketing, China and Hong Kong, explains the nature, potential, and power of the Chinese outbound market.
In 2019, the nearly 100 000 Chinese tourists that visited South Africa contributed about US$140 million to the economy. And when China’s doors to travel reopened in early February of this year, Africa was ready to re-ignite a strong relationship.
South Africa only attracted a small percentage of the 155 million Chinese tourists who travelled outside the country before the pandemic, and several challenges need to be resolved to lure the market.
“China remains a valuable market for South Africa and Africa as a whole, and while strides are being made to make it easier for travellers to enjoy the wild wonders of the continent, the market is still developing,” says Dai.
“Currently, the lack of direct flights and the cost, with only business or higher economy flights available, pose both a financial and time constraint on travellers from China to Africa.”
Encouragingly, Cathay Pacific are planning to launch a new daily direct route between Hong Kong and Johannesburg in August.
What are Chinese luxury travellers looking for?
Africa’s captivating offering of safari and wild game-viewing remains the biggest drawcard for Chinese and Mandarin-speaking visitors.
That said, most safaris must fit into a seven- to 12-day window, with an eight-day trip being the preferred number, and only about four to five days maximum spent enjoying the wildlife. The market prefers to switch between lodges every two to three days.
“The high-end Chinese traveller, as much as they appreciate the beauty and magnificence of the wild, also requires superior luxury — whether in the form of heated pools, spa treatments, or fine dining and culinary exploits,” Dai points out.
Expanding to serve the market
Ker & Downey Africa remained committed to the Chinese market throughout the pandemic, and through its Shanghai office the company is seeking new horizons to explore.
“The staff at Ker & Downey Africa is expanding, and this includes the team tasked with better serving this significant market,” Dai says.
Dai is currently on a tour of Africa with a group of travel agents to showcase the continent’s offerings.
“Many East Asian travellers will continue to seek out the mystery and beauty of Africa due to the natural beauty and abundance of wildlife experiences that are only available in particular in South and East Africa,” Dai concludes.