As it ramps up its operations post-COVID, Cathay Pacific is seeing a steady pick-up in demand for flights from Hong Kong to South Africa, with the majority of passengers originating from mainland China.
After a three-year hiatus, the airline resumed the direct service between Hong Kong and Johannesburg on August 2, operating its Airbus A350-900. The 13-hour flight departs Hong Kong at 12h40 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The return flight departs Johannesburg at 11h20 on the same days.
Rakesh Raicar, Cathay Pacific’s Regional GM for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, told Tourism Update regional connectivity between HKG and cities in mainland China was driving the pick-up of the inbound route.
“Prior to COVID the Chinese mainland was a big market for us, accounting for between 50% and 60% of passengers. You can see that slowly picking up now again. The slower growth in demand is understandable, considering that China and Hong Kong opened up for outbound travel much later than the rest of the world,” said Raicar.
He said current passenger numbers largely comprised expats travelling between the two destinations, VFR travellers and leisure tourists, followed by corporate travellers.
“We constantly monitor our markets for demand and South Africa is showing good promise. We would be keen to add more flights, and the resumption of a direct Cape Town flight could be on the cards should demand grow. Right now, we’re still very much ramping up,” said Raicar, pointing out that Cathay Pacific’s global number of flights was at 50% of pre-COVID, reaching 70% by the end of the year.
He said the outbound market was booming, with flights from JNB to HKG fully booked.
“We are thrilled to be flying South African skies again, bringing the ease and convenience of a non-stop connection to Hong Kong back to South African customers, not to mention reopening travel into the rest of Asia’s many exotic destinations for business and leisure customers.”
SA Tourism has said that South Africa is looking to ramp up capacity from China to far exceed the numbers achieved prior to the pandemic.
“China is one of the most promising source markets for South Africa, and before the pandemic we welcomed almost 100 000 Chinese tourists. Looking at our projections, we know that it is possible to push this number to one million by 2030,” said SA Tourism Acting CEO, Nomasonto Ndlovu.
Ndlovu said if this target was reached, the country would receive over R100 billion (€5bn) in Chinese tourist spend over a period of five years.
“The impact on the economy of South Africa would be significant and very sustainable.”