South Africa has strengthened its relations with its diplomatic missions in East Africa, with a particular focus on stimulating tourism between the two regions.
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, was in Kenya last week for the combined East Africa Regional Tourism Expo and Magical Kenya Tourism Expo. Apart from leading a contingent of exhibitors from South Africa, Mahlalela met with various diplomatic missions in the region to discuss tourism collaborations.
“In 2021 and 2022, as government, we started engaging with the diplomatic communities in Africa, Middle East, Asia and American regions with the aim of sharing information and discussing the challenges as well as the interventions for the country to regain its position as the destination of choice for the travellers from all corners of the world,” said Mahlalela.
“Our focus is to discuss and share information, experiences and opportunities that will drive the interest of the travellers from the continent particularly from the East African market to visit South Africa,” he added.
The outreach programme served as a platform to exchange ideas and discuss the challenges facing the tourism sector.
“The South African diplomatic missions are critical players in marketing and branding our country in order to reinvigorate the South African brand for investment attraction, export marketing and tourism promotion globally,” said Mahlalela.
He stressed that South Africa had a widespread infrastructure for destination marketing, through South African Tourism, Brand South Africa, South African National Parks, Airports Company South Africa and the extensive network of diplomatic missions in the East Africa Community.
“The same infrastructure can be utilised for our investment promotion efforts. Companies that are planning to invest in South Africa and decide to set up their headquarters in South Africa have access to all these services and infrastructure, which would give them a competitive advantage.”
He added that the department had seen a need to review and prioritise East Africa’s regional tourism markets.
“Though the top-ten source markets in Africa are dominated by SADC countries, Kenya is amongst those top-ten source markets for the period January-December 2023 compared with January-December 2022,” said Mahlalela.
He added that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation had a critical role to play in assisting to overcome challenges to promoting tourism.
“The diplomatic support is required in providing an organised seamless service and specific effort to align our products and experiences in such a way that it is easily accessible to the East African market. This is possible because South Africa has the majority of products and experiences required that are appealing to the travellers in Africa.”
Mahlalela said various initiatives implemented by the department and SA Tourism, including capacity building and enhancing tourist safety, were top of the agenda going into 2024.