China and South Africa have pledged mutual support to grow tourism between the two countries by deepening their co-operation through the high-level Comprehensive Strategic Partnership from the SA-China Co-operation Agreement, signed 23 years ago.
This included enhancing skills development and ensuring further ease of travel between SA and China, said Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, delivering the keynote address at the International Forum – South Africa-China Tourism Cooperation, today (August 4).
The International Forum is a collaboration between the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute, the Centre for Africa-China Studies, and the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg.
“China has always been an important global source market for the tourism of South Africa and is a strategic trade partner to South Africa. This symbiotic relationship will definitively drive recovery in the sector,” said Mahlalela, pointing out that pre-COVID-19, China remained the leading growth market for South Africa's tourism industry.
China saw a 38% year-on-year growth of visitors to SA in 2019, positioning is as the country’s number-one inbound source market in that year.
According to Mahlalela, South Africa has prioritised skills development in the tourism and hospitality subsectors. “We are proud of the realisation of the commitments made to assist South Africa through institutions in China.
“The intention is to place the successful students in various vocational training and emphasis is placed in the fields of hotel reception, guiding and cuisine for the development of a sustainable and reliable skills pipeline,” explained Mahlalela.
He added that some of those skills aimed to ensure that South Africa’s tourism sector was well positioned to cater for increasing Chinese tourist arrivals.
The skills development programme includes:
- Specialisation courses on Chinese traditional cuisine;
- Tourist guide and front-line staff training in Mandarin to equip them to better service the market; and
- Training or upskilling of new entrants on adventure guiding.
Improving ease of travel
“The issue of improving travel freedom through visa waivers for ordinary passport holders has topped the agenda in various bilateral engagements between the two countries to increase tourism and people-to-people exchanges,” said Mahlalela.
He said South Africa and China had created a “historic milestone” in improving the visa regime between the two countries through the signing of the Visa Requirements Simplification Agreement during the State Visit in July 2018.
Consequently, South Africa established 11 visa facilitation centres across China in the following cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xian, Shenyang, Wuhan, Jinan, Hangzhou, Chongqing and Kunming.
“This new measure is extended to business visitors holding diplomatic, official/services and ordinary passports, who apply for visas to visit South Africa for short-term business purposes, and is valid for ten years,” said Mahlalela.