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Three Things South Africa Needs To Improve To Be China-Ready

South Africa has been boosted by the recent deal its tourism department inked with Tencent, a tech giant from China. However, there will be a lot more work to do before the sector can attract oriental travellers again.

South Africa inks deal with Tencent: What we know about it

On Tuesday, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane witnessed the signing of a strategic cooperation agreement between South Africa Tourism and Tencent — a company that owns the popular platform in China called WeChat.

“Tencent, through its popular platform WeChat, will assist us to access multiple segments of the Chinese travel market… Tencent platforms will also enrich the Chinese travellers’ experience when they travel to South Africa,” a gleeful Kubayi-Ngubane said.

While details of the lucrative deal have yet to be rolled out, it is believed that the agreement is expected to assist Mzansi to gain direct access to millions of potential Chinese travellers to market the country as a destination of choice.

One of the crucial aspects of this deal is the transformation of how Chinese travellers will perform transactions in South Africa. Well, that’s where Tencent comes in. It is believed that the giant internet corporation will advise SA Tourism on how Mzansi can accelerate the implementation of WeChat Pay for Chinese travellers visiting the country.

Here’s why Chinese travellers are not choosing Mzansi as a tourist destination

This should, if anything, go a long way in positively affecting the trajectory of Chinese travellers coming into South Africa. According to tourism figures published by Statistics South Africa, the influx of Chinese travellers has been on a steady decline since 2016.

This year alone — between January and August — the country has seen 61 376 Chinese travellers enter our borders. While there is yet another quarter to account for, the figures currently sit 35 539 lower than the total oriental visitors we saw in 2018.

Three things SA needs to improve to be China-ready

The tourism market did receive the news of the lucrative deal well, though, according to Gillian Saunders, an independent tourism adviser, who was quoted in Tourism Update.

Saunders admitted that the deal was, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

“China is the biggest outbound market in the world, growing faster than most, and they are the big spenders,” she said.

However, a lot of groundwork needs to be done before SA Tourism can really benefit from attracting the attention of Chinese travellers.

Saunders noted that, before South Africa can be China-ready, there are a few things that need to be ticked off the checklist, the three most important being:

Rolling out mobile paying systems

While South Africa enjoys a number of different — and safe — payment systems, the country has yet to catch up with the advanced world in utilising mobile apps for transactions.

The SA-Tencent deal will most likely allow Chinese travellers to use WeChat Pay for quick, safe and secure transactions. However, there will be a lot of red-tape to get through before the local markets welcome this new method.

Air connectivity and quick visa turnaround times

The Department of Home Affairs is working tirelessly to adjust its visa rules for a number of countries, in a bid to improve South Africa’s influx of tourists.

According to Saunders, China’s visa rules and turnaround times for approval need to be prioritised. Essentially, she added, we are in competition with countries like Australia who, for a number of years, have been rolling out China-ready strategies in a bid to increase traffic from that spending market.

“There should be a two-day turnaround when it comes to visas, as this is what Australia commits to when issuing visas to Chinese visitors,” she said.

Safety and security

This is one of the most critical issues that affect our standing with international travellers.

Crime is on the increase and while it is generally understood that a considerable investment of time and resources is needed to address the issue, there are short-term measures that can be put in place to assure travellers that South Africa is headed in the right direction, with regards to reducing crime.

At the root of it, is using the WeChat platform to reassure Chines travellers of the government’s efforts in addressing the scourge of crime.

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Written by Mathew

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