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SA experiences lacklustre season for Indian arrivals

Source: Tourism Update, 06/10/2017

South African visa efficiency major factor contributing to decline in Indian arrivals. This year, SA saw a lacklustre season for Indian arrivals " surprising everyone after last year’s growth. Industry specialists share the factors that have resulted in this dip in the market. Johan Groenewald, MD of Royal African Discoveries, says there are a number of reasons why Indian arrivals are down. “The first thing we have to take into consideration is that 2016 was an exceptional year, the growth was remarkable, and so we shouldn’t expect to see the same numbers as last year. “On the other hand, the increase we have seen in European arrivals, during what is usually considered the low season, could be impacting on the Indian market. European travellers are booking flights on Middle Eastern carriers and taking the seats that are usually open to Indian travellers. The European market is also more inclined to book in advance, while the Indian market tends to book last minute. This could mean that when the Indian market got around to booking travel to SA they either found that they couldn’t get flights, or the seats that were available were too expensive.” He adds that the European market has shown increased interest in SA because they have recently become fearful of travelling to competing destinations, such as Turkey. Conversely, as a result of a decrease in European bookings, Turkey was able to market more aggressively to Indian travellers, offering lower rates on both flights and packages. “We are competing with a variety of destinations when it comes to the Indian market. Those destinations have become more aggressive in their marketing and so we aren’t the ‘flavour of the month’ with Indian travellers any more. Turkey is one such example, as is Bali which has just added a direct flight route to India,” says Groenewald. He suggests that South Africa should improve its marketing aimed at Indian travellers, starting with visa regulations. “Other competing destinations offer online visas, visas on arrival, or guarantee that visas will be issued within 48 hours. South Africa is becoming uncompetitive because of our visa regulations. We claim to issue visas within five days but we know that often there is a delay or a client doesn’t get their visa in time. India is a ‘last-minute market’ we need to make it easier for them to travel.” Vikram Samant, MD of Quantum Travels, agrees. “The travel trade has lost complete faith in the South African consulate. Most of the reputable agents have kept South Africa on the back burner, never really encouraging their clients to opt for South Africa because, at the end of the day, when the consulate doesn’t deliver, it’s the travel agent who deals with the client’s reproach. “There have been several instances where the Indian traveller, and the travel agent, have lost a small fortune because of the visa delays. The reputation of the South African consulate is so bad that our clients refuse to provide us with a booking deposit until the visas are processed, which means we take all of the risk and the stress " and it’s not worth it at all. One can never depend on the South African visas being processed on time, which I feel is one of the major factors contributing to South Africa’s decline in Indian arrivals.” He adds: “If SA wants to improve Indian arrivals, the most important thing is to ensure that the consulate regains the confidence of the Indian travel agents. We can sway a traveller’s decision. We will be more than happy if we were simply advised that the visas will be granted in 30 days, for instance. If we then got the visa on the 30th day, that would be fair enough. The real problem is that the consulate never keeps to any of the commitments it makes.”


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