Friday 27 November 2015

SOUTH AFRICA: Weak Rand Impact Lifts SA Tourism

As a whole it looks like the South African tourism industry is picking up and now is the time for the industry to make full use of the opportunities the weaker rand brings, Danny Bryer, director of sales, marketing and revenue management for Protea Hotels, told Fin24 on Wednesday.

He said so far in 2015 it would seem that the rand devaluation has not brought the direct positive impact for the tourism industry as a whole one would have expected.

This was due to factors like the visa-related issues and the impact of the Ebola scare on bookings for long haul destinations, which are usually done further in advance.

"Therefore, the general pick-up in international tourism due to the weaker rand did not happen to the extent one would have expected," said Bryer.

"We have seen it picking up now, however, and our forecast over the short term until about February and March 2016 looks like the country is getting more tourists."

Apart from the rand value that international tourists can get, the relaxation of the visa restrictions are also bringing a more positive result, in his view.

"If 2016 looks like it would be a stable economic year and if there are fewer strikes in the country, it could be positive for inbound tourism," said Bryer.

He pointed out that the positive trend due to a weaker rand is not in relation to leisure tourists, but also regarding the film industry. This is due to the value for money the film industry can get in Cape Town, for instance, compared to its main competitors Prague and Miami.

Another sector benefiting from the weaker rand is the incentive industry, according to Bryer. It is also now cheaper to host conferences in SA.

"There could be lots of opportunities in 2016 across the whole spectrum of the tourism industry," he said. SA's main feeder markets are still Germany, the UK and the US, with India and China holding big opportunities. The growth in Chinese tourism to SA was, however, negatively impacted by the new visa regulations.

"SA is a brand destination. Look at your specific market - for instance seniors, baby boomers or new age travellers," advised Bryer.

"Understand your target market. Build on the opportunities created for the next three to four months by the combination of the weaker rand, the reduction in visa restrictions and the positive climate."

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