Tourism from India to South Africa increased by 65%, but still below pre-pandemic levels

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 25: Tourism from India to South Africa increased by 65 per cent year-on-year in 2023, but is still below pre-pandemic levels, a senior minister has said.

“South Africa’s tourism recovery is well underway and we are especially seeing significant growth in arrivals from BRICS nations. For the first eight months of 2023, South Africa saw 5.5 million arrivals. This was a 63.4 per cent increase from the same period in 2022,” Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille said in Cape Town on Tuesday as she hosted a BRICS Tourism Ministers meeting.

Citing figures from the BRICS nations comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, she said Russia has the highest percentage increase of tourists in 2023.

China grew by 247% and India by 65%. Brazil had the lowest increase of just 41%, the minister said.

“Arrivals from Brazil, India and China for the first eight months of 2023 are still below 2019 levels but we are confident that with the direct flights, we will see recovery from these key source markets in the coming months,” De Lille said.

“The BRICS Tourism Ministers’ Meeting for 2023 provided an opportunity for exchange of information and experiences as well as deepen cooperation among BRICS Members to reach consensus on key policy priorities for a balanced tourism recovery,” the minister said.

She highlighted the urgency that BRICS leaders had emphasised at the Summit of the need for the tourism sector’s recovery and the importance of increasing intra-BRICS tourism for a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive tourism sector.

The Indian delegation at the BRICS Tourism Ministers meeting was led by Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Rakesh Kumar Verma. Also attending were Brazilian Vice Minister of Tourism Ana Carla Lopes, China’s Vice Minister of Culture and Tourism Lu Yingchuan and the Director General from the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Nikita Kondratev.

“Our goal as the hosts of the BRICS Tourism Ministers meeting was to map the way forward on clear actions we need to take as partners to grow inclusive tourism between our countries…We need to work harder to grow tourism through new and innovative travel packages, implement joint marketing strategies and address obstacles that stand in the way of this growth,” De Lille said.

The minister also called for speeding up the issue of direct flights and easier visa regimes.

Indian business leaders in particular have in recent years repeatedly highlighted the difficulty of access to South Africa after direct flights were discontinued a few years ago. Indian diplomats in South Africa and the South African government have promised to look into the matter.

“This year has already seen great success with direct flights returning from Air China; the return of the direct flight from Brazil’s LATAM airlines and SAA’s direct flight between Cape Town and Brazil and Johannesburg and Brazil, taking off in the coming weeks,” De Lille said, but made no reference to the call for direct flights between South Africa and India to be resumed.

“In terms of the VISA regime, we are happy to report that visitors from Brazil and Russia are listed as visa exempt countries meaning these travellers do not require a visa to enter South Africa for a period of up to 90 days. China and India are part of the first 34 countries on South Africa’s e-visa system,” she said.

The minister detailed a number of plans to continue marketing and promotion efforts in BRICS countries to showcase the diverse and unique attractions of South Africa, such as its conferencing and event hosting capabilities, wildlife, culture, scenery and adventure activities.

Other plans include improving safety and security measures in South Africa to ensure the protection and well-being of visitors from BRICS countries and beyond. (PTI)