‘Indian tourists to S. Africa could soar with direct flights’

New Delhi: Eyeing a larger share of Indian travellers, South Africa’s tourism marketing promotion council said it expects that travel could jump manifold if direct flights from India are introduced.

Having hosted around 100,000 Indian tourists annually before the pandemic, South African Tourism anticipates a large resurgence in Indian travellers due to a new e-visa pilot programme.

Neliswa Nkani, hub head – MEISA, South African Tourism, said the introduction of a direct flight by Air India could boost tourism, potentially transforming how Indians travel to South Africa.

Nearly 100,000 Indians travelled to South Africa every year before the pandemic began in 2019. Arrivals in 2023 between January and June have already touched 41,668. This, she said, was an 82% growth compared to same period last year. South Africa could be on track to getting its entire India business back before the end of FY24.

“We had some hiccups in terms of visas and staffing during the pandemic. While we still haven’t fully rolled out e-visas yet, we have piloted it and we are receiving applications through that. While most Indians prefer to travel in groups with stamped visas. But we are educating travel operators here that e-visas are an option and they are processed in 5-7 days, unlike some of the European countries where travellers have to wait for many months,” she said.

Of this, the entire business travel segment from India stands at 23%, up from 16% in the first quarter of FY22.

Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions account for about 29% of the travellers.

This has also grown 16% over the same quarter the year prior. Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are the top three markets from India.

Flight capacity out of China is still restrained and that has meant that around the world, tourism boards have been vying for the attention of Indian travellers with schemes and promotions.

Indians account for a large chunk of travellers.

The Indian ministry of tourism citing data from the Bureau of Immigration said that about 8.5 million Indians travelled abroad in 2022, 98% of them by air.

This figure stood at 23 million in pre-covid 2018.

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