To boost tourist inflows from India, the South African government is considering a proposal to clear tourist visa application in less than five days.
As of now, it is taking five working days to complete the checks and balances to grant tourist travel visa for Indian applicants.
"We have been communicated a fortnight ago by the home department they were finalising a plan to complete all processes involved in granting tourist visa within five days," said South Africa Tourism country head Hanneli Slabber here today.
The move is part of the South African government steps to kickstart the tourism sector, which was affected by the outbreak of deadly Ebola in central and western Africa. "We were hit badly by the Ebola outbreak last year. All of a sudden, most of the tourists had postponed their travel plans to the country. Through cross border campaigns, we are trying to carry the message South Africa is the least affected by Ebola," she said.
According to her, tourist inflows to the country have remained "flattish" in the last one year and it is hoping it to revive in the next two years as "things have stabilised now". According to the latest figures of the Tourism Board, Indian tourists numbered 127,000 in 2013, and it is the seventh largest source market for the southern African nation. At present, the UK is the largest source market with annual arrivals at 500,000.
The country is also expanding its 'Learn South Africa' programme for travel and tourism agents in India to improve its market positioning. Covering 15 Indian cities, the programme targets capacity building of 1,600 agents this year. The initiative aims to attract first-time travelers from non-metros in India.
Slabber said with the sheer size of Indian market, they had planned to localise offerings by engaging with local tourism operators and trade partners in South Africa to make Indian cuisine widely available across various destinations and sale of merchandise preferred by Indians. By 2020, she said, India would be the top source market for tourist arrivals to the country.
However, according to her, air connectivity remains to be improved to draw greater inflows from India. With Mumbai-Seychelles-Johannesburg being the sole daily from India, and most other flights routed from West Asian destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Slabber said the country was in talks with the Indian domestic airlines to start direct flights from major metros. "We hope the 5/20 rule in place in India would be relaxed making way for private airlines to connect destinations in South Africa," she said.
According to South Africa Tourism, the meetings, incentive, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) remains to be the dominant segment for Indian tourists, followed by family travel and wedding travel. Indian tourists on an average spend 12-14 days travelling in the country.