South Africa is targeting five lakh Indian visitors by 2020 as the rainbow nation gives a big push to make the Asian country its biggest tourism source market through new programmes and aggressive marketing.
"We have substantially increased our marketing spend in India over the years to promote tourism. We are targeting India, which is globally the seventh source market for our country, to become the biggest by 2020, by when we are expecting five lakh travellers," South African Tourism Country Head Hanneli Slabber told PTI here today.
In 2013, 1,12,672 Indian tourists visited the country located on the southern tip of African continent, while between January-March 2014, only 24,556 travelled there.
South Africa's top source market is the UK followed by the US and Germany, she said.
Last year, she said, there were several challenges like problems in issuing visas due to manpower issue and the Ebola outbreak (in West African countries, but no case was reported from South Africa), which hit tourist arrivals.
"In 2014, we saw a dip in tourist arrivals from India due to problem in visa issuance, which was due to manpower issues. Since then we have taken care of the problem. But the Ebola outbreak was a major setback as most people consider Africa as a country and not a continent.
"However, we feel that Indian market reacts fast and recovers fast as well. Therefore, we are expecting a double digit growth this year (about 12 per cent)," she added.
South African Tourism today launched a mega travel- trade engagement initiative here, which will be extended to three other cities - Ahmadabad, Bengaluru and New Delhi.
The national tourism agency is also planning 'Learn South Africa' - a training programme for Indian travel agents in 19 cities, including Lucknow and Patna, this year to educate them on the country's offerings, Slabber said.
"Through the programme we are planning to tap the huge potential offered by tier II and III cities."
The country, which caters to almost every tourism segment - from adventure to wildlife - is mainly focusing on travellers in the age group 25-45 years, be it families, couples or singles, she said.
"We are very strong on adventure and offer products for all age groups, so age is not really a hindrance to enjoy in South Africa," she explained.
Besides leisure, meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) segment enjoys good response from India, she said.