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May 12th, 2014 by

imgp4639 - SA Tourism 'Did Something Right' - CEO Cape Town – The South African tourism industry must have done something right, because it continues to grow, Thulani Nzima, CEO of SA Tourism (SAT), told Fin24. He credits the country’s ability to diversify its tourism offering to include experiences relating to heritage, culture, lifestyle and even wine tourism. “People are now traveling to find authentic tourism experiences. South Africans are warm and friendly people and tourists find it easy to talk to them,” said Nzima. “In the past tourists came to our townships and sat in a bus. Today they immerse themselves in the environment and want to go where locals are going.” He also credits SAT’s aggressive, creative and holistic marketing approach for the industry’s success. “SA also benefited from the legacy of the Soccer World Cup exposure, which was far beyond any marketing money we could have paid,” said Nzima.

“On top of that SA offers value for money beyond the impact of mere currency fluctuations. Tourists always feel it was worth the money they had to spend.” Challenges At the same time the weaker rand brings a challenge for SAT, because its marketing money is spent in stronger currencies. In this way it has, for instance, lost 25% of its marketing budget in terms of pounds. Another challenge for the SA tourism industry is not to get caught up in what Nzima refers to as “clutter”. “South Africa must stand for something specific in the mind of the customer, the tourist. For instance, safari destination. In the different markets we operate in SAT has targeted its messages,” said Nzima. Opportunities To him it is important for South Africans also to travel in their own country and enjoy the benefits the tourism industry brings.

“The culture of tourism in SA is at a low level. Domestic tourism is 72% of our tourism industry, while it is 89% in China,” he said. “We need South Africans to travel, because during hard times you can rely on your local tourism market. It adds to job creation and the economy.” Another opportunity SAT is exploring is tourism attractions inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela. “We want to create a form of pilgrimage around it and have a list of 18 different Madiba-tourist attractions,” said Nzima.

This article first appeared on Fin24: