Campaign India Team
Aug 02, 2013

‘We need less Indian tourists to earn what we do from larger European travellers’

Q&A with Hanneli Slabber, country manager, South African Tourism, on marketing the country to Indian tourists, the IPL peak, soccer World Cup and Bollywood assocations

‘We need less Indian tourists to earn what we do from larger European travellers’

South African Tourism organised an event to launch Jonty Rhodes’ book, ‘My Travel Escapades in South Africa’ in Mumbai on 1 August. Prior to the event, Campaign India caught up with Hanneli Slabber, country manager, South African Tourism, to learn more about marketing South Africa to Indian tourists.

What's been the growth of tourism the country has received from India over the past few years? Were events like the cricket world cup in 2003, the IPL in 2009 or the football world cup in 2010 traffic peaks?

In 2009, we saw the big jump during the IPL. We pushed our (Indian) arrivals from very low 40s, to 57,000. The year 2010 was quite a difficult one for us because we weren’t sure where it was going. We knew the IPL had given us marketing exposure but we also knew that the peak travel period out of India is June-July. This coincided with the Football World Cup. So for those two months we were taking rooms out of circulation. At that time, we thought of just holding on figures for 2010, but we grew that year too. We went up from 57,000 to 72,000. In 2011, we grew to 90,000. And in 2012, the number reached 1,06,000. The first quarter this year has seen a rise of 20 per cent. So, from a growth point of view, it’s been incredibly good for us and we’ve been very happy.

In South Africa, we divide our economy into pillars and tourism is an extremely important pillar - tourism is on the same level as mining and manufacturing. The 2003 World Cup wasn’t anywhere close to the numbers we received for the IPL in 2009. The IPL coming to South Africa was superb.

South Africans understood what the IPL was because the Indian fans came and explained it to us: you’ve to a pick a team, then a player, which has to be followed by buying a shirt which has to be worn for matches and once we’re at the stadium, make lots of noise!

It was funny, because then in 2010, when the FIFA World Cup happened, we had vuvuzelas organised to make all the noise. But a lot of the South African media kept writing that they wished there were more Indian football supporters.

Indians normally got to the stadiums first, they took to the vuvuzelas, learnt the dance and sang ‘Waka-Waka’ aloud. The rest of the world didn’t take to it and probably found it too loud.

Cricket again: India tour South Africa again towards the end of the year. What are the plans for this?

We are getting a huge amount of enquiries for this. It’s the normal man on the street who wants to find out how they can combineholidaying and seeing the matches. The interesting thing is that they’re not looking for hospitality seats - they want stand tickets. They want to sit with the South African locals and do the funny barbeque thing they’ve seen on TV. We’re going to assist the people who want match tickets. It’s always great for us when India tours South Africa. There’s already a lot of support for the team locally. South Africans love watching the Indians play and we’re even happier now that the BCCI came out and asked the South Africans to play more Test matches over ODIs.

We've seen tie-ups with Bollywood movies recently. How has that worked for the brand?

Bollywood has been lovely for tourism and most of it comes down to promoting Cape Town. They’ve done a lot of work, without having to do a lot of promotions. What is interesting about Cape Town is, if you look at the life of Cape Town over the summer period, it has more than any other city. It’s also the prettiest city in the world. Over 60 per cent of the world’s catalogues get shot in Cape Town simply because of the longer hours people can work.

What we’ve liked about Bollywood coming to South Africa is that they involve the local crew. Very often, we’ve seen that they move a lot of their post production also into South Africa. When they’re looking at post production in India, they take a lot of our talent also to India. They’re open to taking students with them to India and that’s great exposure for our youth too.

Bollywood films are also shot a lot faster compared to Hollywood films. They’re flexible with us and that’s why we look to also provide them with lots of subsidies. From a tourism point of view also its great, because we get big screen exposure.

Currently, there’s a Bengali film that’s being shot in South Africa. It’s the first time we’re going to have a complete movie shot in the country and the good thing is it’s not only going to be shot in Cape Town, but will head to the jungles and hills too.

What else can we expect from South Africa tourism in terms of marketing in India?

So, that’s what we’ve got Jonty Rhodes in for. We’ve looked to combine sports with adventure. We launched 40 new adventure activities last year. On 30 July, we launched 130 new adventure activities again.

When you look at the Western European market, they look to do adventure activities in the morning and then probably do nothing else till dinner.

When we look at the Indian travelers, they travel differently. Their mindset is that they’ve got only two weeks and look to pack everything into that. They do six to seven activities in a day, which means from a job creation point of view we need less Indian tourists to earn what we earn from larger (number of) European travellers.

In the last three years, we’ve doubled our budget into India simply because of these reasons.

Bollywood and cricketers also help in this because they participate in these adventure activities. We always joke about Indian travelers that they are as mad as South African locals.

What’s been done to attract corporates visiting the country? What’s the number of corporate visitors the country got last year?

Half of our arrivals are on incentive tours. While, the regular incentive programs (holidays) exist, we also have programs where Indian corporates come and learn. They use safaris etc. to learn skills. They come to us and are more open to learn things here. When a company is spending money to send its top performers to South Africa, they don’t just want them to come back and say,‘We’ve had a great time’. They want them to be better communicators, sellers,  and we help them with that.

Do you think the distance is unfavourable for SA tourism?

No. We’re never going to compete with those short haul trips. No one comes here only for a weekend. The first question we get asked is the rupee, dollar exchange rate. But, the dollar comes into affect only for the airfare. Seventy per cent of airfare is paid in(determined by) dollars, so whether an Indian goes to Goa or Geneva this year, the prices are going to increase.

The economy is also favourable for our travelers otherwise. They can come in, shop and entertain themselves. A Rand is about Rs 5 to 6. We quote in Rands and not in US Dollars, to attract travellers.

We’re trying to get people to think of the airfare as just a necessary evil a traveller has to pay for the experiences. It’s a massive part of the package, but it’s not helping to build the experience. So we’re trying to differentiate the two.

South Africa Tourism has been advertising using print and cinema so far. Any plans to change that and move to television this year?

Although we’ve done some TV commercials, the medium is too expensive for us. We don’t have the budgets for this.  You have to buy a lot to get noticed because of the amount of TV channels around.

We’re working with some channels as a lot of TV programs want to shoot in South Africa. We’ve just had Fox and NDTV shoot in the country. When you have a destination like SA, you don’t have a single thing to represent. There’s wildlife, photography, shopping and all to do.

We’ll always be in cinema because it’s great being on the big screen.

What about digital?

Like any other tourism board, we are moving a large part of our budgets to digital. The lovely part about digital is you can target ads on Google, that can only appear under certain circumstances. For example, an ad can show up when the temperature in Mumbai is about 30 degrees. Your ability to change and adapt in digital is a lot easier. Bookings happen on the (traditional)channel, but a lot of reading happens on digital.

People access the internet majorly on their smartphones and tablets so we’re spending money to ensure we have a decent mobile site. We have a global mobile site and we’ve opened that up to India.

We’ve signed global deals with sites like Travelocity, Tripadvisor and Google. And we have  a marketing budget for India toaddress the specific needs of the market.

What agencies do you work with in India – advertising, media and digital?

Our lead creative agency is based in South Africa. In India, we have a media agency (Lodestar). We tend to go out to pitch every three years. We’re lucky that we’re free in India to rotate as there are no restrictions. The Lodestar contract ends in eight months and we’ll be starting to write our pitch documents sometime soon.

We’re currently inviting pitches for our billboard campaign. This is the first time we’ve contacted the top 10 billboard agencies, put them in a room and we said to them, “This is what we are, these are the problems we have to solve and you have six weeks.”We supply the base image bank of 40,000 images.

Our cinema campaigns’ voice overs are also done here (for India).

So when does the next campaign roll out?

It’ll roll out in January to coincide with the tourism buying cycle. Although, if we do win an ODI (during the India-South Africa series), in sheer celebration we may roll it out during the series!

Campaign India