Thanks to the weak rand and the high price of goods in Dubai, many businesses come here to stock up
South Africa is attracting a whole new breed of business traveller – from, of all places, the Seychelles.
Best known for beach honeymoons and romantic trips, residents of the Indian Ocean islands have started travelling to South Africa to take advantage of the weak rand.
Air Seychelles CEO Roy Kinnear says that in the past six months, his airline has seen an 8% increase in passenger traffic from Seychelles to Johannesburg.
The country is almost completely reliant on imported goods, and cargo services have been a major growth area for the airline, with 4 415 tons of freight moved in 2015, primarily on its Paris and Johannesburg routes.
The airline launched its personal shopper service in November to help Seychellois source and import goods from South Africa.
The service is helping local businesspeople with a 50% discount on the market rate, and it helps the airline, which is primarily used by tourists, to fill up its freight quotas.
Kinnear says: “With this service, our customers can source goods from South Africa, such as DIY hardware and tools, spare vehicle and boat parts, and home décor items, and they can arrange for quick air freight back home.”
Johannesburg businessman Malcolm Beulink is moving between 300kg and 500kg of air freight between Johannesburg and Mahe each month – everything from medicine and spare parts to food and toys.
He started his business in September last year.
“A lot has contributed to the trend of buying goods in South Africa, but it’s primarily due to high prices in Dubai, combined with a weaker rand. It makes sense for local people to buy their stock from South Africa,” says Beulink.
“The idea is that there are a lot of people flying from the Seychelles to South Africa to shop, and they buy a lot of stuff and then get stuck at the check-in counter when their baggage is overweight. And then there are the ticket and hotel costs.
“So, we pack and box the goods for them, and they get there in three days.”
The airline has recently cancelled it’s twice-weekly flights between Mahe and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and put those wide-body Airbus planes on the Johannesburg route instead.
In so doing, it has increased the number of weekly flights to South Africa from three to five.
Another local company benefiting from increased traffic between the two countries is Tsogo Sun, which has two resort hotels on the islands – the five-star Maia Luxury Resort & Spa on the main island of Mahe, and the four-star Paradise Sun Hotel on Praslin Island, a 20-minute flight away.
Guest numbers at the two resorts prove that, despite the weak rand, South Africans still have money to spend on a good beach, such as Anse Lazio, the beach on Praslin Island that came fourth on TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice list for the world’s best beach.
Maia, a favourite of the international superrich from European and Gulf countries, costs upwards of R50 000 a night.
However, one dedicated South African beachgoer recently spent three weeks there at a cost of about R500 000.
At Paradise Sun, general manager Lionel Ferrari says South Africans make up a large volume of his guests, and are the third most represented nationality at the hotel after French and German tourists.
“South Africans are very important to us,” he says.
However, because of the weak rand, South African visitor numbers to Paradise Sun have fallen by 10%, but those beds are being filled by others.
The chief operating officer of Tsogo Sun Hotels, Richard Weilers, says South African travellers have always been important to the Tsogo Sun properties in the Seychelles because they understand the group’s brand, experience and service.