South African Tourism is targeting India as a potential high-growth source market for SA – though there are currently no direct flights between the two countries.
Acting SAT CEO Sthembiso Dlamini says the organisation hopes this will be addressed.
Emirates, Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have flights scheduled with layovers at Dubai, Doha and Addis Ababa respectively.
"We are engaging with various airlines to see if we can get direct air lift from India again. It would also help a lot if SA's intention to launch an e-visa application process for India is implemented soon. We are crossing our fingers that this might be implemented by December perhaps," says Dlamini.
Fin24 reported in August this year that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture heard testimony from former SAA CEO Siza Mzimela on evidence related to the cancellation of SAA's profitable Mumbai route. She testified that during the period when SAA fell under Malusi Gigaba's tenure as minister of public enterprises, he failed to act to prevent SAA from losing the route, to the advantage of Jet Airways - an Indian airline founded by Naresh Goyal, which the Guptas used for the controversial flight that landed in the Waterkloof military airbase in Pretoria in 2013. Gigaba has denied conspiring to have SAA scrap the route to aid the Gupta-linked airline.
About 700 million of India's population consists of millennials and that is the key segment targeted by SAT during a virtual roadshow this week.
Over 1 000 Indian buyers and 100 South African suppliers - including tourism experience products, accommodation establishments, destination management companies and airlines - are expected to take part in the roadshow.
SAT recently hosted a similar virtual roadshow for the Chinese market.
In 2019, before the pandemic, SA had 95 621 tourists from India and about 100 000 from China and SAT is confident that these numbers can be increased.
It has also identified China and Nigeria as potential growth source markets for SA.
Dlamini says SAT is seeing a gradual uptake for travel with forward bookings showing an upward curve as well as a general opening of many of SA's source markets. The UK recently having removed SA from its so-called red list of very strict travel restrictions is also contributing to the increased uptake.
As for SA heading into its traditional peak summer tourism season, SAT is about to launch its campaigns, including for the domestic market.
Dlamini urged South Africans to get vaccinated, especially those in the tourism industry.