China opens to travel, but what does this mean for SA hospitality?

The news that China would be opening its borders for inbound and outbound travel has had mixed reaction across the globe, with many countries instituting travel regulations for arriving Chinese travellers in a bid to crack down on the already circulating XBB.1.5 variant (more about that here).  

FEDHASA National Chair Rosemary Anderson talks to eNCA about the opportunity for South Africa in attracting travellers from China. 

“Of course, the opportunity of increasing inbound arrivals from China must be seen within our priority to keep South Africans safe,” says Anderson. 

In 2019, the number of outbound Chinese tourists peaked at nearly 155 million. South Africa only attracted just over 93 000 Chinese travellers.  

“There isn’t such a thing as a ‘Chinese tourist’. Like any market, they are diverse in their budgets, ages, interests and travel motivations. Well-heeled Chinese tourists transformed destinations, like Las Vegas and Perth, with their luxury travel spend,” says Anderson. 

In Tourism Update, she talks about visa friction for Chinese Travellers:  

“South Africa has long sought to attract Chinese travellers but numbers have remained low, not least because of the friction these have when trying to apply for visas to visit the country. 

“It is our hope that, as part of the visa efforts under way, our government will recognise the massive potential held by this source market in helping our recovery, and implement a visa-friendly regime that will make it far easier for them to visit.” 

Further explaining in FIN24 what we can do as hospitality businesses to attract Chinese travellers, Anderson says: 

Countries like Australia, the US and Japan – all popular among Chinese travellers – have introduced several initiatives to improve their attractiveness over the years. Some initiatives include employing aligned public and private sector marketing initiatives specifically aimed at the Chinese market. For example, ensuring destination and product information is available on Chinese search engines and marketing on Chinese social media channels, like Weibo and WeChat.  

“We should also have a strong trade focus as much of the international travel booked from China is done through travel agents and tour operators,” says Anderson. 

Other ways to become more “Chinese tourist-friendly” include offering payment platforms, like WeChat Pay and Alipay, being aware of when Chinese holidays take place, learning key phrases in Mandarin, and training tourist guides to speak Mandarin. One can also offer dining experiences aimed at Chinese tastes. 

“It would be useful for establishments and their staff to undergo some form of ‘China readiness’ training beforehand,” suggests Anderson. 

A report issued by CNN this week suggests that an upcoming Air China direct flight will be launched between Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport (JHB) although no date has been confirmed as yet.  

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