SA Middle East tourism strategy ‘shortsighted’, declares leading operator

Guest Writer

The Managing Director of leading South African tour operator Royal African Discoveries, Johan Groenewald, has leant his support to claims South Africa Tourism is missing a golden opportunity to tap growing Middle East interest in the country following its successful role hosting the FIFA World Cup.Groenewald, whose company has worked independently to establish closer ties with the Middle East, claimed SA Tourism’s priorities lay elsewhere.”SA Tourism is following a very focussed (some might say short-sighted) approach to promotions & marketing worldwide. They’ve identified a number of core markets, including the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan and China, in which they’ve opened offices and have concentrated all their marketing spend in those countries. “Until recently, no money was invested in any promotional activities outside of these markets. If you’re not one of these 15 or so markets, then tough luck on seeing any promotions or marketing by SA Tourism in your country.”We’ve specialised in ’emerging’ markets since I started the company 13 years ago and are therefore used to not getting support from SA Tourism.” Groenewald said embassies in these second tier countries were charged with promoting South Africa as a tourism destination, but added the budgets for doing so were “often very limited”.”This is the main reason why you haven’t seen any large scale promotions in the Middle East,” he claimed. “Naturally, the tour operators and other organisations active in the Middle East have been pushing SA Tourism on this issue but we’ve not had any success.”Hopefully, we can convince them about the merits of including a market in the Middle East in the future.”Groenewald’s comments follow growing criticism of SA Tourism’s approach to the Middle East market, as highlighted in recent issues of Travel Daily Middle East.

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