Category Archives: South Africa

Interview with H.E. Busi Kuzwayo, Consul General of the Republic of South Africa

It’s kickoff time as South Africa hosts the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, the 2010 FIFA World Cup…

The world’s most widely viewed sporting event – FIFA World Cup – will be hosted in South Africa between 11 June and 11 July 2010. In fact South Africa is the first African nation ever to host the FIFA World Cup and the Consul General of South Africa in Mumbai, shares her views on the mega event as well as the increase in trade and tourism exchanges between India and South Africa

You are in your fifth year as Consul General of the Republic of South Africa in Mumbai, India. What has been your overall experience till date and how has tourism and trade grown between the 2 nations during your tenure?

Over the last five years we have seen tremendous growth in both trade and tourism exchange between India and South Africa. Regarding trade and investment, the past year saw USD 7.5 billion in trade exchange. When I came to India in 2005, trade exchange was USD 2.5 billion. This is a significant improvement.  South Africa has various cooperation agreements with India involving several sectors, including technology, telecommunications and small business (SMEs).

In tourism, we have seen a growth of 17% and this is especially significant as the highest growth in tourism to South Africa over the last few years has been from India. Approximately 62000 Indians visited South Africa last year. The initiatives taken by South Africa Tourism along with the support of the Consulate and the High Commission have ensured greater awareness of South Africa in India.  That is a great success we can boast about.

How does it feel as a South African to be the first African nation to hold the largest sporting extravaganza this year?

Speaking as an African and also as a South African, it is the most wonderful feeling. When Sepp Blatter announced that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in South Africa, the entire African continent trembled. It is a very humbling feeling.  For South Africa, we say Ke Nako (English: It is time) meaning this is the time to celebrate Africa’s humanity with the world.

What are the preparations that have gone into hosting the FIFA World Cup in South Africa as well as to handle additional visitors from India by your office?

Since the announcement that South Africa will be hosting the FIFA World Cup, we have looked towards India as our partner for investments and assistance in numerous areas such as investment in the IT sector for ticketing infrastructure. For example, Satyam is one of our partners with FIFA.

We have had a lot of preparation on the ground in South Africa. We have 10 stadiums which have been built for this tournament and even after 2010 these stadiums will continue to be great symbols for what South Africa stands for in terms of culture and sports.

During the months leading up to the FIFA World Cup, our office has been processing over 100 visa applications daily. The period between April and July is our peak period and we are expecting over 2000 more applications. Of course it is not as much as other countries because football is not as popular in India, but the numbers we are seeing are still significant and amazing.

What is the volume of visitors you expect for FIFA from India and across the world?

Estimated from the number of tickets sold globally, we are expecting approximately 450000 visitors. Sales from India have reached approximately 3000 tickets and we are expecting over 5000 tickets to be sold from India by the end of the tournament.

Starting with the T20 World Cup that South Africa hosted in 2007, followed by the Champions Trophy in 2009, the IPL was hosted last year, the Champions Trophy in 2009, the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and later this year South Africa will host the T20 Champions league. What is the secret behind South Africa being favourites to host major sporting events?

I feel the secret lies in the vibrancy of our culture and the friendliness of the people. Of course, the infrastructure is also a very important factor. In terms of venues, accommodation and transport, South Africa is always prepared to host international events. For example, when the 2009 IPL season had to be relocated, South Africa was ready with a response in two days.

Tourism to South Africa has grown over the years. What according to you are the key influences that have affected the growth in tourism from India to South Africa?

The South Africa Tourism Board in India has played a major part in promoting South Africa as a travel destination. They have won numerous awards and deservedly so. The tour operators as well do a marvellous job of marketing and promotion, from participating in travel events to building an online presence through social media. South Africa has been extensively promoted throughout India and this is driving visitor traffic and increased awareness. Of course, Bollywood and cricket have also played huge roles in creating awareness of South Africa.

Which according to you are the emerging destinations worth exploring for the repeat visitor to South Africa?

I think KwaZulu-Natal is one of the hidden treasures of South Africa – and not only because it is also my home, but also as other areas have been promoted more and not many might be aware but KwaZulu-Natal offers so much for every kind of traveller. The forthcoming launch of the international airport in Durban will also attract more direct visitors from India. There is so much that Durban has to offer. It is home to one of the largest shopping malls in the world, the best cuisine and the legendary Golden Mile, offering a plethora of entertainment, excitement, fun and uniqueness.

I have even encouraged Bollywood producers to consider the region around Durban for shoot locations. From the majestic Drakensberg mountain range to the crystal-clear waters of the coastline, the region offers so much. Historically as well, Durban shares a tremendous bond with India as it was where Mahatma Gandhi established himself as a leader and activist. Travelling along the Gandhi Route in South Africa is certainly worth exploring for the repeat visitor regardless of your interest in history. KwaZulu-Natal is also home to the Zulu kingdom and its royal family. This is a major part of South Africa’s culture and must be experienced.  Overall, KwaZulu-Natal offers an all-in-one experience for travellers.

Which are the key areas in terms of trade exchanges that both South Africa and India can benefit?

There are many synergies and compatibilities between India and South Africa. Currently, the main thrust of our trade is minerals and raw materials. We are also slowly moving towards the service industry. Information Technology is a service where South Africa can benefit greatly from India. Services such as banking and infrastructure are where India can benefit greatly from South Africa. For example, the consortium led by GVK Group and comprising Airports Company South Africa and Bidvest have been instrumental in modernizing India’s busiest airport, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Mumbai.

What are the investment opportunities for Indian investors in South Africa and which are the key areas that South Africa can see a potential for investing in India?

For Indian investors in South Africa, the service sector would be a strong target. Regarding the minerals and resources we have in South Africa, we want them to first benefit the local communities and then the rest of the world. For this reason, we encourage investors to come to South Africa and build their shops and factories. This adds value at the source. We want to encourage partnerships and exchange of skills  between our two countries.

We are encouraging partnerships with Indian investors and mine owners in South Africa in order to get optimum utility from the mines. Even in the field of arts and crafts, we have had much cross-exchange with Indians and South Africans depicting each other’s countries.

South Africa also has one of the oldest histories of agro-processing and wine-making. South African wine has a history dating back to 1659, and at one time was considered to be one of the greatest wines in the world. Production is concentrated around Cape Town, with major vineyard and production centres at Paarl, Stellenbosch and Worcester. Viticulture is a growing industry in India but the challenges we face have to do with entering the Indian market due to the high levies. The Indian and South African Governments are working closely together to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement and a free flow of products between India and South Africa.

Does cultural exchange play an important role in improving relations between the two states and which are the interesting cultural events that come to your mind and events that are likely to take place in the future?

I believe culture is our strongest bond. India and South Africa are both culture-rich countries and it is very important that we share each other’s culture. South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation. I have also seen the same vibrancy and colour in India. Through fusion of our cultures, we achieve greater understanding and appreciation of each other. We have many cultural events in India showcasing South African fashion, art, food and much more. This makes people want to visit South Africa and experience the real thing.

You are also the Dean of the Consular Corps in Mumbai. What are your responsibilities as the Dean and how do you manage to coordinate the various responsibilities?

There are many responsibilities, but I manage them through delegation. When I became Dean of the Consular Corps in Mumbai, I immediately set up a committee of State Consuls. As a team, we achieve much more of what we set out to do than we could have achieved individually. From making management decisions to conducting cultural activities, we all work together to make it happen. Being the Dean has not been an added burden because of this structure and coordination.

What do you think of the initiative, Namaste South Africa (www.namastesouthafrica.com – Your Indian connection to South Africa) and how will this further help grow tourism to South Africa?

We need more of such ventures and these ventures must be promoted extensively. South Africa offers more than most people realize. We just have to get the message out there in terms of accessibility, affordability and quality. Even in terms of skills exchange, such as health tourism and education, there are many opportunities to build strong ties between India and South Africa.

Which is your favourite Bollywood Movie thus far shot in South Africa or in general?

Bollywood movies are very popular in South Africa. The two movies which have showcased South Africa extensively are Race and Ghajini. Personally, I have been watching Bollywood movies even before I came to India. There is a large Indian community in South Africa and Bolywood movies are widely distributed.

Which are your favourite sports and according to you which are the top 3 teams who are the favourite to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

I love sports because it brings people together and there is so much cheering and vibrancy. I love cricket. When the South African team visits India, I try to watch every game. Football is equally popular, even more so in South Africa. The people come together from across the country and the atmosphere is thick with patriotism and hope.

The favourite teams from Africa include Algeria, which are the current African champions, Ivory Coast, which has many international players and also Cameroon. The other teams which are also strong contenders are South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. Outside of Africa, the favourite teams are Brazil and France. Of course, my personal vote goes to South Africa.

As India has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup, would you consider one of the IPL teams to win the T20 Champions league to be hosted in South Africa?

Chennai Super Kings are my favourite team in the IPL and of course the Mumbai Indians as well because I am a Mumbaikar.

Which are your favourite sports personalities from India as well as from South Africa?

From India, my favourite sport personality is undoubtedly Sachin Tendulkar – not just because of his extraordinary abilities and talents but also because of his spirit and love of the game. He make people want to love him, first as a person and then as an athlete.

From South Africa, my favourite personalities include Jonty Rhodes and Shaun Pollock, who are both from my region. Of course, more players are added to this list as the team evolves.

In football, it is difficult for me to name my favourite players from the current team because it is a new team. However, I have so many favourites from the old football teams.

What according to you will be the greatest positive for South Africa on hosting FIFA 2010?

The greatest positive for South Africa on hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup would be bringing the world to South Africa and showcasing our treasures to the world. For those who have not yet experienced South Africa, they will discover a place which offers the best of what they are looking for. I encourage those visiting South Africa for the FIFA World Cup to explore more of South Africa. I know they will not be disappointed.

Lastly your message to the readers:

I invite all readers to visit South Africa and experience South Africa with all their senses. There is a strong bond between India and South Africa and no matter what you have read or heard before, I know that perceptions will change for the better after visiting South Africa. We welcome you.

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Interview with Medha Sampat, Country Head of South African Tourism

Medha Sampat has been the Country Head of South African Tourism in India for over a year. She shares with our readers why South Africa must be on your wishlist of must-visit destinations for sports holidays as well as for unique experiences.

How long have you been the Country Manager for South Africa Tourism and how has tourism to South Africa grown during your tenure?

In 2009, I was appointed as the Country Manager of South African Tourism for the India portfolio. India has always been an important market for South African Tourism. Initially we had aligned our promotional strategies to leverage events around fashion, food and wine to lure the Indian traveller. However, we soon identified Bollywood and sports as important drivers for tourism growth. With the support of the SAT team in India and South Africa, we defined our potential audience and reached out to them with targeted marketing tools in order to create awareness and excitement about the destination.

A smart combination of promotions, advertising and media-related activities, especially during the IPL tournament in South Africa, ensured that our audiences were sufficiently motivated, which further enhanced tourist arrivals to South Africa. With successful marketing and positioning strategies in India, we have seen a growth of 17.5%, with total tourist arrival of 61007 till December 2009. With the momentum now firmly in place, we are sure to carry through this growth curve till the end of the fiscal term.

What is the role of SA Tourism office and how do you go about creating awareness of South Africa amongst members of travel trade as well as potential travellers in general?

We at SA Tourism, play a pivotal role in opening new avenues to package South Africa in a unique format that can be used by tour operators to familiarize themselves on the destination. We have come a long way determining our priorities with regards to markets, based on size and growth potential. Our biggest strength when talking about South Africa to the Indian traveller is a thorough knowledge and understanding of their needs, requirements and travel patterns. We have been promoting our product by various activities with an aim to approach the right market and effectively convey the messages.

In India, leisure products travel through a complex network of intermediaries before reaching the end consumer. There are over 28000 tour operators and travel agencies distributed across India and they are an important group where awareness and education on the potential of the destination has to be impressed. Activities have to be conducted to reach out to the Indian travel-trade industry, provide impetus to existing operators and facilitate partnerships and synergies between Indian operators and their South African counterparts. Realizing this need, we set out to plan our activities for the year, and put in place goals to be achieved. Our calendar of events includes multi-city Roadshows, Incountry Famils, fam- trips, consumer promotions among many other exciting initiatives. Trade-based activities such as these help in expanding the operators’ base, increasing visibility and enhancing understanding of the destination.

What is the estimated growth you envisage out of India in 2010-11 as South Africa will be hosting two major sporting events later this year: the FIFA World Cup and the T20 Champions League?

South Africans’ passion for sport, its world class venues, top international events and well developed infrastructure combine to make the country a huge draw-card for sports fans. Sporting events like cricket and football help showcase our wonderful tourist attractions to billions of captive fans worldwide. They work to cement South Africa’s position as a premier sporting destination, apart from bringing in millions of dollars through the hospitality, travel and tourism sectors. Moreover, the indirect spin-offs from improved perceptions abroad could have an even greater, longer-lasting impact, not only on South Africa and its development but on the continent as a whole.

The contribution of sports tourism to the South African economy is estimated to be approximately ZAR 6 billion annually. The 2010 FIFA World Cup will result in anticipated injection of about ZAR 21.3 billion into the South African economy. We are confident of reaching our target arrivals of 65862 from India for 2010-11 and we hope that the mega sporting bonanza and the subsequent T20 Champions League alongwith similar such sporting events will encourage the Indian traveller to return time and again with family and friends to our beautiful Rainbow Nation.

How has Bollywood and sporting events helped enhance Brand South Africa amongst the Indian visitors?

Bollywood and sports, namely cricket and football have played a huge role in enhancing the visibility quotient that South Africa boasts of today in the Indian market. Sporting events like the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup in 2007, the IPL in 2009 and the ICC Champions Trophy 2009 have helped showcase the country’s scenic locales amidst the sporting action that gripped the world. Playing host to events of such great magnitude has also brought to light South Africa’s proficiency to host world class events.

Films, being such a mass culture in India help reach out to a wider audience and expand the target group – family, honeymoon and MICE segment. With Indian tourists being highly influenced by films and entertainment, South Africa has in its recent years attracted a lot of tourists with Bollywood movies. The country’s locales have benefited enormously from the use of its streets, landmarks and colorful locations.  In the recent past, we have seen some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters set and shot extensively in South Africa. Clearly, Bollywood and sports have resulted in unprecedented coverage and awareness for brand South Africa.

What according to you is the minimum number of days one should spend to get a glimpse of South Africa, especially the first time traveller?

The average stay of an Indian tourist in South Africa is around 10 days, depending on the type of holiday experience that one is looking for, where one can choose amongst the major hot spots – Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Wildlife safaris can be experienced across South Africa which is an experience by itself and a huge drawcard for Indian travellers.

Which are the Big 5 attractions that should be included for a visit to South Africa?

South Africa is a mesmerizing country with endless enchanting views but the big five attractions that should be included on a South African sojourn, should be:

The charismatic Table Mountain which is what the Western Cape Province is renowned for. Any person, who lays eyes on it is sure to fall for its powerful spell.

Second would be the Garden Route – Three of South Africa’s top hikes take place here – the Otter Trail, the Tsitsikama and Dolphin trails. It is a paradise for eco-lovers, bird watchers and solitude seekers.

Of course, who can forget the famous Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach on the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town which is a real thrill.

The Cradle of Humankind in the Gauteng province comprising a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossilized remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids tell a story of their own.

The fifth big attraction is the Kruger National Park with its abundant wildlife – hearing the roar of a lion out in the wild is a truly exhilarating experience!

What are the initiatives  taken by SA Tourism to educate the travel trade on Brand South Africa?

We have organized several activities in the past to expand our trade network here in India. Trade events like roadshows, incountry famils, the internationally renowned annual trade convention, Indaba amongst others have helped build strategic partnerships with our Indian trade partners. We have also introduced the Food Map along with our Adventure and Luxury Style Guides that have been effective blueprints for travel trade to understand South Africa’s offerings and help Indian travellers navigate better during their stay in South Africa. Our new training programme, “Learn South Africa”, will be implemented in 12 cities across India that will help travel industry representatives get a better understanding of South Africa as a destination and all its tourist attractions. The programme aims to help travel trade promote, plan and organise quality holidays to suit client requirements. This is a first for any tourism board, and we are proud to be setting the benchmarks for the industry.

There are several myths and apprehensions about South Africa – distance, safety, South Africa offers only wildlife. How do you plan to address these issues?

South Africa is as safe as any other destination in the world, provided you take some normal precautions like you would anywhere else as a tourist. Simply stay alert and be aware of what is going on around you and you will most likely enjoy a perfectly safe holiday. As for the rest of the misconceptions, whilst there is a continuous process of education that we undertake with the trade, who can deny that seeing is believing!

What according to you are the must-visit experiences to be included for visitors to South Africa on:

Honeymoon – South Africa is a Honeymooners haven and it would be incomplete with out paying a tribute to Cape Town and Cape Peninsula well known for world-class shopping, nightlife and some exquisite food and wine. One can enjoy a romantic candle light dinner at Robben Island, Table Mountain or the V & A Waterfront, an exceptionally romantic outing that will ensure you have a wonderful time with your spouse. Another interesting place to discover is Hermanus, where couples can traverse the magnificent Walker Bay that provides nature lovers with an extraordinary opportunity to explore the wonders of the Cape’s beautiful flora and fascinating coastal and marine life.

Adventure – Adventure activities in the Drakensberg region are sure to leave you gasping which include hiking trails, horse trails and safaris, fly fishing, white water rafting and rock climbing to mention but a few. Furthermore the Hot air ballooning in Mpumalanga and Bungy Jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge is sure to suffice your appetite for adventure. And there’s many more unique activities on offer for the adventure-seeker – the shark-cage diving offering fascinating encounters with the Great White Shark; the zip-line and the canopy tour to name just a few.

Family break – A shopping spree at The Gateway Mall (Durban), situated in Umhlanga, is reputed to be the largest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. It has a wide variety of shops, a supermarket, over 30 restaurants and some unusual entertainment facilities. Fourways Mall shopping centre in Johannesburg is famous for fashion and also offers a number of elite jewellers with a choice of selected diamond and gold jewellery. If your family enjoys music, a visit to South Africa’s renowned musical show, Umoja will enthrall and captivate your heartbeats. Of course, the call of the wildlife during a game drive safari in the Kruger National Park is enjoyed by the young and old alike, and makes for a perfect family outing.

Special interests such as wine and golf – Combine your love of safari and your passion for golf at the savannah courses. And a glass of wine to celebrate a golf game will unquestionably be soothing to your soul. For which the Cape Winelands are the most scenic in the world with Pinotage and Hanepoort being made from specially cultivated grapes. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc (steen) and Chardonnay are the buzz at the moment in South Africa and there’s plenty of options to enjoy these gourmet luxuries.

What according to you are the top 3 favourite teams for the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

There is a spirit of FIFA that is unmatched anywhere in the world. While Brazil, Italy and France are the hot favourites, all eyes are on the home team, Bafana Bafana this FIFA season to keep the trophy back home. All the countries have come together to showcase their best teams on a common platform. As the vuvuzelas (see photo below) herald the kick-off, we invite the world to bring on the games!

Which are the major sporting events and Bollywood shoots lined up for the future after the FIFA World Cup?

On cricket action, the T20 Champions League is scheduled to take place in South Africa in September this year. Also, the Indian team will tour South Africa in October-November to add to the cricket buzz. As for other sporting events, there is plenty more that keeps happening such as the ATP South African Open which see participating from the top stars of Indian tennis. On Bollywood, it would be difficult to pin down which movies are being shot there during the course of the year. But there is plenty of star-candy at any time in South Africa!

Indians are becoming more discerning as travellers. Which are some of the luxury and exclusive tourism products that one can experience only in South Africa?

Deep in the rugged bushveld, in the heart of an ancient volcano, lies the world’s most unique resort, the internationally acclaimed Sun City. The resort has a unique heartbeat and an African rhythm of its own and is unlike any other resort destination in the world. This is pure fantasy where your every desire is met. Apart from this if one wants to submit his mind and body for a complete revitalization process, then luxury spas in South Africa are rejuvenating havens to unwind. Karkloof Spa in Masunduzi, Lapologa in Pretoria and Mangwanani Private African Day Spa in Gauteng are just a few of the luxury doorways to experience eternal bliss. Many of our game lodges in the heart of the Kruger National Park like the Singita Game Reserve, the Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi offer luxury unlimited. And these, are but a few that I mention!

Kruger National Park has become synonymous with the legendary Game Drives. What is it that makes a Game Drive in Kruger National Park so special and unique?

In a Kruger National Park safari you will be in awe with the plenty of Big Five sightings. At Kruger, one can experience South Africa’s wilderness in a self-drive safari, or relax and take in the sights on a guided wildlife tour, explore the bush on foot, stay in an exquisite tented camp or spend the night at a luxury lodge. A safari in Kruger National Park not only provides guests with the opportunity to encounter the wild but also allows for cultural interaction. The professional guides help you to identify the animals that grope in the dark and ensure that you will not miss the best game sightings. South Africa’s safari game lodges offer an unbeatable combination of game drives, walks with skilled trackers, and exclusive accommodation in pristine natural surroundings.

Which is your preferred destination in South Africa and what are the emerging places to visit for the Indian traveller?

As a travel destination, South Africa is uniquely placed because it offers something for everyone.

Depending on the type of holiday experience that one wants, one can go to the place of one’s choice in South Africa. If one wishes to experience a serene beach holiday, KwaZulu-Natal is the place to be, because of its favorable climate. Cape Town and Garden Route beckons the Indian traveller to get a glimpse of the scenic beauty. To experience wildlife and get lost in the ‘Land of Bushes’, one can visit the Limpopo Province or Mpumalanga and stay in one of the game reserves to experience the breathtaking safari. If night clubbing and culture is on one’s itinerary, then there is no better place than Johannesburg.

While Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are among the top favourites in the globetrotter’s wish-list, other places in the Northwest province and Eastern Cape are also being explored.

What is your opinion of Namaste South Africa (www.namastesouthafrica.com) – a dedicated online platform for the Indian traveller to South Africa?

It is an interesting website, packed with lots of information and exciting visuals.

Lastly, your message to readers:

For all those sports enthusiasts, who want to experience an unforgettable adventure in the wild and not lose an opportunity of a lifetime, get ready with your backpacks and head to South Africa – a country where “It’s Possible!”