Tourism experts from Europe and the US offered their perspectives on South Africa as an appealing tourist destination at WTM Africa 2023. The discussions highlighted the Benelux region (comprising Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) as a lucrative market for travel, with the recently introduced Air Belgium route playing a significant role in the increase in the number of visitors from this region to South Africa.
The panel discussion on “Africa’s source markets” was moderated by Wesgro‘s Chief Marketing Officer, Monika Iuel and comprised representatives from Italy, Norway, Sweden, the USA, and Delta 3’s owner Bart de Swaef from Belgium.
“Belgium is becoming a more significant market for South Africa. This is partly due to the direct Air Belgium flight from Brussels to Johannesburg and Cape Town. In 2022, South Africa received almost 35,000 visitors from Belgium,” reported Iuel.
Iuel also confirmed that The Netherlands is one of the top five overseas markets for South Africa, with the country receiving 90,000 visitors from the Netherlands in 2022. She said that France and Switzerland are eight out of the top 10 source markets for Cape Town and are fully recovered.
According to De Swaef, the launch of Air Belgium presents an excellent opportunity for those who sell to Belgian travellers. With direct flights to Africa, they can now access new markets on the continent. De Swaef specialises in MICE travel and previously conducted a lot of business with Latin America. However, safety concerns have made it difficult to continue trading there. He said this had opened the door for South Africa to attract MICE travellers from Belgium.
“Compared to many other MICE competitors, South Africa offers better value for accommodation and service. Additionally, Air Belgium has made travelling to South Africa more affordable and convenient, making it easier to promote the country as a desirable destination,” he said.
Commenting on the panel discussion, Emmanuel Menu, Air Belgium CCO said: “I am pleased to see the growing interest in South Africa from our Belgian market. The introduction of our direct flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town has undoubtedly contributed to the increase in visitors, and we look forward to continuing to provide convenient and affordable travel options for Belgian travellers. We are committed to supporting the growth of tourism in South Africa and expanding the reach of the country’s many attractions to travellers from around the world.”
European panellists emphasised the many advantages of South Africa as a travel destination. They noted that while safaris are a popular tourist attraction, South Africa’s culinary and wine scene are also a significant draw. Travellers find it reasonably priced and a good value, especially given that destinations like Kenya and Botswana have become costly for many. The panellists did not view crime and load shedding as obstacles for the European market and underscored the importance of educating clients on what to expect.