South African Tourism, a marketing agency of the Department of Tourism, is mandated to effectively market South Africa as a foremost tourism destination both domestically and internationally for leisure and business travel. The government-mandated goal set for South African Tourism is to achieve 21 million international tourist arrivals by 2030.
The organisation must, therefore, apply relevant marketing strategies to ensure it delivers on this mandate. It is no doubt that tourism growth has been stunted due to the setbacks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the sector has focused all its efforts on rebuilding.
“For the past two years, the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan was focused on driving domestic travel, which has resulted in a 139.4% increase in domestic travel between 2021 and 2022. Almost 30 million domestic trips were taken in 2022, a number that surpasses pre-COVID-19 levels, as South Africans rose to the challenge of supporting and reviving the country’s tourism industry, keeping it afloat. With the domestic sector now thriving, the time has come for us to focus our efforts and resources on the international travel market,” says South African Tourism’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Themba Khumalo.
South African Tourism deliberates over various marketing strategies to better market South Africa as a preferred destination. This particular strategy is not new to the continent and South Africa in particular. While Rwanda has recorded their investment as the reason behind its 8% climb in tourism numbers, we, as South Africa, must deliberate the value for South Africa.
There are a number of issues in South Africa that underline the question of the timing of this kind of investment, amongst others being energy security. We believe SAT is well within its mandate as a marketing agency for the country, and there is nothing untoward when it assesses different marketing strategies. To achieve its target by 2030, South African Tourism has geared its future strategy to ensure that it is aggressive in its approach and international marketing efforts.
“We cannot carry on with business as usual because it will not yield the desired results. This is why we are contemplating a partnership of this scale with Tottenham Hotspurs FC, to really help us shift the dial in our tourist arrivals,” says Khumalo.
As part of the research, South African Tourism sought to understand the success of high-impact sporting partnerships and how destinations have benefited from such collaborations. A number of destinations globally have entered into sports partnerships, and these have yielded high returns in terms of tourist arrivals.
South African Tourism has chosen to explore a partnership with Tottenham Hotspurs FC for a number of reasons. The United Kingdom is one of South Africa’s key source markets, as per the entity’s Marketing Prioritization Investment Framework (MPIF). Furthermore, sport is one platform that has sustained aggregated audiences, which the entity can tap into to convert fans and spectators into tourists.
In 2019 the United Kingdom was the third largest source of international visitors to South Africa. Accounting for 8.3% of all international arrivals – with over 430 000 British tourists visiting South Africa in 2019 alone. In addition to reaching the United Kingdom market, the massive reach of the English Premier League will give South Africa visibility in over one billion homes globally, as well as access to the major markets Tottenham Hotspur players hail from. Including South Korea, France, Brazil, Portugal and Nigeria, and countless European countries and others, the club will participate in continental competitions and pre-season tours over the next three years.
Khumalo says the partnership is still undergoing the necessary approvals and consultations. This information leaked prematurely before South African Tourism could complete the due processes.
“It is unfortunate that the information regarding the partnership was leaked ahead of time. We obtained conditional Board approval for the partnership on Tuesday, 31 January. On 1 February, we appraised our shareholder, the Minister of Tourism. What is now left in the process is to consult our tourism sector stakeholders and national treasury prior to finalising anything,” says Khumalo.
The organisation should be able to do this without being upended by leaks that distort the context of SAT’s working processes. The organisation seeks to welcome all ideas that achieve the objective of profiling South Africa. Evaluating the timing, costs, and return on investment are all part of SAT’s process. The organisation will work to ensure there is alignment on these critical variables.
Khumalo said the entity would provide another update on the partnership in due course.