- Mr. Anup Nair
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China and South Africa have pledged mutual support for each other's tourism ventures as the two countries deepen cooperation on all fronts of their development.
South African Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa and the Vice Minister of the Chinese National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Wang Xiafeng, met on the sidelines of the South Africa-China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) to explore avenues of joint cooperation between the two powerhouses.
"In our bilateral meeting between ourselves and the Vice Minister, we committed to support each other in promoting our respective destinations. We also agreed to support businesses in establishing stronger partnerships to grow the tourism industry in both countries.
"The importance of the relationship between government and business in the tourism industry can never be overemphasised. For tourism to thrive, governments need to forge a stronger collaboration with the industry," said Minister Xasa.
The PPEM was inaugurated on Monday in Pretoria, and is an extension of the cordial and mutually beneficial relations between China and South Africa. The PPEM allows the two countries to exchange information and identify common objectives and strategies, and create opportunities for people in both countries to benefit from the sharing of social, cultural and economic capital across government, academia, business and civil society.
The 'Discover Beautiful China' event, hosted by the CNTA, was held under the auspices of the PPEM on Monday.
South Africa and China signed the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Tourism in October 2013. The key focus areas of the agreement include skills development (exchange of capacity building initiatives) and promoting tourism development and investment opportunities, including tourism marketing of both countries.
Embracing Chinese tourists
Minister Xasa took the opportunity to thank the Chinese Culture and International Education Exchange Centre and Yangzhou University for the opportunity provided to 20 South African tour guides and frontline staff in tourism establishments to learn Mandarin and Chinese culture.
"South Africa recognises the importance of teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture to South African tourism practitioners as a vehicle to improve the country competitiveness as a destination of choice in China," she said.
China is one of South African Tourism's core markets in Asia, and contributes positively to tourism arrivals into the country. In 2016, South Africa welcomed 117 144 visitors from Greater China, representing a 38% year-on-year increase.
South African tour companies have added Mandarin speaking guides and are translating promotional materials into Mandarin, while South African Tourism has been holding exhibitions in major Chinese cities across that country.
To make the travel experience even more seamless for Chinese citizens, South Africa has established visa facilitation centres in nine Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xian, Shenyang, Wuhan, Jinan and Hangzhou.
Two new visa centres will open at the end of April in Kunming and Chongqing, bringing the total to 11 visa facilitation centres in China.
SA and China cooperation on international platforms
South Africa and China also share a platform in the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] bloc of emerging economies. While China houses the headquarters for the BRICS Development Bank in Shanghai, South Africa is home to its African regional offices.
Minister Xasa said the Department of Tourism recognises that international cooperation in the area of tourism is emerging as an important foreign policy tool and an instrument of economic diplomacy in strengthening the broader bilateral relations between South Africa and China.
"We are committed to continue to implement other areas of cooperation identified in the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013 to increase two-way international tourism between our countries for mutual benefit.
"Tourism is much more than an economic driver - it is also a social unifier. It brings people together and it's about creating an experience - an authentic cultural experience," said the Minister.