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S. African arrivals rising steadily

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77,000 visitors expected this year.

By Imtiaz Muqbil,
Executive Editor,

South Africa is one of Thailand’s most important emerging source markets. For the past few years, arrivals from South Africa have been rising steadily. In 2006, Thailand welcomed a total of 43,444 South African visitors. By 2012, they had risen to 73,530. The only year they declined was in 2009, when arrivals dropped by 12.55% to 40,465 due to political disturbances in Thailand. In 2013, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is expecting 77,000 visitors from South Africa, generating 5.1 billion baht for tourism revenue.

According to the TAT marketing brief, Thailand is one of the top three long haul destinations for South Africans, along with Mauritius and Europe. There is also increasing interest in China, but that also benefits Thailand as many visitors include a stop in Bangkok on their way to China. Moreover, South African visitors get a 30-day visa-free stay in Thailand.

Source: Immigration Bureau, Police Department.

Source: Ministry of Tourism and Sports
2008: Exchange rate 1 US$ = 31.31 Baht
2009: Exchange rate 1 US$ = 34.29 Baht
2010: Exchange rate 1 US$ = 31.69 Baht
2011: Exchange rate 1 US$ = 30.49 Baht
2012: Exchange rate 1 US$ = 31.08 Baht

Tourism Revenue in 2012
In 2012, visitors from South Africa stayed an average of 12.44 days, while their average daily expenditure was 5,189.42 baht (US$166.97) per person. This generated about 4,746.84 billion baht (US$152.73 million) tourism exchange revenue to the Thai economy.

There has been a steady growth across the board. The average length of stay per visitor dipped slightly in 2009 and 2011 but rose again in both 2011 and 2012. The average daily spend has followed more or less the same pattern. The per capita expenditure has risen overall from 4,915 baht per day in 2008 to 5,189 baht per day in 2012. Thanks to both increased arrivals and average length of stay, total tourism receipts from South African visitors have doubled from 2.34 billion baht in 2008 to 4.74 billion baht.

The profile of South African travellers to Thailand in 2012 shows some interesting characteristics:
• 42% of South African visitors were female, +10.59% to 31,027 while male visitors were up by 9.97% to 42,503.
• 49% were repeat visitors, up by 7.75% to 36,095, while first-time travellers were up by 12.74% to 37,435.
• 86% were independent visitors, +6.06% to 63,771, while visitors travelling by group tour were up by 48.31% to 9,759.
• In terms of age groups, visitors from South Africa were mainly between 25-34 and 45-54, representing 27.85% and 23.62% of their visitors respectively. Other fast-growing segments were senior citizens aged over 55 were up by 41.72% to 11,264.
• In terms of purpose of visit, 90.92% were holiday visitors which showed a strong growth of 86.37% to 66,851.

Source: -Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and
Sports-Marketing Database Group, Tourism Authority of Thailand
Aviation Linkages
On aviation front, as of September 2013, there were only three direct scheduled flights weekly between Johannesburg and Bangkok, operated by Thai Airways International. In addition, there are several connecting flights through various destinations by Kenya Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air Mauritius.

Other interesting details
Popular tourist attractions for South African travellers in Thailand are Bangkok, Phuket, Samui and Krabi. Increasingly, they are venturing beyond to new destinations such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Koh Chang. Most favourite products and services are art and culture, sports, adventure tourism, beaches, health & wellness and shopping.

According to the TAT marketing brief, travelling abroad is largely undertaken by affluent South Africans, especially to long-haul destinations. Approximately one in ten South Africans travel abroad each year, although holiday and leisure travel is only one part of the market. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and business travel are both important components.

Long-haul leisure travel is very seasonal in South Africa, with trends being mostly school holidays, and the months August and December being the most popular period.

One rapidly growing segment is the previously disadvantaged South African indigenous groups who are taking advantage of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme launched by the SA government to rectify the inequalities of apartheid. This has seen the growth in the social economic status of many black South Africans, creating an affluent market fondly referred to as ‘Black Diamonds’.

The creation of the ASEAN Economic in 2015 will lead to an increase in business and convention travel to Thailand and the region in general.