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SA offers the best tourist experience: Chinese tourist
   2017-02-22 20:59:11    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Shi

Scenery of South Africa's Mpumalanga [File photo: Xinhua]

By Andrew Ngozo for gmmg.com

Many Chinese tourists in South Africa often express the same sentiment after visiting the Southern African nation: that despite the political and economic challenges that the country is faced with; South Africa is a beautiful country whose glory cannot be taken in in only one visit. One such tourist is Hui Jingzi Wang who said his trip from Beijing to South Africa was worth every minute of the almost 24 hours spent to reach Africa, and he looks forward to visiting South Africa again in the near future.

The trip, conducted in February 2017, was Wang¡¯s maiden trip to a continent which, he confessed, had always been on his bucket list of ¡®to do things¡¯ at some point in his life. ¡°I just want to travel to a place that is totally different from China, and I like remote places the best. South Africa is so different and unique that, were it not for my business interest back home, I would consider settling here,¡± he said. Wang is not alone in being tired of the usual tour routes to familiar regions and wanting journeys to the ¡®unknown¡¯. According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) figures released this week, the number of Chinese tourists to South Africa [has] increased rapidly in recent months. South Africa has emerged as one of the favourite tourist destinations for Chinese travellers together with Kenya, Egypt and a number of islands in the Indian Ocean because of their beautiful natural scenery and unique local cultures.

China is a forerunner as one of the leading contributors to South Africa¡¯s tourism industry by virtue of the increasing Chinese travellers coming into the country. Chinese tourists who travel in Africa usually have international travel experience and are looking for unique journeys, said Raymond Mawelele, a Johannesburg travel agent who specifically deals with the Chinese and Asian travellers into South Africa. However, he said, his agency is often inundated with requests from tourists who want to use South Africa as their gateway to the rest of the continent to such countries as Kenya and Egypt which, like South Africa, are blessed with scores of wild animals in their natural habitats and rich cultural heritage.

Scenery of South Africa's Free State [File photo: Xinhua]

As many as 30 African countries and regions are destinations for Chinese tour groups, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) website. ¡°Different countries and regions in Africa have their distinguishing features. But, in all [my] interactions with my Chinese clients, South Africa always emerges as their destination of choice. Often they share with me that they will not get tired of the varied scenery in South Africa,¡± he said. Mawelele added that the continent in general, and South Africa in particular, have seen an uptake in the number of Chinese tourists because the cost of trips to Africa is also dropping with some tour groups costing less than 10 000 yuan ( about USD1 600).

However, some industry experts say, Africa is still a niche market for Chinese tourists compared with other international destinations. ¡°Africa is the smallest tourism market among the different tourism regions in the travel agency. But all things point to a changing playing field for the better in that regard,¡± said Wang Di, manager of the African division of BTG International Travel & Tours, one of the earliest Chinese travel agencies running tour groups to Africa. Safety in Africa is also an important concern keeping Chinese tourists from the region because of the political turmoil in some parts of the continent.

Mawelele concluded that, overall, they are receiving good business from Chinese clients. ¡°This has even necessitated us to bring in more staff members on board, some of whom are undergoing Chinese Mandarin lessons as we speak. I can assure Chinese tourists that Africa and South Africa is a very safe destination. Besides, we would not take our clients to danger zones and South Africa is definitely not on that list. Some Chinese people think of Africa as a backward and chaotic place, but they have never been there. The actual situation is totally different such that they cannot help but express the desire to come back again [and again],¡± Mawelele said.

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