The launch of Air China’s direct flight from Johannesburg to Beijing was on Friday, giving new hope to South African tourism.
The launch happened “just in time” as Chinese travellers will no longer be expected to provide their biometric data in person when applying for a visa in China and have an unabridged birth certificate for children.
South Africa saw a decrease in tourist, particularly those coming from China after the new visa regulations although General Manager of ACSA Bongiwe Pityi admitted that the decline was sparked by the Ebola crisis that were misunderstood and the xenophobic attacks.
Tian Xuejun, China’s Ambassador to South Africa said that there were more than 100 Chinese companies doing business in South Africa and most of them viewed the country as an entryway to expand in Africa.
“South Africa is also the number one in Africa in terms of the number of overseas Chinese, Chinese sister cities, Chinese tourists and Chinese students. All these ‘number one’ and ‘firsts’ have shown the brisk people-to-people exchanges between the two sides, which means consistent flows of passengers for the airport and airline companies,” he said.
Dereck Hanekom Minister of Tourism said that this route would create an increase in tourism particularly after the visa regulations were revised.
“I believe that this direct route will increase the number of tourists. Imagine if 1 out of 200 Chinese nationals came to South Africa, we would exceed the previous 0.1 percent of the Chinese tourism market” he said.
He added that tourism is an important aspect of both countries as it will contribute in both tourism and trade. “A tourist is a potential investor” he said.
According to the China Tourism Research Institute, 61.9 million outbound tourists departed from China in the first half of 2015, a 12 percent increase compared with the same period in 2014. However, Chinese visitors to South Africa declined to 35 551 (30 %), compared to 51 079 for the same period in 2014.
Air China is expected to fill its 311 passenger flight three times a week between Johannesburg and Beijing. A similar route will be opening in the Ethopian capital, Addis Ababa early next year.