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March 30, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa: Bradley Brouwer, South African Tourism’s President for Asia-Pacific

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Firstly, how do you spend your work days?

I usually spend a week every month in Japan and around two weeks every month in China. My diary is very busy and varied; from media interviews, trade seminars, consumer seminars and government relations with tourism and aviation sectors and administration.

What are your objectives in Japan?

Needless to say, our objective is to meet our targets, in terms of arrivals, spend, and increased awareness of South Africa, etc.

To be more specific, our key focuses are:

  • To build Japanese’ confidence in South Africa by providing information that positions South Africa as an attractive and welcoming destination.

  • To get more Japanese travellers to be aware of South Africa as an attractive leisure (and business) destination.

  • To engage with the Japanese travel trade and to provide them with a range of fresh itineraries which promote a variety of value-for-money aspects of South Africa that can be sold confidently and easily. We remain focused on empowering the trade to market and sell South Africa better.

And your objectives in China?

I am responsible for developing tourism opportunities in both China and Japan, and in South Korea. In my role, the key activities I am taking charge of include strategic analysis, marketing planning and setting up the operations to promote South Africa while building the South African brand, to further develop relations with the travel trade, media and other stakeholders in these markets. In China it is important to keep South Africa top of mind as a destination for future travel considerations.

How receptive is the Japanese market to South Africa’s tourism and business event/MICE offerings?

  • A growing number of travel agencies in Japan have been showing interest in selling South Africa, and H.I,S., a major travel agency in Japan, opened its office in Johannesburg in early 2014, the 1st Japanese agency to open in South Africa.

  • We position Japan as one of the attractive markets in the Asia & Australasia region and categorized as one of the ‘investment’ markets in our portfolio.

  • The number of Japanese visitors to South Africa in 2013 (Jan-Dec 2013) showed a year-on-year growth of 22.2% to 42,045, setting out a record arrivals figure for two years in a row. Please bear in mind that there is no direct air link between Japan and South Africa. The 22.2% growth was more than quadruple the 4.7% growth rate of the total international tourist to South Africa. In fact, Japan’s growth rate was the highest among our key portfolio % wise in 2013.

  • It should be fair to say that an arrival growth of this nature is remarkable and encouraging, considering the fact that the total number of Japanese outbound dropped by 5.5% in 2013.

  • I should also point out that approximately 70% of the Japanese visitors to South Africa in 2013 were on business. In terms of trading, South Africa is Japan’s largest trading partner in Africa, while Japan is South Africa’s 3rd largest.

  • Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development (TICAD) in 2013 marked a new wave of interaction between Japanese companies and African countries including South Africa. And, more Japanese companies have been expanding their business in South Africa.

  • So, there is room to grow business tourism as the relationship between the two continents has been elevated to a strategic partnership and is becoming more ambitious.

Is this sentiment echoed in China?

As one of the most sought-after destinations in the world, South Africa has brought a wide range of its business offerings to China. South African Tourism exhibited at the China Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (CIBTM) for several years now and has introduced its world-class business & events tourism resources and offerings with the NCB to the tourism industry in China.

South Africa’s business and MICE products are fairly well accepted in the Chinese market and are doing really well. We helped facilitate visa applications for two MICE travel groups for about 3 250 people this month. South Africa’s travel products are more competitive now while the rand has depreciated. As a result we are doing continuous promotional efforts with our partners and media, and are increasing the destination’s brand awareness and reputation. Companies like automobile and medicine manufacturers as well as some insurance companies that are conducting MICE travel groups annually tend to choose off-the-beaten-track destinations like South Africa; this is a huge opportunity to grow MICE even further from China.

What are the key elements of your marketing campaigns?

In Japan:

  • Our key communications strategy is:

  • To promote the unique combinations of tourism offerings – scenic beauty, flowers, wildlife, adventure, and people – which sets South Africa apart.

  • To develop a stronger heartfelt connection with South African culture, heritage and people in the Japanese sentiment to grow a sense of affinity to South Africa. We want to bring South Africa closer to the heartland of Japanese people.

  • We want to be seen as welcoming by Japanese people. We want them to know that South Africa is a nation of ubuntu – warm, friendly and welcoming people. Our people are a key destination brand differentiator.

  • We want to enshrine the realities of a warm, welcoming people with a vibrant can-do culture in a destination with a rainbow fusion of influences. The only country that provides both an authentic African experience and cosmopolitan, contemporary first-world lifestyle experience with highly developed first-world infrastructure.

  • Together with our trade and media partners, we have been undertaking a series of “deal-driven campaigns” during the current fiscal 2014-15 to give a concrete reason for Japanese wanderlusters to experience unique combinations of what South Africa has to offer as a leisure destination.

  • At the same time, we provide content-rich information in our local website to showcase key itineraries that can be experienced with the campaign tour products.


  • To further enhance the brand image and brand awareness of South Africa under the new theme for 2015 – “Interact with South Africa in an Authentic Way”.

  • Authenticity is very important to the Chinese who tend to seek authentic experiences in South Africa and aspire to meet and interact with locals. Trade media projects will be conducted to echo with this.

  • To also leverage the annual Meetings Africa and INDABA platforms and FAM trips to present South Africa’s diverse business tourism offerings and the latest products on offer.

  • SA Tourisms annual trade workshops are essential to educate and communicate with the Chinese travel trade and to provide them with the latest information through their South African counterparts.

  • Brand and independent South African booth presence during the annual China International Travel Mart and China International Business Travel Mart is essential in China.

  • A few joint marketing agreements will be signed with Chinese trade partners to deepened cooperation and sales potential.  

What is the greatest part of your job?

One of the greatest parts is to get to travel to many countries and to get to know many people with different cultures, which makes my life richer. I believe that travelling is an essential part of living well.

I really enjoy my work because I think that I have such a great opportunity to share these market insights with fellow South Africans, and I think that the cultural diversity is of most interest to me and to know more about the Chinese travel trends as they change so fast. China is a great country with huge opportunities.

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