S. Africa willing to attract more Chinese tourists: minister


South African Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom is interviewed by reporters during a Chinese New Year celebration held by the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South African, Feb. 3, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua)

South Africa is willing to have more Chinese visitors and is striving to make their travel easier and more enjoyable, a South African official said on Sunday.

South African Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said in a Chinese New Year celebration held by the Chinese embassy that South Africa has about 100,000 Chinese tourists annually, "we could massively grow this number."

In 2018, South Africa and China signed memorandums of understanding, among them was visa simplification for Chinese business and leisure travelers to promote tourism.

Hanekom said this was one step toward making it easier for Chinese travelers to get visa to South Africa.

He revealed that South African government is considering issuing 10-year-multiple-entry visa and e-visa to Chinese tourists. Department of Home Affairs is exploring the possibility of recognizing prior or other visa in Chinese passport, such as Schengen visa, US visa or Australian visa.

He also promised that the visa application-approval process will be reduced to five days.

As for the safety problem, Hanekom said, "We are all aware of the challenge. We're taking it very seriously." The government is fighting crime and corruption harshly, those places that visitors typically visit are "safe by any international standard."

Hanekom said some local guides and hotel waiters had been taught Mandarin to enhance Chinese visitors' experience. The training will be extended to more people in the next few years.

"South Africa offers a range of wildlife experiences and amazingly diverse cultural and heritage offering that not many countries can match," Hanekom said. "We extend a warm welcome to them (Chinese) to include South Africa in their travel plans."