Cape Town - The US's loss might be South Africa's gain.
As immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa have been blocked by the US's new President Donald Trump, South African Tourism is working to increase travel between our country and the Islamic republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf, one of the US banned Muslim countries.
South Africa's Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom is currently in Iran on a working visit at the invitation of his counterpart in Iran, vice-President Dr Zahra Ahmadipour, who is also the Head of the Iranian Cultural, Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation.
The reason? To strengthen South Africa's tourism ties with Iran, and to boost SA's standing as a Muslim-friendly destination.
South Africa is among the most popular destinations in the world for Muslim travellers, according to the MasterCard-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index for 2016, which covers 130 global destinations.
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Furthermore, Iran is amongst South Africa’s top three source markets for inbound tourists from the Middle East. More than 4 000 Iranian tourists visited South Africa between January and November 2016.
Overall, about 117 million Muslim visitors travelled the world in 2015, representing 10% of the entire travel market. This is expected to grow to 168 million visitors by 2020, according to the MasterCard Index.
It's a market South African Tourism wants to nurture and grow in the coming years.
According to Matthew Driver for the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index for 2016, "The fast growing Muslim travel segment is an opportunity in plain sight, but in order to benefit from it, it is crucial to understand the needs and preferences of Muslim travellers and how to adapt and tailor products and services for them."
This is what SA's Tourism hopes to achieve with the current visit.
Hanekom will be attending the country's 10th annual Tehran International Tourism Exhibition, in addition to having bilateral discussions with Dr Ahmadipour on growing tourism bilateral relations between the two countries. He has also engaged members of the tourism trade in the Islamic republic of Iran to discuss ways of increasing tourist arrivals from the country to South Africa.
“We have a good base to work from and grow tourism between our countries,” Hanekom says. “We have been very warmly received in Iran, and the government and tourism trade has responded very positively to our effort to promote further tourism ties.”
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Hanekom says, “South Africa and Iran already have a strategic partnership that will benefit the people of both our countries."
The Department of Tourism is now working with our Iranian counterparts on finalising a Memorandum of Understanding on Tourism Cooperation.
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