Cape Town - South African Tourism is serious about opening up the country to new upcoming travel markets.
The Department of Tourism announced this week that group of 20 frontline tourism staff will be heading to China to be further trained in Mandarin.
The South African trainees were selected for the specialised training from establishments frequented by the growing number of Chinese tourists visiting South Africa, and have completed the initial phase of their training - with distinction.
According to Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, the programme's first class passed with an average mark of 88%.
The group will now be jetting off to China for the cultural learning experience part of the programme.
The three-week visit to China will enable trainees to communicate in Mandarin, which is used by about 1000 million speakers, mainly in the People’s Republic of China.
“The language training will enhance the experience of our Mandarin-speaking visitors and make their stay in South Africa even more memorable,” says Hanekom.
He says the scholars will be on the frontlines of tourism, helping "Mandarin speakers with making arrangements for travel, accommodation and sites to visit. The tourist guides will be able to tell the fascinating stories behind our sites better, and the tourists will understand them better, and spread the word when they return home,” he says.
“The ability to communicate in the language of our visitors reduces their levels of anxiety when they arrive and try to find their way around a place they are not familiar with. It makes them more confident and they can relax and enjoy their stay,” Hanekom says.
In September this year, Hanekom officially launched a Foreign Language Training Programme in Mandarin and Russian for tourist guides and frontline staff in Johannesburg, Gauteng.
At the time, Hanekom said that the programme will ensure that tourism practitioners are adequately capacitated with a proficiency in Mandarin and Russian.
Booming travel market
China and Russia are among the top tourist markets for South Africa, while China is the world’s largest outbound market for tourism. Over 128 million Chinese tourists visited other countries last year.
South Africa has enjoyed spectacular growth in arrivals from China this year. Arrivals between January and August this year were 64% better than the same period last year.
Hanekom also invited other partners in the tourism industry to become involved in similar language training programmes.
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