South African frontline tour guides will soon be able to speak to Chinese tourists in Mandarin (Photos courtesy SA Tourism)
South African Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, believes that in order for anyone to not only fit in, but to live an effective life in today's global village, one needs to learn as much about other cultures as possible.
Xasa was speaking during the launch of the Foreign Language Training Program in Mandarin and Russian, held at the Hilton Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa recently, with Russian and Chinese Embassy representatives in attendance.
China and Russia are among the top tourist markets for South Africa. Statistics released by South African Tourism in January 2016 showed a 12.6 percent increase from Russia, and a 63.7 percent increase from China. In global trends, China had the world's largest number of outbound tourists in 2015. According to the China Tourism Research Institute, this figure was 120 million visitors who spent $104.5 billion.
These are some of the factors which have led the Department of Tourism to initiate the Foreign Language Training Program.
"Other positive developments in this [tourism] regard are the relaxation of South African visa requirements, which is expected to increase the number of Russian (and Chinese) tourists to South Africa," said Xasa.
Tourism staff selected for the foreign languages training course
Memoranda of Agreements were signed with Russia and China in areas of capacity building and skills development. Working groups were set up, and they identified the need for a Foreign Language Program.
The Foreign Language Training Program is a capacity-building initiative that will enable frontline staff and tourist guides to develop competencies in Mandarin and Russian. Tourism practitioners will be competent in speaking, reading and writing in both languages. The overall outcome is improved service levels and visitor experience.
"We as the people of the People's Republic of China are grateful for the strides made by the South African Government in strengthening relations with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries," said Li Song, Minister at Chinese Embassy in South Africa.
Li added that they welcomed the initiative and hoped it will contribute towards bringing more tourists in to the country. "When you speak to a man in his own language, you speak to his heart," he noted.
The program will run for a period of three months for both languages. The 28 trainees are from different fields in the tourism sector.