The South African Ministry of Tourism has officially launched the Foreign Language Training Programme in Mandarin Chinese and Russian for tourist guides and frontline staff to improve the service rendered to visitors from the two countries.
Speaking at the launch in Johannesburg, Deputy Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa said South Africa looks up to China and Russia to grow the economy and create more jobs.
The first phase of the program involved 20 South Africans who took Madarian courses.
After finishing the courses, the participants, together with those who are learning Russian, will visit China and Russia to gain confidence in the language.
The Tourism Department said they chose the two languages after realizing that more and more visitors are coming from the two countries.
For overseas markets, South Africa saw the highest increase in tourist arrivals from China which increased 64 percent year on year for July 2016, the Department of Tourism said.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Africa increased from 5,402 in July 2015 to 8,858 in July this year, the department said.
Xasa encouraged those learning the two languages to be ambassadors of South Africa.
She said those who have learnt the languages will help educate others who do not know the languages for easy communication in the tourism industry.
The trainees were selected from different companies in the tourism sector.
Xasa said the training will help those in the tourism sector to explain the country’s programmes and sell the country easily.
Speaking on the same occasion, Li Song, Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, said the initiative will further cement the existing relations between the two countries.
“The roll-out of these training programmes shows that as the relations between our two countries and people grow stronger, it is increasingly important for us to do more on breaking the language barriers,” Li said.
“Such training programmes will surely improve South Africa’s service for tourists from all over the world, including Chinese travellers who will be attracted to this beautiful and amazing rainbow nation,” he said.
Susan Mphela, who owns tourism agency Suzy’s Nice Palace and Tours, told Xinhua that the initiative will help improve service for tourists.
Mphela, who speaks fluent Mandarin, has one of her employees in the Mandarin class. She said she would like to see the Department of Tourism continuing with the programme.
She said the training will make her business grow and sustainable.
Thoko Jili, a tour guide from Wisdom Travellers and Tours who is in the Russian class, told Xinhua that the language skills will boost her confidence in doing her job.
She said she will be able to welcome Russian visitors in their own language after the training course, and this will make them feel more comfortable and secure.
South Africa and China signed an agreement to cooperate in the tourism sector in 2013 and with Russia in 1998. Russia and South Africa reinforced the agreement into a stronger partnership in 2014.