Mandarin guide graduates brace for Chinese tourists in S. Africa
"Ni wen wo ai ni you duo shen, yue lian dai biao wo de xin (You asked me how much I loved you, the moon can represent my hear)." When hearing this Chinese song, you can hardly believe that it was sung by a group of South African tourist guides who have been learning mandarin for only two months.
These 20 tourists guides were selected from all over the country by the Department of Tourism and accepted the mandarine training supplied by the University of Johannesburg-Nanjing Technology University Confucius Institute.
During the training, they learned mandarin, enjoyed Chinese culture and shared their achievement and happiness with their peers.
Nonhlanhla Ngwabe, a tourist guide from Coastal and Marine tours, said she had learned a lot during the training.
"I think we most definitely are ready. We have given ourselves time to refresh, what we know we have given ourselves time to do more research on what's the Chinese, basically international tourists, would like to see," said Ngwabe.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism contributed 7 percent to South Africa's gross domestic product in pre-pandemic times, accounting for almost 1.5 million jobs.
After the COVID-19 broke out in March last year, South Africa declared lockdown when the country's borders remained shut to all but essential travel until mid-August, along with a domestic ban on crossing provincial boundaries.
As the sector is hoping that the business will recover with the easing of lockdown regulations, a more contagious COVID-19 variant 501.V2 was discovered by South African scientists, leading to the cancellation of accommodation and flight bookings from international tourists.
A report released by Statistics SA into traveler movements showed that for December 2020, when compared to the previous year's figures, arrivals for foreign travelers dropped by a staggering 82.1 percent from more than 1.5 million in 2019 to about 280,000.
Meanwhile, the tourist accommodation industry decreased by 57.7 percent , 50,000 tourism businesses had either temporarily or permanently closed.
As the second wave of COVID-19 is diminishing, the South African tourism sector said this mandarin training program is aimed at assisting with the immediate recovery of the sector.
Mmaditonki Setwaba, Deputy Director General of Tourism Sector Support Services, is confident that the country's tourism sector will soon recover.
"The future is very bright, as you have seen today with our 20 graduates in the mandarin training. Our tourist's guides are ready, because of the relationship with China as well with the University of Johannesburg," she said.
"The department is really honored to have been part of empowering the tourist guides. Tourism benefits a lot in terms of tourist arrival from China," she added.
The graduates said the training equipped them to be ready for new tourists.
"With this Chinese mandarin training language I received, I can tell you with no doubt that we are ready to handle all the international tourists coming from China to introduce them to the South African wildlife," said Sydney Mikosi from Sydney's African Safaris.