Johannesburg - South Africa could attract more than 100 000 tourists a year from India by 2014, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Monday.
Speaking at the opening of the Travel Agents' Federation India 2013 in Durban, he said the number of tourists from India had risen to 79 000 between January and September 2012.
"[This] constitutes an 18% increase compared to the previous year. Each tourist spent an average of R12 000 per trip," said Van Schalkwyk.
"South African Tourism has been promoting our destination in India since 2005, focusing on film, fashion, sports, and food and wine."
He said India was identified as a core market for South African tourism three years ago, and he was delighted that South Africa's world-renowned events and lifestyle had struck a chord with the Indian traveller.
"India is not only already a source market for South Africa, but also an emerging travel market with massive growth potential," said the minister.
"India’s economic growth is expected to continue over the next 40 years, and by 2050, India is expected to be among the top three global economies."
Van Schalkwyk emphasised the strong history of mutual respect between the two countries, with cricket being an example of a powerful common denominator.
"It was to India that South Africa’s international cricket team travelled for the first time after the end of apartheid, in 1991," he said.
"Incidentally also, that flight by Clive Rice’s team was the first time that a South African aeroplane entered Indian airspace."
India then became the first touring team to play in a South Africa in 1992, recognising India’s role in the fight against apartheid and the country's readmission into international sport.
"The bilateral relations between India and South Africa have grown so much stronger since. We have developed very close strategic, cultural and economic ties," said Van Schalkwyk.
"Emerging markets are important source markets, but even more importantly, we are emerging destinations bound to change travel patterns around the world."
Van Schalkwyk believed emerging destinations would become the centre of the "universe" for international tourism flow.
"It is part of the global rebalancing of forces that will shape our tomorrow," he said.