3,5 million travellers to South Africa

Summer is here and it’s time once again for the tourist high season. For those in the tourism industry, it is the busiest time of the year with tourists from around the globe flocking to South African shores to enjoy our beautiful beaches, the African sun and the many attractions that South Africa has to offer.

According to the latest Tourism and Migration Survey released by Stats SA, almost 3,5 million travellers passed through South African ports of entry in August 2017. However, since August 2016, there has been a slight drop in the volume of arrivals and departures of foreign travellers. The top five overseas countries with the largest number of tourists visiting South Africa were the USA, UK, Germany, The Netherlands and France. With regard to tourists arriving in South Africa from the African continent, nearly all were from SADC countries. Zimbabwe tops the list at 31%, followed by Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana.

The ten leading countries in terms of the number of tourists visiting South Africa in August 2017 from ‘other’ African countries were: Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Gabon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Congo, Cameroon, and Côte dʹIvoire. While Nigeria comprised nearly 30% of tourists arriving in South Africa, it was one of six countries that showed a year-on-year decrease.


A comparison between the movements in August 2016 and August 2017 indicates that the volume of arrivals and departures increased for South African residents while for foreign travellers, both the volume of arrivals and departures decreased. This could indicate that South African citizens are travelling more than they were last year. The busiest port of entry for foreign travellers as well as South African residents is OR Tambo International Airport, followed by Cape Town International Airport.

Why do people travel to South Africa? Well, 97% of travellers were in South Africa for a holiday, while the rest were here for business and study purposes. Students made up 4,7% of tourists from ‘other’ African countries compared with 0,6% from the SADC countries. Of all travellers, 74% were non-South African. Many of these – especially those from neighbouring countries – visit South Africa for a just a single day to trade and to shop, for example. Those staying overnight, however, are regarded as tourists.

Stats SA uses routine data collected by the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) immigration officers at the ports of entry into South Africa to compile this report.