With South Africa edging swiftly towards its tourist high season, how has the industry performed in recent months?
New visa rules that came into effect in October 2014, required visitors to apply for visas in person at South African embassies to record biometric information. These rules were reported to have had a negative impact on the tourism industry. Last year, South Africa relaxed some of the visa rules, dropping the requirement for visitors to apply for visas in person at South African embassies; but have these changes resulted in any improvement in tourist numbers?
How many travellers arrived in SA?
A total of 3,5 million travellers passed through South African ports of entry in August 2016, according to Stats SA’s latest Tourism and Migration report. Despite all concerns, the number of tourists increased by 14% from 731 248 in August 2015 to 833 638 in August 2016. The number of overseas tourists has increased by 22,6% over the same period.
Where did they come from?
The ten leading overseas countries visiting South Africa are the UK, USA, Germany, the Netherlands, France, China, Italy, Australia, India and Spain. Tourists from these ten countries comprised 75,2% of all tourists from overseas countries.
All ten countries showed an increase in the number of tourists to South Africa since August 2015. The highest increase of 66,1% was for tourists from China, followed by Spain at 51,5%. The increase in Chinese visitors may be related to the relaxed visa regulations that now allow tour operators to apply for visas for Chinese tourists.
The United Kingdom (UK) had the smallest increase in tourists (9,8%) since the same time last year.
For tourists arriving from the African continent, 97,2%, were from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The remaining 2,8% of tourists arrived from West Africa, East and Central Africa and North Africa. The ten leading SADC countries in terms of the number of tourists visiting South Africa in August 2016 were Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Malawi showed the largest increase of tourists at 34,2%, while Mozambique showed the largest decrease at 6,2%.
Why did they travel to SA?
It may not come as any surprise, but more than 90% of tourists from each of the overseas regions came to South Africa for a holiday. Asia had the highest proportion of tourists who came to South Africa for business (7,1%), while the Middle East had the highest proportion of tourists who came for study purposes (1,0%) compared to other overseas regions. While only 2,4% of business persons arrived from SADC regions, 5,1% were from “other” African countries. The highest proportion of tourists (7%) were students from North Africa.
South Africa’s reputation for delivering scenic countrysides, a sunny climate and rich cultural diversity makes it a desirable destination for travellers. With the weak rand and the summer months approaching, South Africa may see tourism numbers increase even further.