Tourism: jobs, the economy and spending

Tourism: jobs, the economy and spending

Despite a drop in the number of tourists visiting South Africa, the tourism industry continued to create jobs in 2015. Stats SA’s latest release of its Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report provides an overview of tourism’s contribution in terms of employment, its impact on the gross domestic product (GDP) and spending.

The number of overseas tourists to our shores declined in 2015, falling from 9,5 million in 2014 to 8,9 million in 20151. The drop in the number of visitors didn’t slow the tourism industry’s contribution to employment, though. The industry created 32 186 new jobs in 2015, raising the tourism workforce from 679 560 individuals in 2014 to a total of 711 746 individuals.

Currently, one in 22 employed people in South Africa work in the tourism industry, representing 4,5% of the total workforce. In fact, tourism surpasses mining as an employer. The mining industry employed about 462 000 individuals in the quarter ending December 20152.

However, whereas mining contributed 8,0% to the South African economy in 20153, the tourism industry’s contribution was 3,1%4. In other words, for every R100 produced by the South African economy, R3,10 was a result of tourism. This makes the tourism industry larger than the agriculture industry, the latter having contributed only 2,4% to the economy in 2015.

The fall in the number of visitors did seem to soften total tourism spend, however. Even though tourists spent more money in 2015 than they did in 2014, the rate of growth in spending was lower compared with previous years. Tourists spent a total of R249,7 billion in 2015, a rise of 3,5% from R241,2 billion in 2014. This rise was lower than those recorded for 2013–2014 (10,5%) and 2012–2013 (9,2%).

The growth rate in spending was notably lower for international tourists. Inbound tourism spending rose by only 1,9% in 2015 compared with 2014, far lower than the 13,3% rise recorded for 2013–2014. Domestic tourists increased their spending by 4,8% over 2014–2015 compared with 8,3% over 2013–2014.

Domestic tourism is the main contributor to total tourism spending, with local travellers having contributed 56,4% (or R140,9 billion) to the total in 2015, compared with international visitors who contributed 43,6% (R108,8 billion).


To find out more, download the Tourism Satellite Account, 2015 report here.

1 Sourced from Stats SA’s annual tourism reports. Visit the archive here.

2 Quarterly Employment Survey, December 2015. Download the release here.

3 Gross domestic product (GDP). Figures were calculated from “1. Prod AN” in the Excel file GDP P0441 Q3 2016, available here.

4 Percentage contribution to value added. Contribution to total GDP was 3,0%.

Click on the infographic below to enlarge.