Tourism glitters more than gold

12 October 2004

It’s official: South Africa’s booming tourism sector brings more dollars into the country than gold.

The yellow metal was once the bedrock of the country’s economy, but recent research by Standard Bank shows that foreign exchange proceeds from tourism are significantly higher than those from gold exports.

In 2003, forex from tourism totalled R53.9-billion, compared to the R35.3-billion from net gold exports.

According to the research, tourism contributes about 7% to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and adds more to domestic economic growth than the mining sector, which contributes 5% to GDP, Business Day reports.

Business tourism key to growth
South African Tourism says business tourism – a category which includes conference tourism – is the key to further growth in the sector, and already injects some R20-billion annually into the South Africa’s economy.

Business tourism sustains almost 260 000 jobs in SA, and pays out R6-billion in salaries and R4-billion in taxes every year.

Despite a global slump, South Africa has continued to defy world tourism trends, and in 2003 achieved a 4.2% increase in overseas arrivals (not including arrivals from Africa) compared to 2002.

This in the face of a 1.3% fall-off in global travel attributed to the conflict in Iraq, fears over the Sars virus and a weak global economy.

The country’s exponential tourism growth has coincided with the its first decade of democracy: arrivals have grown tenfold since 1994, from 640 000 to 6.5-million in 2003.

The Standard Bank research shows that in 2003, more than half of South Africa’s tourists came from other African countries – many of them on “shopping safaris” – with visitors from Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia, whose currencies are pegged to the rand, spending R7.6-billion in the country.

SouthAfrica.info reporter