21 May 2003
South Africa is winning the contest for the African tourist. The influx of tourists from the rest of the continent has grown to such an extent, according to CapeInfo, that upmarket shopping centres in Johannesburg are offering “retail therapy weekends” for visitors from neighbouring countries.
Downtown Johannesburg hotels, CapeInfo says in its latest newsletter, are turning their conference venues into warehouses for traders coming to South Africa to buy goods for resale back home.
“It doesn’t matter whether people are buying diamonds or paraffin,” says Cheryl Carolus, chief executive officer of South African Tourism. “It’s money that is spent in our economy.”
The number of Africans arriving in the country by air rose 18 percent last year to 331 000. The number arriving by land increased by eight percent to 4.3 million – two-thirds of all foreign visitors.
South Africa now claims to have captured 90 percent of the tourist market from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, with the biggest increases in 2002 coming from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
“For Carolus, going after the African tourist is about spreading the risk instead of relying too heavily on markets such as the UK and Germany”, CapeInfo writes. “And surveys at border posts have shown that African tourists are good for the economy. They spent about R24-billion here last year – half the estimated R48-billion spent by all foreign tourists.
“Those who came over land spent close to R19-billion. By comparison, tourists from Europe, including the UK, spent R9-billion.”
Gauteng and Mpumalanga were the main destinations for tourists from Africa last year. In Nelspruit alone, Mozambicans spent an estimated R30-million a month, according to Nancy Chimhandamba, head of marketing at Mpumalanga Tourism.