3 March 2010
A record 10-million tourists are expected to pass through South Africa’s ports of entry in 2010 – 500 000 more than the 9.5-million who visited the country in 2008 – says Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
Briefing the media in Cape Town this week, Van Schalkwyk said that while the global tourism industry saw a decline of 4% in 2009, South Africa outperformed its competitors and saw its tourism numbers continue to grow, albeit at a lower level after a record four years of double-digit growth.
Focus on conventions
However, he said, the country could not rest on its laurels. South Africa had for too long relied on leisure tourism, and needed to diversify if it was to continue to encourage more people to visit the country.
His department planned to focus more on the areas of tourism generated by business travellers and conventions, which currently make up 6% of South Africa’s foreign arrivals.
“We want to be, in a few years, one of the top 10 long-haul convention destinations in the world, and to do that we will have to professionalise our approach,” he said.
Van Schalkwyk said the department wanted to launch a national convention bureau to put a stop to the country’s main conference destinations, Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, undermining one another.
2010: enough rooms
He said sporting events were a “giant” opportunity for South Africa too, currently accounting for 10% of foreign arrivals. The 2010 Fifa World Cup would attract about 300 000 to 450 000 visitors, and Van Schalkwyk said he had “no doubt” that the country had enough rooms.
Commenting on the speculation that hotels and guest houses had unfairly inflated room tariffs for the event, he said consulting firm Grant Thornton was busy looking into whether this was indeed the case.
“It’s very anecdotal what we are hearing. I haven’t seen a general trend towards overpricing in the accommodation sector, but it’s important that we have facts,” he said, adding that the issue of aircraft pricing was being investigated by the Competition Commission.