12 August 2009
With African land arrivals making up almost 75% of foreign arrivals to South Africa, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk says the importance of African visitors should not be underestimated.
Van Schalkwyk was visiting the Lebombo border post near Nelspruit in Mpumalanga province this week, during which he addressed border officials on the important role they played in influencing the number of repeat travellers originating from neighbouring Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
These include Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
According to the Department of Tourism, Van Schalkwyk’s visit forms part of South African Tourism’s Welcome campaign, launched in 2005 to encourage South Africans to be good hosts.
“This border post at Lebombo often receives between 300 000 and 500 000 people during peak periods, and it is therefore very apt that we today thank our border officials for their hard work and encourage them to continue to embody the spirit of the Welcome campaign,” Van Schalkwyk said.
Significant economic contribution
Van Schalkwyk said the majority of visitors from SADC countries travelled to South Africa for shopping, to visit friends and family, and for general holiday purposes, contributing significantly to the South African economy.
Van Schalkwyk pointed out that while global travel markets were feeling the pinch of the economic recession, arrivals from Africa continued to grow, outperforming arrivals from the UK and the rest of Europe combined.
“Last year, more than seven million people from SADC countries visited South Africa. Statistics from April this year show that arrivals from the Africa land markets numbered 665 318 visitors so far this year,” he said.
“Of these, 491 601 were from Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana. Arrivals from Mozambique are also of great importance to us, and last year we saw more than 1.2-million visitors from Mozambique.”
He said the total foreign direct spend by visitors to South Africa from African land markets amounted to more than R43-billion last year, up from just over R35-billion in 2007.
“The average spend per trip by visitors from these markets was R10 800 in 2008,” he said. “This cannot be regarded as small change in anybody’s book, and we are committed to growing our African tourism markets in every way possible.”
Providing good service
He said one of the ways of doing this was to ensure border officials were well versed on what it meant to provide good service.
“Officials at the border often worked long, tedious hours and dealt with a magnitude of people, particularly during peak season. We have what we call ‘Welcome Values’ that we would like for them to live out in their daily workplace.
“A visitor who feels he or she has been served well and warmly received will reciprocate with friendliness and a desire to visit again,” Van Schalkwyk said.
“Furthermore, with the 2010 Fifa World Cup less than a year away, we need to ensure that our African neighbours feel welcome. This World Cup belongs to the continent, and we need to involve our neighbours in assisting with the promotion of the tournament and in delivering a truly African World Cup to the rest of the world.”
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