SA tourism hits 9-million mark

7 April 2008

A total of 9.07-million foreigners visited South Africa in 2007 – representing an 8.3% increase over 2006 – as the country broke its annual tourist arrivals record for the third year running.

Announcing the latest figures in a statement last month, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said that the overall global growth rate for the year was just over 6%, indicating that South Africa was still outpacing international tourism growth rates.

“Destination South Africa is well on its way to reaching 10-million arrivals by 2010,” Van Schalkwyk said.

South Africa’s growth was seen across all air markets, the minister said. Africa remained the country’s biggest tourism source market, while consistent growth in arrivals from the Americas since 2002 made the US South Africa’s second biggest source market.

US now SA’s second-biggest market

South Africa attracted over 22 000 more travellers from the US in 2007 – an 8.7% increase over 2006.

Arrivals from Asia and Australasia also grew strongly in 2007 compared to 2006, with a 16.9% increase from India, 12.9% increase from China, and 6.9% increase in visitors from Australasia.

“The only Asian market that showed a slight decrease was Japan, which posted a decrease of -0.4% over 2006,” Van Schalkwyk said.

Arrivals from Europe grew by 2.3% over 2006, driven by an 8.5% increase in arrivals from France. Arrivals from the Netherlands grew 3.5%, and from Italy by 2.2%.

“Germany was the only European country that posted negative growth of 1.4%, which was largely due to market-specific activity,” Van Schalkwyk said.

African arrivals continue to grow

South Africa’s African air markets, meanwhile, showed good growth for the year, with Kenya coming in with a strong 14.7% increase over 2006, Nigeria posting a 12.8% increase, and Angola growing strongly from a low base with a 10.2% increase over 2006.

Closer to home, arrivals from Botswana continued their growth curve of recent years, with 55 000 more visitors coming to South Africa from Botswana in 2007, representing a 7.3% increase over 2006.

The increase in arrivals, especially air arrivals, from all regions of the world reflected not only the growing awareness of South Africa as a tourism destination but also “the success of the airlift strategy passed by Cabinet last year that resulted in increased access to the South African market for foreign carriers,” Van Schalkwyk said.

More direct flights

The airlift strategy has seen Delta Airlines flying direct to Johannesburg from Atlanta in the US, and the airline has plans to introduce a service between New York and Cape Town this year.

South African Airways has introduced a service between Munich and Johannesburg, and Emirates Airlines now flies into Johannesburg 18 times a week and will soon be flying direct to Cape Town and then to Durban.

China Eastern has opened the route to China, and Thai Air has re-established the route to Bangkok.

There have also been requests from two UK airlines, as well as air carriers from South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Mozambique, Angola and Nigeria, for direct flights into South Africa.

Post-apartheid tourism boom

International tourism to South Africa has surged since the end of apartheid. In 1994, the year of South Africa’s first democratic elections, only 3.9-million foreign visitors arrived in the country.

By 2004, international arrivals had more than doubled to 6.7-million. In 2005 they grew to 7.5-million (+10.3%), in 2006 to 8.4-million (+13.9%), and in 2007 to 9.07-million (+8.3%).

Tourism is also one of the fastest growing sectors of South Africa’s economy, its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increasing from 4.6% back in 1993 to 8.3% in 2006. Directly and indirectly, tourism constitutes approximately 7% of employment in South Africa.

And the outlook for the industry is extremely positive, particularly with the exposure the country will receive in the lead-up to the world’s biggest sporting event, the Fifa World Cup, taking place in South Africa in 2010.

SAinfo reporter

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