No stopping South African tourism

26 April 2013

International tourist arrivals in South Africa grew by 10.2% year-on-year to almost 9.2-million in 2012, more than double the global average of around 4%, President Jacob Zuma announced on Thursday.

“In 1993, South Africa received a mere 3.4-million foreign visitors,” Zuma told a media briefing in Cape Town. “By 2012, the figure had grown by 300 percent to 13.5-million visitors, of which 9.2-million were tourists.”

‘Evidence of successful marketing’

Zuma said the country’s phenomenal tourism growth was evidence “that we are successfully setting ourselves apart in a competitive marketplace. It indicates that South Africa’s reputation as a friendly, welcoming, inspiring and unique tourism destination continues to grow”.

Zuma thanked South Africans for playing their part in this success, saying that, “in addition to the beauty of our country and its outstanding facilities, it is because South Africans treat visitors warmly and hospitably that we see such positive results”.

Europe remained the highest source of overseas tourists to South Africa in 2012, with arrivals growing by 9.5% year-on-year to 1 396 978 tourists, with the UK holding its position as South Africa’s biggest overseas tourism market – 438 023 UK tourists travelled to SA in 2012, a 4.2% increase over 2011.

The United States was South Africa’s second-biggest overseas market, with the numbers up by 13.6% to 326 643 tourists, followed by Germany in third place, up 13% to 266 333 tourists. France, up 16% to 122 244 tourists in 2012, is now South Africa’s fifth biggest overseas market.

Biggest growth from BRICS countries

The biggest growth, however, came from Asia and South America, driven by large increases in arrivals from South Africa’s BRICS partners Brazil, India and China – since 2009, arrivals from China have more than tripled, arrivals from Brazil have more than doubled, and arrivals from India have almost doubled.

China became South Africa’s fourth biggest overseas market at 132 334 tourists last year, up 55.9% on 2011 figures, while Indian arrivals grew by 18.2% to 106 774 visitors, and Brazilian arrivals grew by 44.7% to 78 376 visitors.

“Africa remains the pillar of our tourism economy, and we are happy to see that arrivals from the region have maintained the solid growth path we have become accustomed to,” Zuma said. “Growth from our own continent was up by 8.5%.”

Foreign tourists spent a total of R76.4-billion in South Africa last year, up 7.6% on the total foreign direct spend in the country in 2011.

Economic growth, job creation

Zuma also reported on Statistics South Africa figures for the period ending December 2011 which show that tourism’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 5% to R84.3-billion in 2011, while its contribution to employment increased by 31 000 direct jobs to 598 432 direct jobs in total.

Tourism is identified in the government’s New Growth Path economic strategy as one of six key job-driving sectors, along with mining, manufacturing, the green economy, infrastructure development and agriculture.

Zuma said the country’s National Tourism Sector Strategy aimed to make South Africa one of the world’s top 20 tourist destinations by 2020, in the process creating 225 000 additional jobs and contributing about half a trillion rand to the country’s GDP.

The latest figures “give us confidence that we are making good progress in our efforts,” Zuma said. “But we cannot become complacent,” he added, noting that the country’s geographic position “makes our fight for the global tourism share more difficult than most.

“As we prepare to celebrate Freedom Day, let me invite every South African to be an ambassador of the Republic. Let us all market our beautiful country diligently and passionately to one another and to Africa and the world.

“We have done exceptionally well since the democratic transition in 1994. We have a story to tell, and a beautiful country to show off to the world.”

SAinfo reporter