A hotspot for adventure travel

Janine Erasmus

South Africa is ranked as one of the 10 most popular international tourist destinations, according to results just released by US-based iExplore.com. The site boasts over 1 000 000 visitors a month and is one of the most-visited online travel guides. Based on destinations chosen and trips purchased online by iExplore’s online clients in 2007, the list features the best travel spots around the world.

Not only did South Africa come in at number two on this year’s list but at the time of writing, a safari in South Africa was ranked on the latest available monthly (December 2007) among the list of top 10 tours.

Previously right down the list at number 19, South Africa was outshone only by Egypt, which has held the top spot for three years in a row. China ranked third, while the rest of the list was populated by Antarctica, Peru, Galapagos, Thailand, Costa Rica, Tanzania and India, in that order.

Says iExplore, the devaluation of the US dollar has been influential in the declining demand for holidays to countries such as France, Italy and other parts of Europe. Other factors include the rise of emerging destinations like Venezuela, and stabilising political situations in other parts of the world such as Nepal (a situation confirmed in a report currently available on the website of the British Embassy in Kathmandu).

The adventure capital of the world

South Africa’s official tourism website, South Africa Tourism, describes the country as “the adventure capital of the world”. For international travellers and locals alike, the adventure experience in South Africa ranges from bungee and BASE jumping and mountain climbing to cave diving, and everything in between.

The economic impact of the growing interest by overseas travellers in South Africa is significant. According to a report by the World Trade & Tourism Council in association with consultancy firm Accenture, the market share that South Africa holds in the travel sector is generally increasing – the country currently holds 0.4% of the world market share. Tourism to South Africa was expected to generate R236.5 billion of economic activity during 2007, growing to R593.0 billion by 2017. Total demand (in terms of the world market) was expected to grow by 4.4% per annum between 2008 and 2017.

The contribution to the GDP by South Africa’s travel and tourism industry is forecast to reach R161.6 billion (3.5% of the total GDP) by 2017. With regard to employment, the industry is currently estimated to employ 969 000 people, which amounts to 7.5% of total employment. By 2017, this should stand at 1 367 000 jobs, or 8.3% of total employment.

A report tabled by South African Tourism reveals that tourist arrivals figures from January to October 2007 were 1 734 815 as opposed to a figure of 1 647 162 for the same period in 2006. This represents an increase of 5.3%. These are the latest figures available at the time of writing.

Founded in 1999 and based in Chicago, iExplore.com is a popular guide to adventure and experiential travel. iExplore founder and CEO George Deeb says “We continue to see heavy demand for the man-made and natural wonders of the world, as evidenced by the destinations on this list.”

iExplore is a highly-respected source in the travel industry and has been named the “Best Adventure Travel Website” by the likes of Forbes Magazine, Travel & Leisure Magazine and Time Magazine. The company is the driving force behind adventure tours offered by other trusted brands such as Expedia, Travelocity, Travel Channel, Fodors, Frommers and Lonely Planet, to name a few.

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