Africa's most visited city 2016: Shopaholics love Joburg as much as London and Tokyo

2016-11-15 13:55
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Cape Town - Joburg is king when it comes to business and leisure travellers to the African continent - this for the fourth year in a row, according to the 2016 Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index

The city is expected to welcome 3.6 million international overnight visitors in 2016, a 6.2 percent increase on last year’s 3.39 million visitors. Cairo in Egypt is the second most visited African city with 1.5 million international overnight visitors followed by Cape Town (1.4 million visitors), Casablanca in Morocco (1 million visitors), and Durban (831 000 visitors).

While an increasingly stringent visa regime has fingered by StatsSA as a major cause of the decline in inbound tourism for 2015  with international arrivals falling by an etimated 6.8% over the course 2015 -  a surge in visitors was recorded late in the year, with foreign arrivals up 5.4% in December - and the trend now expected to continue into 2017.  

Silver-lining to falling rand

While visa issues have been problematic, biometric data collection now taking up where the travelling with minors birth certificate left off in 2105 - the favourable rand-exchange rate has upped SA's ante when it comes to international visitors. 

WATCH: A step-by-step look at how exactly Biometric Data Capturing works

According to the survey, Johannesburg also comes out tops in Africa in terms of international visitor expenditure, with travellers expected to spend US$1.73 billion in 2016.

Big spenders are expected to be Londoners (US$285 million), followed by visitors from Paris (US$155 million), Harare (US$106 million), Frankfurt (US$84 million), and Maputo (US$41 million). 

Cape Town and Durban are ranked number three and eight in terms of expenditure in Africa, with international visitors expected to spend US$1 billion and US$288 million respectively.

Of Johannesburg’s expected international overnight visitors, 373,000 will travel from London in 2016. Harare (294,000), Frankfurt (233,000), Maputo (185,000) and Paris (163,000) round out the list of the top five cities that send visitors to Johannesburg. Only 18% of Johannesburg’s international visitors are from outside the Middle East and Africa region.

'Popular shopping destination, with spend on par with the London and Tokyo'

For the first time, the 2016 Index explores whether visitors travel for business or leisure and provides insights into how international visitors spend their time and money.  

While Joburg is largely seen as a business hub, the date indicates that more than three quarters (75.6%) of total visitors to Johannesburg are travelling for leisure, while just less than a quarter (24.4%) are travelling on business.

Shopping is one of South Africa’s key attractions for international tourists, accounting for nearly 44% of the money visitors spend in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This is a higher proportion than any other African city and on par with major world shopping destinations such as London (46.7%) and Tokyo (43.1%).

Visitors to Johannesburg will spend around 14% on accommodation and the same amount on food and beverages. A further 10% of international visitor expenditure will be spent on local transport, and 11.5% on local services.

SEE: Cape Town named top long-haul holiday for UK travellers

'Repeat visitors with its continually evolving tourism offering'

According to the City of Johannesburg, the Index rating affirms Johannesburg’s position as the economic capital and heartbeat of trade and economic activity on the African continent - showing it attracts repeat visitors with its "continually evolving tourism offering, from popular shopping destinations such as our malls to a wide range of lifestyle, sporting and business events.” 

“As the strong numbers of visitors from our neighbouring countries shows, Johannesburg is one of the continent’s most important business, cultural and economic hubs. Tourism is a priority industry for us and a pillar of our economic growth strategy for the years ahead,” says City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Herman Mashaba. 

SEE: Self-service counters planned for domestic SA travellers at OR Tambo - Gigaba

The world’s top destination cities

Overall rankings show that Bangkok has achieved the top-ranked position in 2016 with 21.47 million overnight visitors, just ahead of second-ranked London, with 19.88 million visitors. Among the global top 20 this year, the ranking of the top five is unchanged from 2015.

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur moved up one rank to sixth and seventh rank respectively, while Istanbul dropped from sixth to eighth rank. Barcelona moved up one place to 12th rank, replacing Amsterdam. Similarly, Taipei moved up to 15th rank, replacing Rome; and Osaka moved up to 17th rank, replacing Vienna.

“Tourism remains an important driver of South Africa’s economy, and the steady rise in visitor numbers indicates how the City of Gold’s fascinating mix of iconic attractions is proving ever more compelling to today’s international traveller,” says Mark Elliott, Division President, South Africa, Mastercard. 

“The way people travel and spend across borders indicates just how interconnected and important the world’s cities are,” says Elliott.

“As the planning and experience of the trip become increasingly important, Mastercard is bringing all these pieces together seamlessly through innovation and connections."

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