The two African countries international tourists are now choosing over South Africa

2019-11-05 08:50 - Marisa Crous
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Rich in nature, culture, food and adventure-fuelled activities, the African continent has over the years become more than just a safari destination for international tourists. And with South Africa recently nailing a spot on the Lonely Planet's Best Value Holiday destinations for 2020 for the Cape Winelands, it's been confirmed that safari is but one element of what makes SA a great holiday destination. 

However, international travellers are increasingly choosing to holiday elsewhere on the continent.

StatsSA recently released new tourism figures, showing a drop of 2% in overseas tourist arrivals from January to August this year. This is even further down after we saw a 1.3% drop in overseas visitors from January to August 2018. 

In August 2019, the distribution of overseas tourists was as follows: Europe, 118 657 (55.7%); North America, 39 448 (18.5%); Asia, 26 265 (12.3%); Australasia, 11 368 (5.3%); Central and South America, 9 806 (4.6%); and the Middle East, 7 530 (3.5%).  

Director of the Tourism Specialist Unit at BDO, Christelle Grohmann told Tourism Update that SA is seeing a decline in our traditional markets, in particular. Germany (-7.8%); France (-8.7%) and Australia are down - despite a global uptake in tourism numbers, that is. African markets, like Nigeria is also down significantly, with a sharp drop of -16%. 

READ: Ancient Kenyan island threatened by R377 billion development project 

Only visitors from Italy, the US and India increased to SA in this last quarter. Italy showed a spike of 12.1% growth in the market (from 12 060 tourists in August 2018 to 13 517 tourists in August 2019). 

But where are they going? In search of the African climate and bang for buck, these markets are now predominantly choosing to travel to Kenya and Egypt instead. 

Photo Taken In Gazi, Kenya

(Gazi, Kenya. Credit: Omari Kevine / EyeEm; Getty Images) 

Seen as safer destinations that are now easily accessible to Europeans in terms of air access - Egypt is close to Europe, plus Kenya Airways and Air France now have flights from Paris to Nairobi a whopping three times per week. And with the rise of flight shame (Flygskam), a long-haul destination like SA is becoming more and more unfavourable for those focused on minimising travel with high carbon emissions.

Last week, it was announced that a study conducted by Wesgro in partnership with Explore Sideways found that food and wine bookings in the Western Cape are up with 60% from last year. That is, particularly, travel experiences involving food and wine. While this is excellent for this sector, South Africa's beaches, mountains and safaris have always been its main drawcards. 

READ: How SA airports (and some spekboom) are fighting long-haul 'flight shame'

Are we slacking or is the African offering just getting better? The latter it seems. Kenya was voted Africa's leading destination in 2019 by the World Travel Awards (WTA), leading safari destination in 2018 and Diani Beach won for Africa's Best Beach Destination. The runner-ups included Bazaruto, Mozambique, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and Zanzibar, Tanzania.  

Is the answer an even bigger marketing push on selling activities like food and wine in an effort to distinguish ourselves from African countries who aren't able to match, for example, SA's wine offering? 

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