Asia outperforms US and Africa as SA tourism arrivals continue to rise

2016-09-20 10:00 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town – SA's appeal as an amazing holiday destination continues to increase, especially now that visa issue have abated, the UK wrestles with the effects of Brexit and safety concerns make travellers the world over reconsider their destination choices.

The National Department of Tourism has confirmed that the current trend in the last few months of growing tourism arrivals in South Africa is continuing unabated. And this just on mid-year arrivals, with the bumper SA summer season still looming.

A total of 822 416 tourist arrivals were recorded for July 2016, which is an increase of 12.2% (89 525) compared to the same month of the previous year. There was an increase of 131 002 tourists in July 2016 compared to the same month in 2015.

Biggest increase from Asia and the Middle East

This brings the total tourist arrivals for the period January-July 2016, to 5 791 504, which is an increase of 14.9% (751 388) compared to the same period of the previous year.

“We are greatly encouraged that all regions are experiencing an increase in tourist arrivals,” said Victor Tharage, Director-General of the Department of Tourism. " This  can only serve to motivate both government and the tourism industry to increase its efforts in terms of marketing the country as a value for money destination, ensuring that once tourists arrive, they receive excellent service across the board.”

While visitors from Lesotho continue to be the biggest African market increasing by 29% in July, overall visitors from Africa recorded the least growth at 9%, including Indian Ocean Islands arrivals.

SEE: Deadline approaching for Lesotho nationals in SA: Here's how to legalise your stay

While the US continues to be South Africa’s largest source market reporting a 19% increase for the year to date, growth from China was the biggest at a healthy 64% increase during July and 63% for the year overall. China replaced India by moving from 16th place to become South Africa’s 15th source market. Overall arrivals from Asia increased by 47.7% for the year.

Some 65 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad this year according to UNWTO figures - 10 million more than the SA population according to the latest census - and one in ten tourists worldwide. With less than 6% of China’s population currently holding a passport, there remains enormous potential for growth in overseas travel, and overall tourist to South Africa.

SEE: The Chinese are coming: What SA can expect from this tourism boom

Overall growth in SA’s tradition markets also did well for the period. Increase in tourist arrivals from Europe saw a 17.5% growth, Australasia 16.4, Germany increased by 21.1% and the UK by 11.7% from Jan-July 2016. Even non-traditional source markets such as India grew 28.1%.

SEE: Air Mauritius: Connectivity across Africa an imperative

The USA was the largest overseas source market for South Africa. Compared to July 2015, the Netherlands has also replaced Nabimbia as the 8th biggest source market moving up from 9th.  

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