Local tourism 'more accessible' but why are fewer international tourists coming to SA?

2019-06-26 05:30 - Selene Brophy
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Black man running with suitcase

South Africa's tourism numbers are divided when it comes to domestic and international travel - with healthy growth on the home front seeing more locals travelling, but there has been a decline when it comes to overseas visitors - recorded for SA's peak travelling period.

This is according to the latest figures shared by South African Tourism and Stats SA for the period between January and April 2019.

The total number of domestic trips during this period was 6.1 million, up about 11% when compared to the same period in 2018. Of these trips an estimate 1.4-million were holiday trips, with 0.2-million trips attributed to MICE tourism. The required growth rate to reach the annual target is just on 3.6% - with the holiday trips target set at 2.6-million for the year.

A reason to travel?

“SA Tourism has been focusing on marketing campaigns that entice South Africans to travel their country.  We are noting the impact of efforts. In Q1 (January to March) 2019, 18.4% of South Africans mentioned not having a reason to travel, an improvement from 20.5% in 2018,” says acting CEO, Sthembiso Dlamini.

While the domestic market is the larger segment, the economic boost often comes from the pound and dollar wielding international tourists. SA saw a 1.3% decline during this period, when compared to last year - and the 3.6-million who did visit, is much less than the 11.6-million overall target for the year. 

While Norther America and China are up, three key inbound markets - including Europe, South America and Australia have seen a dip. Visitors from the rest of Africa have also reported negative performance for the first part of 2019.

SA tourism performance for Jan to April 2019
SA tourism performance for Jan to April 2019
SA tourism performance for Jan to April 2019

So why the peak-season dip? 

READ: Looking for an escape? Where South Africans can fly to for R6 000 or less


"We are determined to ensure that tourists who come to our country are safe," said President Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation address last week.

South Africa's track record for violent crimes  is negatively impacting tourism. While the president has pledged his support - much more is needed to turn this perception around. 

Ramaphosa also made a SONA call for SA's police force to be bolstered, as News24 reports SA requires about 60 000 more officers, on top of the current 193k to reach the acceptable UN standard.

READ: Ramaphosa: We are determined to ensure that tourists who come to our country are safe 

Sluggish global economy 

The International monetary fund has reported a downturn in the global economy - so it's not just in South Africa that we're feeling the pinch. The Economist calculates the lowered forecast for global growth to 3.3% in 2019 is the weakest annual growth rate since 2009 - with performance set lower than the 3.6% in 2018. 

The Europ Assist survey shows that the number of Europeans (63%) and Americans (68%) who indicated that they would be going on holiday this summer held stable (64% and 68% respectively in 2018). However, budget remains a top factor when it came to vacation decision-making and in the United States holiday budgets have dropped by almost 10 percent. 

READ: Local stays, safety and budget influential factors for US and Euro travellers looking to take a summer break

Strong Pan-African competition

SA's African neighbours are putting up some fierce competition when it comes to travel and tourism offerings. 

Kenya and Tanzania are key examples - having earned a string of accolades each in the recent World Travel Awards for the  Africa region - See the results here.

Analyzing the current international travel environment

“We are working closely with the private sector to show confidence to the world that South Africa is indeed a memorable destination worth travelling to and visiting.”

The following seven markets have been identified as key focus areas for the year ahead, according to SA Tourism:

  • United States of America
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • India
  • China
  • Australia
  • Nigeria

“While the South African tourism industry showed slight growth at the end of 2018, we are still working towards achieving our targets set in our 5-in-5 strategy which aims to have a further 4 million international tourist arrivals and a further one million domestic holiday trips by 2021.

"In addition to this, we have heeded the call by President Ramaphosa to further boost international arrivals by doubling the amount of arrivals to 21 million by 2030.”

“South Africa remains a destination with lots to offer across all nine provinces and we are determined to show to the world the beauty that comes with South Africa along with its value for money offerings,” says Dlamini.

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