2015 SA tourism figures drop 6.8%

2016-02-11 09:30 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - Despite a stronger finish for South African tourism statistics in the final quarter of last year, overall SA tourist arrivals are down 6.8% for 2015, compared to those arrivals recorded during 2014.

According to SA verification service Grant Thornton, South Africa experienced its biggest loss from African tourists where a decline of 7.3% was recorded, compared to 9% growth recorded during 2014.  

Overseas tourists to South Africa, which are defined as visitors who are citizens of a country outside of Africa, declined by 4,9% in 2015, the company found. 

Grant Thornton’s advisory director Lee-Anne Bac says, “Tourism arrivals only grew by 7.5% during 2014 which in effect means that 2015’s negative performance has wiped out two years’ worth of vital tourism growth.”

READ: What’s the state of tourism growth in SA?

The advisory services team completed the full year’s review of tourism data for South Africa, following Statistics South Africa’s release of Tourism and Migration findings for December 2015, on Wednesday, 10 February 2016.

The most significant losses in tourism were recorded during the first nine months of 2015, while the final quarter of the year – from October to December – provided relief as South Africa significantly improved statistics and data.

Although Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal reported of 'record-breaking' festive seasons in both areas, these were not enough to up overall tourism numbers. 

READ: Cape Town reports record-breaking holiday season - and it's not over yet

Despite the 4,9% decrease in international arrivals  in 2015, the overseas tourism market stabilised notably during October following a disastrous first nine months of the year. Bac says, “This recovery showed even greater improvements with 6.4% recorded for November and 6.0% for December 2015.”

When analysing the overseas tourism figures for 2015, Grant Thornton’s data highlights that the 4.9% decline has unfortunately eroded all of the meagre gains achieved during 2014 (a 2.9% increase) and even some of the growth achieved in 2013 (a 4.5% increase).

This equates to nearly 2.5 years of growth in overseas tourist arrivals lost over the past year.


(Photo: Grant Thornton)



South Africa experienced significant losses in terms of tourists from China during the first seven months of 2015 but remarkable growth during the final four months of last year saw Chinese arrivals ending 2.2% higher than those recorded during 2014.

“It’s important to remember, though, that 2014 was a disastrous year for arrivals from China with a 23% decline recorded in overall tourist arrivals,” says Bac.  “This highlights that we have a long way to go to make up for these losses.  However, based on arrivals in the past four months, we are extremely hopeful that new records can be achieved quickly to bring us back on track in terms of this very important market for our nation.”

Other key tourist arrivals during 2015 were dismally down compared to the previous year.  Some of the Biggest Losers for 2015 were: 

- Brazil: down by 25%
- Ghana: down by 18,2%
- Uganda: down by 13%
- Nigeria: down by 10,6%
- Italy: down by 10,6%


In terms of our other key source markets for tourists to South Africa visitors from the UK were marginally up by 1.4%, while SA visitors from Germany declined by 6.5%, visitors from the USA experienced a 3.9% decline and visitors from India, a 8.5% decline during 2015.

The decline in tourism numbers in 2015 was undoubtedly severely affected by the implementation of the controversial visa regulations which saw hundreds of family travellers disappointed over the Christmas holiday period, especially.  

These regulations, however, has been revised and the Departments of Home Affairs and Tourism with the help of an Inter-Ministerial Committee, which hopes to see tourism stabilise again in 2016. 

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: SA's visa rules in review: 5 key developments to keep an eye on

Bac says, “The past year has been extremely tumultuous for the tourism sector and various economic and social issues both at home and in some source countries coupled with immigration amendments caused great concern.

"However, one thing is for certain, much of this is now behind us and South Africa’s tourism sector is resilient.  Recent changes to travel laws and the sheer nature of this industry will hopefully help it to rebound from its current decline in the months and years to come."


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