Cape Town – South Africa’s tourism saw an impressive improvement during the 2016/2017 holiday period, with a total of 5 504 022 people moving through SA’s ports of entry between the period of 9 December 2016 and 14 January 2017.
This marks an increase of 3.78%, or 200 467 people more compared to the 5 303 555 recorded for the same time last year, the Department of Home Affairs confirmed.
Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said that movements for OR Tambo International Airport alone, from 9 December last year to 14 January 2017 reached a total of 977 961, up from the 948 477 recorded for the same time in the previous festive season.
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The top 10 nationalities that arrived in SA during the festive season were from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, the United Kingdom, the USA, Namibia, Germany and Zambia.
The figures showed that “South Africa remains a continual attraction to our immediate neighbours,” Gigaba says.
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Apart from the beautiful and affordable tourist destination South African is, Gigaba also said that SA offers a safe travel destination for international visitors, especially.
SA a safe haven for tourists
“People feel safe when they come here," he said. "Besides what SA offers as a tourism destination, it remains relatively isolated from the global turbulence that have occurred in other countries in the past year," the minister said, referring specifically to a terror attack in Germany in December last year, when a lorry ploughed into a Christmas market in Berlin.
Gigaba said that "South Africa has remained relatively isolated from incidents like the tragedy in Germany, and a lot of other countries that have also experienced terrorism".
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Referring to the refusal of entry of a Syrian national linked to ISIS over the December period, Gigaba also said that the DHA will continue to beef up security at SA's ports of entry by rolling out biometric data capturing systems at more immigration points.
Tourism recovering from minor visa issue
The improved figures are a welcomed sight for tourism authorities in SA, especially when compared to the numbers last year, when tourism suffered an overall dip of 6.8%.
SA also saw 600 000 fewer tourists in 2015 than in the same period in 2014 – producing very little growth during those two years, despite mammoth industry efforts in terms of advertising, as well as favourable external factors like the weak rand.
The dip in tourist numbers, however, was mainly due to the implementation of highly controversial new visa restrictions for minor travellers, which were amended by the start of 2016 in order to facilitate tourism more.
Although the past festive season saw fewer issues for minor traveller visa, it remains a problem area for travellers.
Statistics from this year show a total of 1 222 minors were denied entry into SA's ports over the festive season. According to Gigaba, it is most likely that these travellers were denied entry for not producing the required documents.
"Failure to produce all the required documents South Africa's law requires, whether it be travellers with minors or not – remains the major transgression for visitors that are denied entry,” Gigaba said.
The minister says statistics showing the specific reasons for refusal of entry will be made available at a later stage.
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