SA sees +10m International visitors as 2016 tourism growth hits 13%

2017-02-21 06:30 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Throughout the global and local turmoil in 2016, tourism has continued to be an economic driving force as 1.1 million more tourists decided to visit South Africa last year, with a total of 10 million international tourists visiting our shores. 

On Monday 20 February the national department of tourism confirmed the final international tourist arrivals for 2016 now stands at 10 044 163 international tourists, according to the latest Stats SA statistical release.  

This echoes the data released by Airports Company South Africa’s 2016 aviation barometer data which shows SA's major airports broke records, achieving an historic milestone in 2016 with its network of nine airports reaching and passing the 39 million passenger mark for the year.

SEE: SA’s top airports see record-breaking arrivals for 2016

At the end of December 2016, 39.7 million passengers had been facilitated, a 5.4% increase from 2015.

The 13% growth in international tourist arrivals in the country, which follows a serious dip in the industry in 2015 of a -6.8%, has now also surpassed the global average growth rate for the period.  It is estimated that about 1.2 billion international tourists travelled the world in 2016, representing growth of 3.9% on 2015. Tourism now comprises 30% of all global service exports. 

SEE: Asia dominates 1.2bn travellers in 2016 as security concerns stem Euro travel

The department says the role of tourism in South Africa in the balance of payments has become increasingly important.  In 2015, tourism’s trade balance with the rest of the world was R36 billion, according to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). This is a major stabilising force for the national current account. 

President Jacob Zuma also touched on the significance of the industry in his 2017 State of the Nation Address, identifying tourism as a key job driver following the 13% growth in arrivals. 

SEE: #SONA2017: Zuma pegs tourism as key job driver for year ahead

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom commended all the people who are working hard in the private and public sector to develop and promote tourism, and to provide visitors with excellent service and memorable experiences.

“The spectacular growth in tourist arrivals indicates that the close collaboration between various government departments, between the Department of Tourism and industry, and between suppliers and service providers on the ground has paid off,” said Minister Hanekom. “We have done well to capitalise on our status as a value for money destination, offering an array of experiences for all tourist markets.” 

The latest Stats SA report indicates an increase in tourist arrivals in all months of 2016, compared to the previous year. The United Kingdom remained the leading source market for overseas arrivals to South Africa in 2016 (447 840 arrivals) followed by the USA (345 013) and Germany (311 832).

SEE: Brexit tourists: SA’s rand ranked 4th in strongest gains against dollar-mauled pound

China remained the leading growth market, with year-on-year growth recorded at 38%. Arrivals from India grew by 22%.

“The growth in tourist arrivals from China and India has been consistent over the year, following improvements in the visa application processes in those countries. We can build on this and attract even more tourists from these markets in the future,” says Hanekom. 

SEE: PICS: World's biggest annual human migration as Chinese tourists head home

The highest number of tourist arrivals from African markets came from Zimbabwe (2 028 881), followed by Lesotho (1 757 058) and Mozambique (1 268 258), with the Easter period showing a significant spike in March 2016.

Lesotho was the fastest growing African source market in 2016, recording an increase of 26% over the previous year.  

The latest Tourism Satellite Account indicates that tourism supported 711 746 jobs directly in 2015. The total number of jobs from tourism in 2015 (including direct, indirect and induced jobs) was estimated at 1.55 million, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. 

“Tourism touches the lives of all South Africans,” says Hanekom, “Given its importance to our economy, we must continue to nurture the sector and drive increasingly impactful and collaborative strategies and programmes for sustained, inclusive growth.” 

Table comparing total tourist arrivals between 2015 and 2016:

Overseas tourist arrivals increased by 18 % 

2015: 2 144 988

2016: 2 531 046 

Africa tourist arrivals increased by 11 %

2015: 6 746 114

2016: 7 501 512 

Other (Unspecified - refers to instances where no source country information was captured) -  down -8.4%      

2015: 12 671    

2016:  11 605

Total tourist arrivals increased by 13%

2015: 8 903 773

2016: 10 044 163 

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