Tourism sector looking forward to great summer season after positive year-on-year growth

uMhlanga Lighthouse Beach is a popular tourist attraction in Durban KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Unsplash

uMhlanga Lighthouse Beach is a popular tourist attraction in Durban KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Unsplash

Published Nov 14, 2023


A sizeable 4.8 million international tourist arrivals visited South Africa between January to July 2023 alone, a 70.6% increase compared to the same period in 2022, says the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS).

The latest Statistics SA report for August 2023 said foreign arrivals increased by 20.1% year on year (from 820 708 in August 2022 to 985 800 in August 2023), departures rose by 22.6% and transits increased by 32.9%.

The figures signal that South Africa continues to be an attraction to global holidaymakers.

Kruger Gate Hotel CEO Anton Gillis said the hospitality and tourism industries were used to welcoming German, American, Dutch and British tourists to South Africa.

“What intrigues me, however, is not that our incoming tourists’ nationalities continue to be consistent with previous figures, but that we are seeing an increase in Middle Eastern holidaymakers, too.

“Last year, Emirates and the South African Tourism Board signed a memorandum of understanding to mutually market tourism and inbound visits to South Africa from principal markets within the Emirates network.

“Furthermore, Middle Eastern vacationers are spending roughly between 15 and 20 days in SA, making this a lucrative, growing market.”

Gillis said India had emerged as our country’s sixth-largest foreign source market, with SA observing a stirring 200% surge in travellers from India over the past year.

“India is currently the world’s most populated country, and, of course, there is interest in how India’s growing population will influence tourism industries globally.

“By next year, Indian travellers are projected to spend over $42 billion (R785bn) per year on outbound travel, so this is something to keep in mind,” he said.

In a bid to surpass pre-pandemic arrival figures by the end of the year, South African Tourism recently kick-started a “Learn South Africa” travel trade initiative in Delhi, holding six training events across India to provide Indian travel agents with effective resources to appropriately market South Africa as a holiday destination.

Furthermore, this year, SA Tourism had a target of 47 000 Indian visitors. This was achieved in the first half of 2023. The numbers are expected to surpass 80 000 inbound tourists from India this year.

An increase in international flights to SA has also boosted the number of global visitors to our country.

Sandra Kneubuhler, the Radisson Hotel Group’s district director and country director of sales for South Africa, welcomed the positive impact that an increase in foreign visitors would have on the country’s tourism sector.

“Many international airlines cut back on their capacity during the pandemic. As we emerge from this period, airlines are once again re-introducing flights.

“Those in the hospitality and tourism sectors are rejoicing at the prospect of increased airlift, which can only have a positive impact on the local economy,” she said.

Kneubuhler said SAA had just announced that after 3 years, it was relaunching its intercontinental flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg to São Paulo, Brazil, starting this month, which was great news for the increase in Brazilian travellers to SA.

“We also expect an upturn in British tourists, who are known to love holidaying in SA, as Virgin Atlantic has resumed their Cape Town and London flight route which will add 80 000 seats to the route.

“Furthermore, the resumption of the Hong Kong-Joburg route by Cathay Pacific is a key step to the recovery of one of the country’s key feeder markets. This is wonderful news for our industry and country, and we look forward to even more positive airlift announcements in the near future,” said Kneubuhler.

And finally, a Cities Economic Impact Report by the World Travel & Tourism Council recently revealed positive signs of recovery for SA’s travel and tourism sector. Its findings showing that the country’s major cities are witnessing a significant recovery as global travellers head back to our shores.

In 2020, 33% of travel and tourism expenditure in South Africa originated from foreign visitor spending, which amounted to $2.8bn.

The figure declined during the pandemic, but earlier this year, Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille announced that foreign direct spend had soared to a whopping R25.3bn in the first quarter of 2023, marking a 143.9% increase compared to Q1 of 2022.

“The overall foreign spend figure for quarter 1 this year is tantalisingly close to the R25.6 billion spent between January and March 2019, and showcases the industry’s unwavering resilience,” De Lille said.

With accolades like the 2023 Telegraph Travel Awards naming South Africa as the greatest country on Earth, people are once again declaring SA as a world-favourite destination.