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South Africa tourism performing impressively in terms of arrivals growth and spend

Written by editor

In the context of an extremely-challenging global environment, South Africa’s tourism sector continues to impress, especially in terms of arrivals growth and total foreign direct spend generated.

In the context of an extremely-challenging global environment, South Africa’s tourism sector continues to impress, especially in terms of arrivals growth and total foreign direct spend generated. However, provincial spread, seasonality patterns, and length of stay are areas that require attention.

This was the message from Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, at a media briefing today at the headquarters of South African Tourism in Sandton.

Visitor arrivals figures were announced earlier this year. Today the Minister announced the figures for foreign direct spend generated by tourism last year. He also revealed which of the key traveler markets had maintained good growth, which had declined, and which had remained steady.

Minister Van Schalkwyk said he was encouraged by the industry’s performance last year and remained optimistic that South Africa would achieve its target of 10 million arrivals in 2010.

“The South African industry continued to perform well in spite of pressures exerted by the global financial crisis that had seen growth in the global industry shrink to 1.3 percent last year. South Africa had recorded 5.5 percent arrivals growth over the period,” the Minister said.

“I am especially encouraged by the fact that foreign direct spend in 2008 had grown by an estimated 23.5 percent, bringing the total revenue generated by tourism to more than R356 billion since 2003,” Minister Van Schalkwyk said.

A total of 9,591,828 foreigners visited South Africa last year compared to 9,090,881 in 2007.

Regional and short-haul tourists remained the largest and most lucrative market for the South African industry, Ms. Didi Moyle, acting CEO of South African Tourism, said.

Arrivals from Africa grew seven percent last year with Mozambique (13.2 percent), Angola (15.3 percent), and Swaziland (4.7 percent) continuing to show strong growth. African land markets last year contributed an estimated R43.5 billion in total foreign direct spend to the economy.

The Americas region performed well with a 5.2 percent increase in 2008. However, growth declined in the Asia and Australasia (-3.2 percent) and Europe (-0.5 percent) regions.

In terms of the Tourism Growth Strategy (TGS), South African tourism’s mandate is to grow the number of visitors to South Africa; to encourage visitors to stay longer; to stimulate higher tourist spending; to encourage tourism to the undervisited provinces in order to spread revenue more widely; to ease seasonality patterns (that see high arrivals in summer and depressed arrivals in winter); and to transform the industry so that historically marginalized communities may enjoy the lucrative rewards of the industry.

Minister Van Schalkwyk said the industry had done exceptionally well in some TGS categories last year. However, seasonality, provincial spread, and length of stay remained areas that required attention.

Although length of stay had improved to 8.2 nights per visitor last year (against 7.9 nights in 2007), the figure had only managed to reach its 2006 level. Overall length of stay has declined steadily since 2002, when it was 10.1 nights per visitor.

The number of provinces visited showed a slight decline from 1.3 provinces in 2007 to 1.2 provinces in 2008. Six years ago tourists visited an average of 1.8 provinces.

In 2008, Gauteng and the Western Cape were the most popular provinces visited (enjoying 32.3 percent and 26.9 percent of visitor nights respectively). They also accounted for the bulk of expenditure on accommodation.

The third most popular province was KwaZulu-Natal with 10.7 percent of visitor nights. The most undervisited province in the country last year was the Northern Cape with 0.9 percent visitor nights.

Although air arrivals had shown a steady improvement in seasonality since 2003, there had been a slight worsening in total seasonal spread last year. Seasonality indices were down .46 points year on year.

South Africa is set to host numerous global events including the Indian Premier League, the ICC Champions Trophy, the British Lions Tour, the Confederations Cup, and the 2010 FIFA World CupTM. “These events will help the industry weather the global economic storm, and it gives us an opportunity to prove our global competitiveness. Our successful hosting of these events will also entrench South Africa both as a capable and a desirable leisure destination,” the Minister said.