South Africa’s status as a premier global leisure destination is now firmly established, the country’s tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Tuesday.
“We have the capability and the means, the welcoming culture, and the varied, textured, beautiful destination that the world’s travellers – ever more demanding and discerning – want when they choose a destination,” he told the National Assembly during debate on his budget vote.
In 1950, the world had 25 million international arrivals; in 2011, 980 million, and it was estimated that in 2012, there would be one billion international arrivals. Within a decade, this figure was forecast to increase to 1.6 billion.
“International competition in the tourism market will be vigorous. Our efforts will thus require flexibility, innovation, and responsiveness,” he said.
During the past five years, South Africa had outpaced the growth of all competitor locations in the leisure arrivals category. Foreign direct spend in rand terms had grown faster than arrivals, with an 11% per annum growth rate.
South Africa’s tourism industry had also managed to build on the momentum achieved during a record-breaking 2010 by growing a further 3.3% and attracting over 8.3 million international tourists in 2011.
While South Africa’s core markets in Europe and North America remained the major source of long-haul tourists, the country’s overall tourism growth in 2011 was largely due to a 14.6% growth in the emerging markets of Asia, driven by a growth of 24.3% from China and 26.2% from India, Van Schalkwyk said.
Tourist numbers were also up thanks to a 6.9% increase in arrivals from the African continent.
European tourist arrivals declined by 3.5%, largely due to the ongoing impact of the European economic crisis in many countries in Europe, while North American numbers grew by 2.3% despite that continent also facing major economic challenges.
Van Schalkwyk said for South Africa to respond favourably to, among others, the global problems facing the growth and development of tourism, the department had established an international tourism management branch.
It would provide strategic, political, and policy direction for developing South Africa’s tourism potential across various regions of the world.
Marketing South Africa as a destination remained the mandate of South African Tourism (SAT).
SAT currently had 128 joint marketing agreements in place across the tourism industry, with successful partnerships in key markets.
The past financial year had also seen business tourism taking centre stage following the establishment of the first National Conventions Bureau as a business unit under SAT.
For the next five years, South Africa had already secured over 200 international conferences, which were estimated to attract 300 000 delegates and provide an economic boost of more than R1.6 billion.
On domestic tourism, he said the domestic tourism growth strategy was now in place, with a clear action plan and organisational structural capacity to support implementation.