South Africa saw exceptional growth in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2012, says the country’s Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
Launching the latest tourist arrival figures in Tshwane on Sunday, Van Schalkwyk said that overall tourist arrivals to the country grew by 10.5% in the first quarter of 2012, with strong growth coming from all regions.
The period from January to March 2012 saw a total of 2,267,807 tourist arrivals to South Africa – 216,031 more than the same period in 2011.
He also announced that overseas tourist arrivals were up by a combined 17.8%, and arrivals from Europe grew by 11.9%.
South Africa’s biggest overseas source market, the United Kingdom, recovered from an overall decline in 2011 to post positive returns of 9.5% – with 133,729 tourists visiting South Africa in the first three months of 2012.
Tourist arrivals from Germany maintained a strong positive growth trend, and with a 15.2% growth rate, the country was among the best-performing markets on the European continent.
These were wonderful results for “the destination, the country, the tourism industry and the economy”, Van Schalkwyk said.
“Robust sales and marketing partnerships across the region, South Africa’s accessibility, and the exceptional value for money that the destination offers to European travellers were significant contributing factors to tourist arrivals growth from Europe,” he said.
The United States also returned excellent growth of 16.1% as South Africa maintained its status as a desirable and coveted leisure holiday experience for American travellers.
South Africa also continued to enjoy growth from the emerging markets during the first quarter of this year. Brazil posted 71.7% growth, India grew by 23.1% and tourist arrivals from China increased by 67.7%.
In total, the regional Asian market returned tourist arrivals growth of more than 43%, delivering 85,189 tourists against 59,549 tourists for the same three months last year.
Tourist arrivals from regional African tourist markets also achieved positive growth rates of 7.9%, with Angola up 48.5%, Nigeria showing 26.7% growth and Tanzania with 31.4% growth. The three stood out as exceptional continental-market achievers in the first three months of the year.
Van Schalkwyk said this overall growth could be ascribed to significant investments in the South African tourism industry in time, energy and resources.
These included a series of trade workshops across key markets, numerous travel, trade and media familiarisation trips hosted by South Africa, as well as ongoing in- depth research into consumer needs.
South Africa’s valuable partnerships and determination to defend and grow its traditional tourist markets were now yielding dividends, as the industry had worked hard during difficult times, Van Schalkwyk said.
“We are extremely lucky to live in South Africa and to enjoy in our own backyard a destination that has grown tremendously in popularity and desirability all over the world.
“Let’s work together and encourage each other to continue to make tourists feel at home, to travel South Africa ourselves like tourists in our own country and to continue offering the excellent service, value for money and accessibility that have delivered these exceptional results, which we are optimistic will continue well into the future,” he said.