Over eight-million tourists visited South Africa in 2011 – a 3.3% increase over the 2010 World Cup year that would, if football-specific arrivals were not counted, have amounted to a 7.4% increase over 2010, well ahead of the global average of 4.4% annual growth.
Presenting the 2011 tourist arrival figures in Cape Town on Thursday, Tourism Martinus van Schalkwyk saidk said the 8,339,354 arrivals in 2011 showed that the country’s tourism industry had been able to build on the awareness created by the Fifa World Cup.
Neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe remained South Africa’s major source of tourist arrivals, while the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and France were South Africa’s top five overseas tourist markets.
However, the growth in the country’s tourism arrivals was driven by a 14.6% growth from the emerging markets of Asia – with a 24% increase in arrivals from China and a 26% increase in arrivals from India.
Van Schalkwyk said South Africa would continue to invest in marketing the country to India and China, adding that South African Airways’ launch in January of direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing would add to the growth.
While North American numbers grew by 2.3%, European arrivals declined by 3.5% in 2011, in line with worsening economic conditions there – yet despite this, arrivals from Germany increased by nine percent, with 236,000 arrivals, many of them young people.
Van Schalkwyk said the hard work by SA Tourism’s Germany office had led to an increased awareness and positivism towards South Africa, particularly around the country’s lifestyle.
The UK remained South Africa’s number one overseas market with 420,500 arrivals, despite a decrease of seven percent.
Arrivals from two of South Africa’s other key European markets – the Netherlands and France – also declined last year, while arrivals from Italy were up.
Arrivals from the African continent increased by 6.8%, with a 38% increase from Nigeria.
A new country office had been opened in Angola, and the department planned to open four more SA Tourism offices on the continent over the next five years – with the next office to be opened in Nigeria in the coming financial year.
“Tourists from Africa are major leisure tourists, attracted by the country’s beauty, nightlife and lifestyle and shopping attractions,” Van Schalkwyk said.
He added that the 2013 African Nations Cup soccer tournament would be a big opportunity for the country to drive arrivals from the African continent.
SA Tourism would also open an office in Brazil in the coming financial year, Van Schalkwyk said, adding that arrivals from the South American country were up by just under one percent in 2011, at 54 000.
Gauteng and the Western Cape remained the country’s most visited provinces in 2011.