TRAVEL GAZETTE – South Africa saw a strong rebound in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Wednesday.
The surge supports expectations that the tourism sector in South Africa is in for a bumper year, Hanekom said in his latest update on tourist arrivals.
Arrivals for the first three months of 2016 grew by 18.7 percent, compared to the first quarter of 2015. In March alone, the number of tourists who visited South Africa improved by 23.4 percent, compared to the same period last year, the minister cited figures provided by Statistics South Africa this week.
Hanekom said the persistent surge in arrivals boded well for the potential of tourism to stimulate a range of economic activity and create jobs across the industry’s diverse value chain.
“The remarkable increase in arrivals recorded in March could be attributed to the Easter holiday falling in March this year, while it was in April last year.
“But the spectacular overall growth in tourism is part of a trend which started towards the end of last year and played out strongly during our high season. It shows that tourism in South Africa has the enduring capacity to support and grow our national economy. Our task now is to maintain the positive trend by improving our performance throughout the year,”Hanekom said.
The United Kingdom continued to be the main source of overseas arrivals in the first quarter of 2016. UK arrivals increased from 129, 220 in 2015 to 147, 639 in 2016, a growth of about 14.3 percent.
Arrivals from China in the first quarter of this year grew by 65.2 percent compared to last year, and arrivals from India grew by 16.9 percent during the same period.
Hanekom said the growth from China indicated that the decision of the South African cabinet to implement a revised visa application process for China has paid off immensely. Accredited Chinese travel companies can now apply for visas on behalf of their clients, making the process much easier for travellers to South Africa.
“The current exchange rate has benefitted tourists from several source markets. They are finding incredible value in visiting South Africa,” said Hanekom.
He urged all spheres of government, its partners in industry, entrepreneurs and communities to continue working together to make the best of the bumper year as expected.
The strong performance during peak season points to the great potential of attracting more visitors in different seasons throughout the year, the minister said.
The government and the tourism industry are now working together on a counter-seasonal marketing strategy that is aimed at achieving this, according to Hanekom.
“Leaders in the tourism industry are working closely with government to accelerate tourism growth, its contribution to the national economy and the creation of more jobs in the future,” he said.