Tourism in South Africa had mixed results in 2018/19. The country recorded 10.4 million international tourist arrivals, a 0.6% decrease from the previous year.
Africa continues to be our largest source market, accounting for 74% (7.7 million) of these visitors. However, this region was only responsible for 40% of the foreign tourism revenue generated last year according to South Africa Tourism’s annual report.
The declining visitor numbers can be attributed to negative perceptions about safety and security, and the water crisis, particularly in Cape Town.
Tourism injected R116,9 billion into the South African economy in 2018/19 through the direct spend of both international and domestic tourists. This represents an increase of 12.7% over the R103,8 billion in 2017/18.
International tourists contributed 75% (R87,4 billion) direct spend in South Africa in 2018/19. Foreign direct spend by international tourists grew by 6.6% over R82,0 billion in 2017/18 despite the 0.6% decline in international tourist arrivals.
Domestic tourists, on the other hand, contributed R29,5 billion in the year, a growth of 35.7% over the R21,7 billion in 2017/18.
The economic significance of tourism is further supported by tourism’s contribution to GDP. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that the economic impact of tourism in South Africa (measured through tourism’s total contribution to GDP) was R425 billion (8.6% of the total economy).
Visitor exports is estimated at R126,7 billion or 9.2% of total South African exports. WTTC also estimates that tourism contributed approximately 1,5 million jobs to the total South African economy which represents about 9.2% of the total employment in the country.
On average, international tourists stayed 11.7 nights in South Africa in 2018/19, down from 12.4 nights in 2017/18. Tourists from the Middle East and Africa stayed for fewer nights in 2018/19 than 2017/18.
Gauteng remained the most visited province with a 36.2% share of total international arrivals. It is the primary gateway for international tourists arriving in South Africa. It is also a major destination for tourists from neighbouring countries who mainly travel to Gauteng to shop.
Limpopo remained in second place with 21.2% a share driven by growth from its key source markets of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Other major source markets for Limpopo are the United States of America, Germany and the UK.
The Western Cape is the third most visited province with a 16.3% share of total international arrivals.
The major source markets for this province are the UK, Germany and the United States of America, followed by Namibia and France.
The Eastern Cape received 4 % of visitors.
In 2018/19, there were 18,7 million domestic trips taken in South Africa. This was a 12.7% increase from 2017/18.
They contributed R29,5 billion in direct spend to the country’s economy with visiting friends and relatives being the biggest driver
According to the South African Tourism domestic brand tracker surveys, visiting friends and relatives continues to be the main reason for domestic travel (53%) and 47% of travellers stated friends/family recommendations being a reason for their travel choices.
Packages that include beaches and coastline travel experiences have had the best sales. According to sentiment analysis, most conversations on social media about domestic travel are centred around beaches.