Tourism beats gold exports

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Independent Newspapers

Cape Town is one of South Africa's major tourist destinations and was one of the reasons that more than 4.6 million international tourists headed for the country in the first half of the year. Picture: Gareth Smit

Johannesburg - The fast-growing tourism industry contributed R35.4 billion to the economy in the first six months of this year – more than the R32.6bn from gold exports, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said yesterday.

The industry had consolidated the “magnificent gains” achieved between 2010 and last year as a result of hosting the Fifa World Cup and had reached its highest total of 4 642 217 international visitors in the first half of this year, he said.

Over a four-year period, the sector had achieved 9.4 percent compound annual growth in the first half despite ever-increasing competition, tough conditions in some source markets and a fluctuating rand.

Despite economic difficulties in Europe, arrivals from there grew by 5.5 percent to 675 594 in the first six months.

There had been “good, strong growth” from Germany, traditionally the country’s third-biggest source market, whose arrivals increased by 13.5 percent. Arrivals from France were up by 10.8 percent and from Italy by 7.1 percent.

But there was a marginal 0.6 percent fall in arrivals from the UK – the biggest source market – and a drop of 1.2 percent from the Netherlands.

Arrivals from North America grew by 3 percent to 194 586 and from Asia by 12.7 percent to 210 776. Arrivals from China increased by 23.9 percent and from India by 11 percent.

Arrivals from other parts of Africa grew by 4.8 percent. The number of visitors arriving by overland routes rose 4.4 percent and there was an 11.4 percent increase in those arriving by air. There was strong growth especially from west African air markets, albeit from lower baselines, Van Schalkwyk said.

Air arrivals increased by 27.3 percent from Ghana and 15.9 percent from Nigeria.

To encourage growth in African markets a South African Tourism office would be opened in Lagos next month. This should “do much to bolster the relationships we have with both trade and consumers in the region and unlock the full potential of tourism from there”.

But, he said, many visitors from traditional source markets had spent less time in the country than in the past. “We need to work harder than ever to be seen as a destination offering brilliant value for money.” - Business Report

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