Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS
Cape Town - South Africa recorded a 13 percent growth in international tourist arrivals despite the economic slowdown.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said the figures were achieved despite declining interest from the domestic front.

Xasa said the Department of Tourism wanted to focus on attracting an additional five million tourists in the next five years, as envisaged by President Jacob Zuma at the Tourism Indaba in Durban last week.

She said tourism played a significant role, because it contributed to the country’s balance of trade through foreign exchange receipts, and directly sustained 700 000 jobs.

“Globally, we recorded our seventh year of sustained growth despite the economic slowdown,” Xasa said.

“In the past year, South Africa recorded 13-percent growth in international tourist arrivals.

“This sector deserves more support and recognition in our country, because it provides more opportunities and has lower barriers to entry.”

Xasa said growth in tourism would have far-reaching implications for associated industries.

She said the government had introduced the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) to achieve over 200 percent growth.

“We will also add 300 000 more jobs to bring direct employment to one million from the 2015 figure of 700 000. This will bring the indirect employment to tourism figures to about 2.26 million.”

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Xasa said the department would use its R2.1 billion budget to boost the economy.

“We will deploy this modest budget to pursue the following strategic areas for tourism growth.

“Marketing takes the largest component of this budget, at 53 percent, or R1.1 billion.

“The remaining R1 billion is largely distributed among Tourism Incentives, Expanded Public Works Programme, Destination Development and Enterprise Development.”

She said that, with South African Tourism’s budget at 53 percent, it was the department’s strategic intent to drive government imperatives through its entity, which include contribution to job creation and radical economic transformation.