File picture: Independent Media
JOHANNESBURG - Overseas tourist numbers continued their year-on-year (y/y) decline in October despite government’s attempts to lure more tourists, as tourism is a key growth plank of the stimulus package announced in September 2018.

The number of tourists from overseas countries fell by 2.1% y/y in October 2019 after a 4.9% y/y decline in October 2018, so October 2019 numbers are 6.9% less than October 2017.

In previous months, the drop in overseas tourist numbers has been offset by a rise in tourists from the rest of Africa. In August for instance the 0.3% y/y decline of overseas tourists was offset by a 3.2% y/y rise in tourists from the rest of Africa, so there was a 2.3% y/y gain for overall tourist numbers.

This dynamic however changed in September when a spate of xenophobic attacks saw tourists from the rest of Africa decline faster than the drop in overseas tourist numbers. In September, tourists from the rest of Africa plunged by 8.4% y/y, while the number of overseas tourists fell by 4.1% y/y for an overall drop of 7.4% y/y. In October the number of tourists from the rest of Africa fell by 3.7% y/y so that the overall decline was 3.2% y/y.   

Tourism accounts for 9.2% of total employment, and represents 8.6% of all economic activity in South Africa, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council, so the decline in the monthly tourism figures are of major concern to policy makers and tourism operators.