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JOHANNESBURG - Tourism data released yesterday by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) showed that total expenditure on domestic overnight trips increased from R62 billion in 2015 to R63bn last year, while day trips saw a decrease in expenditure from R25bn in 2015 to R23bn in 2016.

Stats SA said the increase in expenditure between 2015 and 2016 on overnight trips was largely driven by increased spending in the higher living standard measure subgroup (LSM 8-10).

Pali Lehohla, the statistician-general at Stats SA, said the biggest spending during day and overnight trips was on domestic transport, shopping, food and beverages.

“Most of the money spent during the most recent day trips was spent in Gauteng, whereas most overnight expenditure occurred in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Of all the overnight trips undertaken, more than 80 percent lasted an average of one week at their destination. Day trips were largely undertaken for shopping, followed by visiting friends and relatives. Tourists undertook overnight trips mostly for leisure, attending funerals and visiting friends and relatives,” Lehohla said.

The statistics agency found that about 5.2 million day trips were taken in December 2015 compared to 4.6 million day trips taken during the same month last year.

Day trips that were taken in January decreased from 4 million in 2015 to 3.3 million in 2016.

Day trips in March decreased by 1 million trips, while September also had a declining trend, with a decrease from 3.2 million day trips in 2015 to 2.9 million in 2016.

Stats SA said that in both 2015 and last year, R8 billion was spent on shopping during day trips.

According to South Africa’s Department of Tourism, the tourism industry’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has grown from R372bn in 2014 to R375bn in 2015.

Tokozile Xasa, the Tourism Minister, in July, when launching this year’s Tourism Month highlighted the importance of domestic tourism to strengthen the sector. She said not enough locals were exploring holiday destinations in South Africa.

Lehohla said the most common length of stay of tourists on overnight trips was up to one week, while almost 10% of overnight trips lasted for one to two weeks.

“The overall average number of nights spent by tourists at their respective destinations was five nights. The highest average number of nights was spent by tourists who visited friends and relatives and who had undertaken the trips for leisure and medical/health purposes, with six nights each.”

In July, the Transport and Tourism Division at the African Union (AU) said an African single air transport market would be launched in January 2018 with 40 plus countries expected to be signatories.

So far 20 African countries out of 55 have subscribed to the African single air market. A single air transport market is one of the goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063, aiming to connect Africa through aviation and other transport infrastructure.