NATURAL SWAY: A herd of elephants crossing the road near Shingwedzi Camp in the Kruger National Park.Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
SA TOURISM'S performance in 2018 showed slight growth during the period January to October when compared with the same period last year.

SA Tourism’s Strategic, Insights and Analytics (SIA) team released their report for the 10-month period, which shows an overall increase in growth of 1.7% when compared to the same period in 2017.

This translates to 8.6million international tourists visiting South Africa during that period.

African land and air arrivals have been key to the growth with air arrivals from the continent showing a healthy 6.8% rise. An increase in arrivals from Angola (38%), DRC (19.9%) and Ghana (17.8%) has stimulated this growth.

From an African land arrivals view, the 2.7% increase in growth can be attributed mainly to an increase in arrivals from visitors from Malawi (13.3%) and Zimbabwe (7.7%).

“It’s really encouraging to see visitors from the continent making South Africa a destination in their travel plans,” said SA Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona.

“The growth is in line with some of the recently implemented visa reforms, as well as some regional airlines increasing their flights into South Africa.

"We look forward to working closer with them through our Tourism Execution team on the continent to drive more visitors to South Africa.”

On the international front, Ntshona acknowledged that there was more work to be done.

“We are still recovering from barriers that had affected us in 2017 and the early parts of 2018, but are working extremely hard in addressing these challenges,” he said.

“With the visa reforms in place and the unabridged birth certificates issue taken care of, we can now work tirelessly in promoting South Africa as a destination of choice, having removed factors that previously made people doubt travelling to South Africa.”

Ntshona’s comments come after South Africa saw a decline in visitors from Europe, which is the second-biggest source market.

Growth was seen in the Italian and Spanish markets, but declines were recorded for the UK, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark.

The Americas continue to show growth. North America grew by 1.2%, while South and Central America saw a 9.7% increase in arrivals.

Asian arrivals are also down when compared to the same period in 2017. However, the signs are positive with month on month growth from this region since April.

The chief executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, said the statistics showed that the country needed to recover what had been lost from the international source markets.

“It further shows that we need to urgently deal with issues of visa waivers and communication around travelling with minors,” said Tshivhengwa.

The private sector through TBCSA was working with SA Tourism to turn around non-performing markets. “We look forward to a continued partnership with the public sector to increase tourist arrivals, stimulating the economy, and creating more jobs," said Tshivhengwa.

There was positive news on the domestic tourism front as 14.4million trips were recorded in the reported period - demonstrating a 10.5% increase. Of this amount, holiday trips accounted for 2.2million, slightly down from last year.