File picture: GCINA NDWALANE/African News Agency (ANA)

PORT ELIZABETH- Tourism grew slightly between January and October 2018, the latest statistics from South African Tourism showed on Thursday.

SA Tourism, which is the national tourism agency responsible for  marketing South Africa as a preferred tourist destination, said its Strategic Insights and Analytics team reported an overall increase in growth of 1.7% when compared to the same period in 2017. 

"This amounts to 8.6 million international tourists that have visited South Africa during this reporting period," the team report said.

The agency said that visitors from the African continent have been key to the growth, with air arrivals at a healthy 6.8% increase and land arrivals increasing by 2.7%, the latter mainly attributed to visitors from Malawi (13.3%) and Zimbabwe (7.7%). 

"Increase in arrivals from Angola (38%), Democratic Republic of Congo (19,9%) and Ghana (17,8%) has stimulated this growth," the statement said.

 “It’s really encouraging to see visitors from the continent making South Africa a destination on their travel plans,” South African Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona said.

 “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.”

 But Ntshona acknowledges that there is work to do on the international front, particularly on the back of a decline in visitors from Europe which is the second biggest source market with UK, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark showing declines and some growth in the Italian and Spanish markets.

“We are still recovering from barriers that had affected us in 2017 and the early parts of 2018,” Ntshona 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 taken away factors that have previously made people doubt travelling to South Africa.”

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

Asian arrivals were also down compared with the same period in 2017, but there were positive signs from that region with month on month growth since April.

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa said the performance showed this sector faces challenges. The private sector is working with TBCSA on a turnaround strategy for non-performing markets.

“This tourism performance clearly shows that we have a challenge to recover what we have lost from our international source markets. It further shows that we need to urgently deal with issues of visa waivers and communication around traveling with minors,” TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said.

“We look forward to continued partnership with public sector to increase tourist arrivals, stimulating economy, and creating more jobs," Tshivhengwa said.

African News Agency (ANA)