South Africa's tourism sector is witnessing remarkable growth as highlighted in the recently released international arrival figures by Statistics South Africa for January to December 2023.
The total number of international tourist arrivals during this period reached 8.5 million, reflecting an impressive 48.9% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
African nations are leading the way in contributing to this growth, with South Africa welcoming 6.4 million visitors from the rest of the continent, accounting for a significant 75.6% of all arrivals.
Zimbabwe and Kenya particularly stood out with Zimbabwe experiencing a 70.8% increase and Kenya recording a staggering 99% surge in tourist arrivals.
The Americans also played a significant role, with tourist arrivals registering a 39.8% growth compared to 2022. The United States of America alone saw 353,975 arrivals, marking a 35% increase.
European markets showed strength, contributing 1.2 million tourist arrivals and experiencing a 38.2% increase compared to the same period in 2022. The United Kingdom remained the top European source market, with 356,160 tourists choosing South Africa.
Additionally, Asian markets exhibited noteworthy growth, with a total of 199,308 arrivals representing a remarkable 69.1% increase. India contributed 79,774 tourists, a 43.7% growth, while China witnessed a massive 204.9% surge with 37,164 arrivals.
The Middle East also showed robust gains, with 54,339 arrivals in the January to December 2023 period, marking a 33.7% growth. Additionally, South Africa received 16,351 arrivals from Saudi Arabia, indicating a 42.6% increase.
Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, expressed delight at the impressive numbers from the African continent and highlighted strategic decisions that contributed to growth in specific markets.
“Kenya’s remarkable performance can be attributed to the strategic decision by government to simplify the visa regime in 2023 as well as targeted and effective insights-driven marketing campaigns,” said De Lille.
The minister added: “This recovery can be attributed to consistent efforts to showcase South Africa as a welcoming, responsible tourism destination, highlighting experiences that align with intrepid, green economy conscious travellers.”
De Lille thanked all visitors for choosing South Africa and expressed optimism for sustained charm, attractiveness, and relentless tourism growth, appreciating South Africans for their continuous hospitality and warm welcome to visitors.
The global travel and tourism industry experienced severe disruptions due to the pandemic, with travel restrictions, lockdowns, and safety concerns affecting international tourism.
South Africa's ability to showcase substantial growth in international tourist arrivals, a nearly 49% increase from 2022 to 2023, signals recovery for the country's tourism sector for the year to come.