The Department of Tourism said more than four million tourists arrived in South Africa within the first half of 2023. This is according to the latest data released by Statistics SA, despite many concerns about tourist safety in the country.
Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille said the total number of tourist arrivals to South Africa surged by 78.2% in the first half of 2023 when compared to the same period in 2022.
"There has also been a substantial increase across all regions in the same period. Although the current growth demonstrates signs of recovery, we are still operating at 80% of our pre-pandemic capacity. In 2019, South Africa welcomed more than five million tourists between January and June," said De Lille.
She said the Africa region continues to bring the largest share of tourist arrivals to the country. A total of 3 083 583 tourists that arrived in South Africa between January and June 2023 came from the rest of the African continent.
She further stated that this is a 79.9% increase when compared to the same period last year, when South Africa welcomed 1 714 501 visitors from this region.
Africa land arrivals increased by a significant 81.6%, while air recorded a growth of 44.5% between January and June.
"We are pleased with the number of visitors that our country continues to receive from the rest of the African continent. This is a testament to the marketing efforts that we have implemented to attract tourists from this region. Africa remains a key source market for us, and we are committed to collaborating as a tourism sector to make sure we welcome visitors from this region and that we cater for their needs and preferences," said De Lille.
Despite the increase in tourist arrivals, the country has been experiencing a string of tourist attacks in major tourist hotspots such as national parks.
Recently, an American tourist was robbed at Rotary Drive in Hermanus at a lookout point where a robber took the tourist's belongings. In February, a German tourist , Nick Frischke, went missing after being robbed at the Kabonkelberg hiking trail near Hout Bay, and five men were arrested for the robbery. However, Frischke hasn’t been found.
During questions to the ministry in parliament, DA MP Haseena Ismail asked De Lille: "How has the Tourism Safety Plan been operationalised to mitigate such incidents and ensure a secure environment for both domestic and international visitors?".
She further asked whether the minister will provide a thorough assessment of the implementation of the specified plan, including strategies, resources, and partnerships leveraged to address the challenge.
De Lille said she has been informed by the department that the Tourism Safety Plan has been implemented since 2018.
"The Tourism Safety Plan has initiatives that speak to the three main themes that form part of the strategy. The bulk of the initiatives form part of the proactive measures, which are those initiatives that have to be put in place even before an incident happens, to minimise the risks."
She said some of the initiatives that were operationalised include the Tourism Monitors Programme, identification of hot spots, the police reservists. De Lille added that the department has conducted tourist safety awareness sessions jointly with SAPS and other security structures in the various provinces over the years.