Soaring Tourism in South Africa: January to July 2023

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South Africa’s tourism industry is showing remarkable growth, with increasing numbers of both domestic and international travelers flocking to the country to experience its exceptional blend of nature, culture, and history. The most recent official international arrival figures from Statistics South Africa highlight a promising trend in the country’s tourism recovery.

International Tourist Arrivals

Between January and July 2023, international tourist arrivals reached 4.8 million, a significant 70.6% increase compared to the first seven months of 2022. Although these figures are still 19.0% lower than the same period in 2019, the goal is to exceed 10 million arrivals by the end of March 2024.

Key Markets

African countries played a vital role in South Africa’s tourism industry, accounting for 75.8% of all arrivals, or 3.6 million tourists. Zimbabwe and Kenya demonstrated remarkable growth, with Zimbabwe witnessing a 115.6% increase in tourist arrivals, totaling 1.2 million. Kenya also experienced a 110.2% surge, amounting to 21,851 arrivals during this period.

European markets contributed 14.3% of the total arrivals, with 682,828 tourists visiting between January and July 2023. This signifies a 61.5% increase compared to last year. The United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands were the top European source markets, with Russia showing a dramatic growth of 140.8% in tourist arrivals.

The Americas and Asia also exhibited strong momentum, with tourist arrivals from the Americas registering at 259,081, a 59.0% growth compared to 2022. Asian markets demonstrated significant growth, with 112,243 arrivals, an impressive 91.2% increase. India and China led the way in this region, with India witnessing a 70.6% growth and China seeing a massive 260.6% surge in arrivals.

The Middle East also registered solid gains, with 32,016 arrivals during this period, a 63.6% growth compared to 2022. South Africa welcomed 9,425 arrivals from Saudi Arabia, marking a 59.3% increase. The United Arab Emirates displayed an astonishing 139.6% growth, contributing 3,923 arrivals.

Minister of Tourism’s Views

Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, emphasized the importance of Africa as a key contributor to South Africa’s tourism industry and the need for further revisions to immigration regulations and visa requirements. She acknowledged the surge in arrivals from Kenya, which resulted from granting visa-free travel to South Africans for 90 days per year, starting from January 1, 2023.

The Minister also highlighted the strength of established markets like the UK, US, and Germany, and the notable resurgence from China. Direct flights bolstered these numbers, reflecting the ease of connectivity and the strong travel relationships South Africa enjoys with these nations.

Domestic Tourism

Domestic tourism has also displayed phenomenal growth, contributing significantly to the country’s economy. In the first half of 2023, South Africans took 18.8 million domestic overnight trips, a 23.4% increase compared to 2022. This trend emphasizes the importance of nurturing domestic tourism and supporting local economies.

BRICS Summit

South Africa recently hosted the 15th BRICS Summit, where the country welcomed over 50 heads of state and more than 1,000 delegates. The event was celebrated as a phenomenal success, demonstrating South Africa’s allure on the global tourism map.

With breathtaking landscapes, cultural richness, and unique offerings, South Africa’s tourism industry is poised for continued growth and success. The current numbers provide a hopeful outlook for the upcoming summer season and beyond.

A Russian-Spanish journalist and Cape Town native, channels his lifelong passion for South Africa into captivating stories for his local blog. With a diverse background and 50 years of rich experiences, Serjio's unique voice resonates with readers seeking to explore Cape Town's vibrant culture. His love for the city shines through in every piece, making Serjio the go-to source for the latest in South African adventures.

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