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Thu Jul 28 18:34:29 SAST 2016

Tourism numbers back up

Shenaaz Jamal | 13 January, 2016 06:31
Table Mountain. File photo.
Image by: Esa Alexander

South Africa's tourism industry appears to have been resuscitated.

Yesterday, the Department of Home Affairs revealed that the number of foreign arrivals to the country increased over the festive season.

The department recorded 2,003,509 foreign arrivals to the country compared with 1,850,339 the year prior, an increase of 131,211.

The increase in visitor numbers follows the October relaxing of visa requirements.

Critics had claimed that the strict visa regulations - particularly the stipulation that parents must provide unabridged birth certificates when travelling with their children - was damaging the tourism industry.

But Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said the increase in the number of visitors negated concerns over visa regulations.

Last year, cabinet approved changes when tourism figures plummeted soon after the visa regulations came into effect.

Said Gigaba: "With the visa regulations still intact and very few of them changed we have seen a 7% increase and I think it speaks volumes and says that it is not the visa regulations that attract tourists to a country, it's the beauty and other factors. Visa regulations only regulate the entry and exit of the travellers," said Gigaba.

A total of 5,390,856 travellers entered and exited South Africa, 1487148 were citizens and 3903708 were foreigners. Of the latter figure, 284,191 were minors.

Only 0.6% of minors were turned away for non-compliance with travel requirements.

Director for Ports of Entry Stephen van Neel said there were no human trafficking incidents.

Department of Tourism spokesman Trevor Bloem said the department would not comment on the statistics until it had analysed the figures.

SANParks spokesman Gabby Venter also reported an increase in the number of tourists in December, saying they had had 739972 guests. "It is an increase of 6.2% from 2014."

Kholofelo Nkambule, spokesman for Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, said the agency had noticed a definite influx of tourists into the province over the festive season.

''What we can say is that most tourist resorts were fully booked, especially around the Kruger National Park and the Panorama route." - Additional reporting by Graeme Hosken

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