More than nine million tourists visited SA in 2012: Zuma
The number of tourists visiting South Africa surpassed the nine million mark in 2012, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Announcing the annual tourism statistics in Cape Town, Zuma said 9,188,368 tourists visited South Africa in 2012 -- up 10 percent from the 8,339,354 in 2011.
This was more than double the global tourist growth of four percent.
"This phenomenal tourism growth is evidence that we are successfully setting ourselves apart in a competitive marketplace and that South Africa's reputation as a friendly, welcoming, inspiring, and unique tourism destination continues to grow," Zuma said.
Growth from the overseas market increased by 15 percent.
Europe remained South Africa's biggest source market, growing by 9.5 percent.
"The United Kingdom continues to be South Africa's biggest overseas tourism market, with 438,023 UK tourists travelling to South Africa in 2012, which is 4.2 percent up on 2011 figures.
"The United States is South Africa's second biggest overseas tourism market, with 326,643 tourists from the USA visiting in 2012, up 13.6 percent on 2011 figures," Zuma said.
Strong growth from emerging markets in Asia and South America was also recorded in 2012.
"Since 2009 arrivals from China have more than tripled, arrivals from Brazil have more than doubled, and arrivals from India have almost doubled," he said.
China was now South Africa's fourth largest tourism source market.
The 60 percent rise in Chinese tourist numbers from 2011 to 2012 was attributed to the introduction of a direct flight between Beijing and Johannesburg last year.
Arrivals from Africa into South Africa again showed strong growth of 8.5 percent.
"Africa remains the pillar of our tourism economy and we are happy to see that arrivals from the region have maintained the solid growth path we have become accustomed to."
The amount of money spent by tourists in South Africa had also seen an upward trend.
"Foreign tourists spent a total of R76.4 billion in South Africa last year, up 7.6 percent on the total foreign direct spend in the country in 2011," said Zuma.
There were, however, some downward trends.
Spend by African tourists was down 2.3 percent.
Overall, tourists were also spending less time in South Africa.
The average length of stay was down from 8.5 nights per tourist in 2011 to 7.6 nights in 2012.
"The shorter stays are a global trend that affects all our competitors due to the global economic meltdown," Zuma explained.
There was more good news from the Tourism Satellite Account released by Statistics SA for the period ending December 2011.
"Direct tourism contribution to the GDP went up by five percent to R84.3 billion in 2011. Direct employment in the sector as a percentage of overall employment in the country went up from 4.3 percent to 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011," Zuma said.