Tourists flock to SA despite downturn

15 October 2012 - 02:23 By Sapa
Former Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk. File photo
Former Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk. File photo

Tourist arrivals in South Africa grew by 10.5% in the first six months of this year, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said yesterday.

"Despite the global economic downturn, our focused marketing efforts and the hard work of everyone in the tourism industry are paying dividends," he said.

Though the UN World Tourism Organisation predicted a decrease in global arrivals in the second half of this year, Van Schalkwyk was delighted with a very strong start to 2012 and was confident that this would be a good year for the industry.

"We are very encouraged to see that our carefully formulated tourism growth strategy is yielding the desired results, with excellent growth achieved in the markets in which we are actively marketing destination South Africa, and good returns being realised in markets that we have identified as having strong tourism potential for our country."

According to Statistics SA, South Africa attracted more than 4.4million tourists in the first half of this year compared with 3.9 million arrivals during the corresponding period last year.

The tourism industry experienced particularly strong growth in overseas tourist arrivals, recording a 17.1% growth in arrivals from outside the continent.

A total of 1163477 overseas tourist arrivals was recorded in the first six months of 2012, compared with 993 364 in the corresponding period the previous year.

Tourist arrivals from Asia grew by 40.7% and from Central America and South America by 54.4%.

Van Schalkwyk said the launch of SA Airways' direct flight between Johannesburg and Beijing had contributed to the growth .

More than 60 272 Chinese tourists visited South Africa in the first half of 2012, an increase of 68.4% .

South Africa was also benefiting from the department's marketing and trade-relations work in other emerging markets.

There was a 21.1% growth in arrivals from India in the first half of the year, and a 68.4% increase in arrivals from Brazil.