Statistics SA released its February Tourism and Migration report, and the overall news is positive.

According to the report, South Africa saw a moderate increase in visitors in February compared with the same period in 2017. The UK remains the top country for arrivals, despite a decline in numbers between February 2017 and February 2018.

Coming off the back of the general slump the market experienced in 2017, attributed to factors such as the Western Cape drought, political instability of late-2017, and restrictive visa requirements, there has been growth from certain key markets.

Industry players will be pleased to note that in 2018 the number of visitors from Germany has steadily improved, with South Africa welcoming more than 40 000 German visitors in February. Arrivals from the US have also shown relative growth of 8% month-on-month.

The findings reveal that the top ten overseas countries visiting South Africa in February 2018 were:

  1. UK – 50 772   
  2. Germany – 40 730
  3. USA – 25 435
  4. France – 18 700
  5. The Netherlands – 13 782
  6. China – 11 145
  7. India – 7 544
  8. Australia – 7 154
  9. Sweden – 7 148
  10. Switzerland – 6 594

An examination of these numbers shows that only half of the top ten countries improved in numbers between February 2017 and February 2018, with percentage growth as follows:

  1. China (23%)
  2. India (25%)
  3. USA (8%)
  4. Germany (2%)
  5. Australia (2%)

Numbers out of Asia and the Middle East are looking positive with most countries reported as having increased arrivals. In addition to China and India, significant increases were recorded for Thailand at 49%, Taiwan at 35%, Israel at 12% and Iran at 10%.

A remarkable 97% of arrivals from African countries were from SADC countries, with Zimbabwe providing the greatest percentage of these visitors (27%). Madagascar and the Seychelles saw significant declines in arrivals but all other SADC countries increased their arrivals. Angola and Malawi topped the list of increases with 33% and 18% growth respectively between February 2017 and February 2018.

Significantly, following erratic arrivals over the last four years, visitor numbers from India and China are growing, both up from their February 2017 numbers.

The report shows that, in addition to these large markets, previously smaller markets are growing as well. Visitors from Argentina have continued to increase over the last three years. The January and February period between 2016 and 2018 has seen a significant increase leading to a record 6 261 visitors so far in 2018.

However, in contrast to these impressive numbers, the report also reveals that tourists from Portugal have been declining steadily over the last few years, reaching a low of only 2 830 visitors in February 2018. A further examination of statistics reveals that Portuguese visitors have dropped from between 3 000 and 4 000 a month down to February 2018’s low.