Statistics SA has released its arrival numbers for April 2018. The figures show an overall decline in arrivals between April last year and April 2018, with the country seeing 6% fewer arrivals.

Additionally, the year-to-date numbers have also dropped by 1%, with total arrivals thus far for 2018 sitting at 958 311.

In April 2018, the top ten countries and their April 2017-April 2018 differences were as follows:

  1. UK (down 21%)
  2. USA (down 1%)
  3. Germany (down 28%)
  4. France (down 6%)
  5. The Netherlands (down 11%)
  6. Australia (down 6%)
  7. India (down 12%)
  8. China (up 2%)
  9. Canada (up 1%)
  10. Brazil (up 16%)

Of the top ten countries, only three showed month-on-month growth. Argentina, while not in the top ten, has continued to grow, up by 36% thus far in 2018. Other countries whose numbers continue to grow include Sweden, Norway, Chile and Israel.

Visitor numbers from the rest of Africa are rising, with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe providing the most arrivals. This may be attributed to retail tourism taking off in the country, as Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism said during a stakeholders briefing in Johannesburg on June 14: “South Africa is seen as a shopping destination.” Outside of the SADC region, numbers from Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal are looking positive with increases of 23%, 10% and 12% respectively.

Lee-Ann Bac, Director of Grant-Thornton told Moneyweb that April’s stats were bad, but should be treated with caution because of the shift in the Easter holidays. With Easter falling in March last year and April this year, the results for April alone look bad, but are something of an anomaly.

Echoing this sentiment, South Africa’s Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom told Business Day on Tuesday, June 19: “March was a good month this year compared to last year, when Easter fell in April. This year, Easter fell at the end of March.”

Bac also said that a large problem facing South Africa’s tourism industry is the message being sent. “Everyone, from our politicians to the private sector, needs to be aware of what they are doing and saying, and how this has an impact on tourism.”

Bac used the Western Cape water crisis as an example, saying that the restrictions, panic and even the term ‘Day Zero’ all contributed. “It was all intended to get locals to save water but the impact was much greater. As a society, we need to be more conscious of the repercussions of what we do.”

This was reiterated by Ntshona who mentioned the negative impact international media had on the country, showing exaggerated images of Cape Town’s Day Zero, adding: “If Cape Town is in a mess, so is the rest of South Africa. The country suffers.”

Hanekom added that visitors have been put off by messages of ‘Day Zero’. “There have been cancellations by people who were not sure the drought would be over when they arrived. They had heard about the Day Zero.”

Hanekom also added that a decline in visitors this year could result in a strong rebound in 2019 by those who had postponed their visits, saying: “I am not at all alarmed by the drop in April. It was to be expected."