Statistics SA has released the country’s arrival stats for the month of May 2018. Overall, the market has seen a small amount of growth with a total of 4 423 165 arrivals thus far this year. This marks a 2.7% increase in the year-to-date numbers – relief following April’s decline. During a pre-recorded interview with Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) CEO, David Frost, screened at Satsa’s annual conference on July 24, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said: “2018 is not going to be the year we would have liked it to have been, but 2019 is going to be a great year.”

The top ten countries and their percentage difference between May 2017 and May 2018 are:

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

Out of the top ten countries, only three showed month-on-month growth. Notably, China shows growth in May but overall continues to present lower numbers in 2018 than last year. In his interview with Frost, Hanekom spoke about his ambitions to attract more Chinese visitors, saying that South Africa should position itself as a prime destination for the Chinese market. He said China’s Ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, said South Africa had the potential to welcome a million Chinese visitors a year. Hanekom said, to do this, more direct flights between the two countries would be needed. He also touched on the current visa requirements as a hindrance for growth out of this market. Finally, the Minister encouraged South Africans to learn Mandarin, believing this would make it easier for Chinese travellers to come to South Africa.

In addition to China, there have been important changes in the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia and India) nations. Brazil has shown consistent growth over the last three years, with total arrivals thus far in 2018 reaching over 28 000. Russia, though presenting much smaller numbers per month, has also shown steady growth, seeing a 30% increase in arrivals compared to May last year. Conversely, there has been a steady decline in arrivals from India, showing an overall decline in this year’s year-to-date numbers of 2%. Despite a strong start in January and February, the growth has slowed and by May arrivals from India had dropped by 12% since the previous month.

BRIC nation May arrival stats, month-on-month.

The statistics have also revealed consistent growth out of the Nordic region. At this year’s Satsa conference, Derek Houston, MD of Houston Travel Marketing Services, said the business out of Scandinavian countries was considerable, mentioning incentive tourism as a drawcard. Additionally, SA Tourism is planning a roadshow to the region in October, following the success of last year’s Nordic roadshow.

Norway, Denmark, Sweden arrival stats, year-to-date.

Visitor numbers from Africa continue to rise with SADC countries providing the most arrivals. Considerable growth occurred from the Angolan market, which saw a 39% increase from April. The Democratic Republic of Congo has also shown steady growth, up 35% this month and 19% overall year-on-year. Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe continue to be South Africa’s largest source markets.

SADC May arrival stats, month-on-month.