Statistics SA has released its analysis of South Africa’s tourist arrivals for the month of August. In keeping with the trend for most of this year, and following from July’s decline, the numbers for August have shown a continuation of 2018’s poor performance, with a 1% drop of arrivals year-to-date. SA has welcomed 1 693 076 arrivals thus far in 2018.

Similar to arrivals from July, most of SA’s key source markets continue to show a drop in numbers. Europe as a whole is 2% down year-to-date, while both North and South America are showing increases, up 1% and 9% respectively, having delivered 293 314 and 76 850 arrivals so far in 2018.

SA’s key source markets year-to-date numbers:

  1. UK (277 030), down 4%
  2. USA (252 050), up 1%
  3. Germany (196 870), down 1%
  4. France (116 464), down 4%
  5. The Netherlands (90 513), down 8%
  6. Australia (74 356), up 1%
  7. India (64 115), down 4%
  8. China (63 405), down 2%
  9. Brazil (45 352), up 6%
  10. Canada (41 264), up 1%

Year-to-date arrivals from SA’s key source markets, 2016 to 2018. 

Despite the overall decline, some source markets have shown sustained growth throughout this year. Argentina has grown by a remarkable 30%, translating to almost 4 000 more visitors this year (14 196 in total). Spain has grown by 6% this year with a total of 27 214 visitors in 2018. The Nordic region overall has grown, with a 1% increase to 58 356. Sweden and Norway have both grown, absorbing some of the 2% decline from the Danish market.

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism told Tourism Update: “We have spent a lot of this year defending our position. We have had to recover our image from the Cape Town water crisis. Safety and security remain concerns that we spend time trying to overcome. There are also two growing concerns internationally that we are seeing damaging our reputation: the first is a perception of our stance on animal interactions and canned hunting that might be potentially putting tourists off. Second, especially for the Australian market, news of land expropriation is creating a perception of instability that is affecting us.”

Ntshona further notes that the Nordic region is doing very well: “We have had much to focus on this market through things like roadshows.” He adds that Portugal warrants attention (declining by more than 5 000 visitors this year), but this is largely attributed to a general decline in outbound tourism from Portugal. “They are not spending on leisure as their economy is recovering. Their focus is on internal development and paying off debt.” However, he notes that Spain has shown a good recovery after a slump last year.

When comparing August 2018 to the same month in 2017, the overall numbers reveal no change. However, some key markets are showing growth or a slowing of their rapid decline experienced in other months this year.

The key source market arrivals and their change from August 2017 to August 2018 are as follows:

  1. USA (33 773), up 3%
  2. UK (30 967), up 2%
  3. Germany (20 130), no change
  4. France (14 528), down 7%
  5. The Netherlands (13 315), down 15%
  6. Australia (11 226), up 4%
  7. China (8 347), up 1%
  8. India (6 896), down 6%
  9. Brazil (5 232), up 22%
  10. Canada (4 694), up 7%

Regional breakdown of arrivals for August over five years.

A breakdown of August arrivals over the last five years reveals that regionally, August 2018 has been a better year for North and South America as well as Australasia. All regions showed impressive growth between 2015 and 2016. Despite current declines, no regions have dropped below 2015 numbers.

Ntshona says: “We are certainly feeling the pressure of the European decline, which accounts for around 15% of our total arrivals.”

For the month of August, OR Tambo remained the busiest port of entry, welcoming 55% of European arrivals, 65% of North American arrivals and 67% of Asian arrivals. Cape Town international Airport welcomed 22% of total overseas arrivals, up from 20% in July. According to the report, 30 506 people arrived by road.

South Africa remains largely a leisure destination with 207 669 overseas visitors declaring holiday as their reason for visiting. Business travel is showing slight decline, with 5 527 business travellers in August 2017 compared with 4 706 in August this year.

Ntshona notes that Angolan arrivals are up a remarkable 38% year-to-date (43 461). “We waived visas for Angolan visitors. The correlation is clear.” He also remarks that Angolan visitors spend a large amount of money in SA. “They are amongst our highest spenders from all source markets.”

He says the goal for 2018 was set at 10.9 million arrivals (overseas and from Africa). SA’s total arrivals for August, when counting both overseas and African numbers is sitting at 6 885 371. He believes with December’s festive season always bolstering numbers, the country should hit around 10.6 million by the end of the year, falling just short of the goal.