Statistics SA recently released South Africa’s tourist arrival figures for the month of September. According to the data, South Africa’s arrivals show little to no growth, with an overall decline in overseas arrivals of 1% year-to-date, welcoming 1 902 261 visitors in 2018 thus far.

The sluggish trend is evident in year-to-date arrivals with Europe showing only 2% growth, North America  1%, and Central and South America a 10% increase, however declines were noted from Asia, which was down 3% year-to-date, having delivered 232 208 visitors and the Middle East, 39 117 tourists to South Africa, a decrease of 11% year-to-date.

Some of South Africa’s key source market year-to-date numbers include:

  • UK: 305 156 visitors, down 4%.
  • USA: 285 307 visitors, up 1%.
  • Germany: 224 406 visitors, showing no growth.
  • France: 129 146 visitors, down 4%.
  • Netherlands: 101 599 visitors, down 8%.
  • Australia: 87 126 visitors, showing 0% growth.
  • India: 70 558 visitors, down 5%.
  • China: 72 752 visitors, down 1%.
  • Brazil: 51 729 visitors, up 7%.
  • Canada: 46 997 visitors, 0% growth.

Argentina showed significant growth, with 15 394 visitors year-to-date, up 30%, and for the month of September, 1 198 visitors were recorded, showing growth of 26% month-on-month. Italy carried on its upward trajectory with a 9% month-on-month increase, recording 5 014 visitors in September 2018, compared with 4 604 visitors for the same period last year. On the other end of the spectrum, Portugal showed a decline of 20% year-to-date with 22 644 visitors recorded, translating into an 18% month-on-month decline.

Key source market arrivals and their change from September 2017 to September 2018 are as follows:

  • UK: 28 126 visitors, down 3%.
  • USA: 33 257 visitors, up 2%.
  • Germany: 27 536 visitors, up 5%.
  • France: 12 682, down 3%.
  • The Netherlands: 11 086 visitors, down 9%.
  • Australia: 12 770 visitors, down 4%.
  • India: 6 443 visitors, down 16%.
  • China: 9 347, up 2%.
  • Brazil: 6 377 visitors, up 16%.
  • Canada: 5 733 visitors, down 4%.

In 2017, Africa’s share of investment in travel and tourism was US$28.2 billion, or 5.7% of total investment in the continent, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 2018.

At the recent ‘Africa Travel Masterclass’, hosted by Africa Tourism Partners (ATP), Christelle Grohmann, Director at Grant Thornton, said: “South Africa is by far the biggest market (in Africa) when it comes to tourist arrivals.”

However, Grohmann mentioned that even though South Africa had been ranked number one for a number of years, the country had not improved. “We are not very consistent when dealing with some aspects. We need consistency in performance,” said Grohmann. “We often give away more than we gain.”

According to Grohmann, the problem with Africa is its inconsistent growth, often fluctuating drastically, adding: “So we gain one year and give away the next year. You can’t build, can’t invest if you don’t expect more of an up in the market.”

Long-term growth patterns will be moderate and sustainable over time, however, she says: “At this stage for us to grow in Africa, we can’t go moderate; we have to be much higher than the world is growing for us to be able to achieve a significant share.”

International arrivals are expected to be more than 1.8 billion by 2030, and Africa is expected to get 7% of international arrivals by 2030, however Grohmann posed the question: “Given what needs to happen in the industry, is the growth enough in Africa?”

She touched on issues facing the country, and continent at large, with one being infrastructure in air transport, which she deemed a major hurdle for Africa, as it was expensive.

This article has been updated since publishing.