Wikimedia Commons

South Africa has capitalised on the awareness generated by the 2010 World Cup, with international tourist arrivals growing by 3.3% last year with over 8 million tourists visiting South Africa last year, Minister of Tourism Martinus van Schalkwyk said on Thursday.

Presenting the 2011 tourist arrival figures in Cape Town, van Schalkwyk said the 8,339,354 arrivals in 2011 was proof that the tourism industry had not become complacent and had built on the awareness created by the soccer tournament.

He said if the 310,000 arrivals for the 2010 World Cup were excluded, tourism arrivals in 2011 grew by 7.4% - above the global increase of 4.4%. "We are therefore extremely happy with the 2011 tourist statistics and optimistic about the potential for future growth in South Africa's tourism industry," he said.

Neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana remained the major source for tourist arrivals, while the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and France were South Africa's top five overseas markets.

Gauteng and the Western Cape remain the top visited provinces.

The growth in tourism arrivals was due to a 14.6% growth in emerging markets of Asia - with a 24% increase in arrivals from China and 26% increase in arrivals from India.

Van Schalkwyk said South Africa would continue to invest in marketing the country to India and China. "We are hopeful that arrivals from China will benefit from the launch of direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing by SAA in January this year," he said.

While North American numbers grew by 2.3%, European arrivals declined by 3.5% in line with worsening economic conditions there. Despite this, arrivals from Germany increased by 9%, with 236,000 arrivals, many of them young people.

Van Schalkwyk said the hard work by SA Tourism's Germany office had led to an increased awareness and positivism towards South Africa, particularly around the country's lifestyle.

The UK remained the number one overseas market with 420,500 arrivals, despite a decrease of 7%. Arrivals from two of South Africa's other key European markets, the Netherlands and France, also declined last year, while arrivals from Italy were up. Arrivals from the African continent increased by 6.8%, with a 38% increase from Nigeria.

A new country office has been opened in Angola and the department planned to open four more SA Tourism offices on the continent over the next five years, with the next office expected to be opened in Nigeria in the coming financial year. "Tourists from Africa are major leisure tourists, attracted by the country's beauty, nightlife and lifestyle and shopping attractions," van Schalkwyk said.

He added that the upcoming 2013 African Cup of Nations soccer tournament was a major opportunity for the country to drive arrivals from the African continent.

SA Tourism would also open an office in Brazil in the coming financial year, he said, adding that arrivals from the South American country were up by just under 1%, at 54,000.

He said the outlook for the SA tourism appeared increasingly positive and pointed out that 9.3% more people visited South Africa in December last year than in the December 2010, with a 9.6% increase in overseas arrivals.

SA - the Good News via BuaNews