South Africa is known for its beautiful scenery, the friendliness of its people, and of course, for its iconic Springbok rugby jersey. There is little wonder why our country is the sought after tourist destination that it is.South Africa has a land base of approximately 1.27 million square kilometres and about 6.3% of that land is national parks and nature reserves. In 1995, the World Tourism Organization predicted that the country would be the next great tourism frontier because of its vast diversity, potential for growth and the government determination to promote tourism.
This was the year that South Africa welcomed 4.48 million international visitors mostly from neighbouring African countries. There were only 1.1 million overseas tourists and visitors in the same period.
This 2012, according to the Tourism Update and the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the country is enjoying its best performance ever. From the period of January to April 2003 and January to April 2012, visitors from the United States increased by 75.3%, from Germany by 10%, and Holland by 7.4%. The visitors from the UK and France dropped by 8.7% and 9.9% respectively. The tourists’ arrivals dropped significantly however in 2008 when the US and other economies began to experience a meltdown, and it only starting to pick up once more in 2011 and 2012.
Seen from a unilateral view, this does sound like terrific news until you start comparing he figures with other countries. The UK market has dropped b 8.7% which comprised the largest group of visitors to the country. This is not necessarily a reflection of any government agency but on the world economic conditions. Thus, not only are visitors from the UK decreasing, many of overseas visitors are not staying in the country as long as they would want to. In 2003, the average stay of a visitor would be 10 days. Last year, 2011 this figure dropped to 8.3 days.
Also notable about visitors’ data is that many of them prefer to stick to the main developed areas like Cape Town and Johannesburg, and, on the completely opposite side of the coin, more natural and scenic areas like the Garden Route, and the Kruger Park. After the World FIFA Cup in 2010, a surge in international visitors was seen with an increase of 7.4%. The Tourism Minister attributes the dramatic unexpected increase to a market they were not very active in marketing to, namely the Chinese and Indian tourists. There were over 84,880 arrivals from China and more than 90,360 from India in 2011 alone. The office is targeting 100,000 visitors from India by the end of the year and 100,000 from China by the end of 2013 with heavy marketing and promotions in each country for the next few months.
From 2012 to 2014, the government has allocated R218 million to promote tourism in the country. There will be new tourism satellite offices to be opened in Nigeria and 4 more African countries, Brazil and renewed efforts in North America and Asia. One of the Tourism Department’s most successful campaigns was the “20 Experiences in 10 Days” with marketing efforts focused in Brazil, Germany, and the UK.
Some of the key points that should be used by the department in marketing the country are the latest stats released by Integrate Immigration last August.
- With the growing number of police and security in the country, it’s estimated that there is one security office or policeman for every 80 South Africans
- South Africa ranks 34 out of 139 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report of 2010 to 2011
- South Africa got rank 24 in the world on tourist arrivals with 11.3
- The 2011 Traveller’s Choice Destination Award named Cape Town as the top destination for tourists around the world
- The Tambo Airport is the best in Africa according to the World Airport Awards for 2010 to 2011
With so much going for the country, it would be a crime not to take advantage and push tourism growth even further.