by Patricia De Lille
South Africa is known for its amazing tourism offerings that beguile many visitors to our shores, and leave them wanting more. Our country is regarded as one of the most diverse and enchanting places in the world.
Visitors can go almost anywhere in the country and experience the ultimate combination of nature, wildlife, culture, adventure and heritage. While the COVID-19 pandemic had dampened the number of international tourist arrivals, the reawakening of global travel has seen a strong increase of tourists to our country.
Our arrival numbers for the year are on an upward trend with more than 4 million tourists visiting the country in the first half of 2023. This is a significant increase from the 2,3 million tourist arrivals between January and June 2022.
There has also been a substantial increase across all regions with Africa continuing to bring the largest share of arrivals with 3 083 583 tourists arrivals. Beyond the African continent, Europe is the largest source of visitors, growing by 66,8% to 594 388 visitors.
This affirms South Africa as a favorite tourist destination. Moreover, the country was recently honoured by readers of the UK’s Telegraph Travel publication, with the prestigious title of “Best Country,” while Cape Town, claimed the coveted title of “Best City in the World.”
Travel site Big Travel 7 last month released a list of their top 50 beaches and South Africa’s Boulders Beach in Cape Town known for its pristine waters and penguins that nest in the area, made it to number 32.
The encouraging growth in the tourism sector is reason for optimism and this sector is key to boosting economic growth and job creation. All of us can be ambassadors for our country, and government calls on everyone to promote the many tourist offerings we have.
This past week we launched the Summer Campaign ahead of our peak tourism season signaling to all tourists, local and international, that we are ready to welcome them to the most beautiful country in the world. Throughout the length and breadth of South Africa there are so many hidden gems and a diverse list of experiences for any kind of traveler.
We also call on citizens to warmly welcome both local and international tourists by showing them the true spirt of our nation and Ubuntu. Let us share the authentic South African experience, help tourists around our nation and ensure their safety when visiting.
According to the 2022 Brand South Africa report, Measuring the General Reputation of South Africa and recommendations for the Nation Brand, perceptions of South Africa improved when ‘experiencing the country’. The interaction of tourists with South Africans and our country’s sports, culture, history, natural heritage and bio-diversity tended to make the country a more memorable experience.
In preparation for a buoyant summer tourism season, government has made tourism safety a top priority with the National Tourism Safety Forum overseeing the safety of tourists.
It includes the deployment of Tourism Monitors to all provinces at top tourist attractions and national parks. These monitors will be deployed towards end of October to early November 2023. They will be responsible to help tourists, provide safety information and report any incidents of crime to the police.
We are also accessing the power of technology through our Secura App that is already being used by tourists to our country. The app integrates affordable emergency medical responses, breakdowns and crime-related incident assistance. This initiative by the private sector demonstrates the partnership between the public and private sector and our collective commitment to provide an enhanced experience to visitors.
South Africans themselves are encouraged to explore the wealth of tourism opportunities in the country. This will not only build national pride but also fosters a better understanding of the country’s diversity and its people.
We are promoting local tourism through our Sho’t Left campaign, which offers various discounts to local travelers under different categories such as “city breaks” and “budget” offers across various provinces.
Overall, local tourism has seen a resurgence with a 30.8% increase in domestic overnight trips during the first four months of 2023. Although the average length of stay has decreased to 2.6 nights, domestic tourists are taking more frequent trips.
The impact of domestic tourism on our economy cannot be underestimated. As South Africans, each journey we embark upon within our country has a ripple effect on various industries. It sustains our hotels, lodges, restaurants, and countless small businesses that rely on our patronage.
We also thank the many men and women at our airports, tour guides, at restaurants, tourist sites and establishments for their hard work to provide visitors with a truly authentic South African experience. Our biggest asset in the tourism sector is the warm and welcoming nature of our people and we are grateful to all the tourism sector stakeholders for their role in enhancing inclusive tourism.
We also want more South Africans to be actively involved in the business of the sector. The tourism industry has the space to bring more marginalised South Africans into the economy. A transformed and empowered tourism sector holds enormous benefits for the country.
Let us support our nation’s tourism industry by welcoming visitors to our shores and growing our domestic tourism by taking a Sho’t Left.
Patricia De Lille is the Minister of Tourism