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Foreigners are flooding to South Africa ` but we’re still playing catch-up

Source: , 04/02/2024

Tourist arrivals in South Africa have increased in recent years, but they are still far off pre-pandemic levels.

According to Stats SA, in December 2023, 3.5 million travellers were recorded at South African ports of entry/exit, beating the 2.9 million seen in December 2022.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said that there were an estimated 1.3 billion international tourist arrivals in 2023, which is 88% of pre-pandemic levels. With worldwide tourism rebounding, South Africa is experiencing a similar trend.
In 2021, the number of international tourist arrivals was 77.9% lower than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, dropping from 10.23 million tourists in 2019 to 2.26 million in 2021.

In 2022, this figure improved to approximately 5.70 million ` 44.3% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

In 2023, tourist numbers stood at 8.48 million tourists in 2023 ` 17.1% below the pre-pandemic levels.

That said, the December number of 862,460 was still 41.8% lower than the pre-pandemic figure of 1,481,183 recorded in 2019.
However, arrivals from “Other” African countries now exceed pre-pandemic levels by 11.9%, growing from 38,501 tourists in Q4 of 2019 to 43,093 tourists in Q4 of 2023.
“There is, however, a possibility for a complete recovery for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and overseas region, as overseas tourist arrivals have reached 78.5% of 2019 levels and SADC has reached 90.2%,” Stats SA said.
When comparing Q4 2022 and Q4 2023, the number of overseas tourists increased by 17.8%, rising from 501,627 in Q4 of 2022 to 591,011 in Q4 of 2023. The number of SADC tourists increased by 32.5% from 1,273,947 to 1,687,754 over this period.
Mainly tourists
In December 2023, the vast majoirty of tourists (97.9%) were in the country for holidays. Businesspersons (1.9%), students (0.2%) and those looking for medical treatment (less than 0.1%) came in far smaller numbers.
“On average, tourists from overseas and ‘other’ African countries spent more days (about five to seven days per month) in the country compared to SADC residents who spent an average of two days in a month. On average, tourists from overseas spend more days in the warmer months (around seven days),” Stats SA said.

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