13% Rise in International Arrivals for South Africa in 2016

Exclusive interview – South Africa’s Minister of Tourism – Derek Hanekom

More than 10 million international tourists arrived in South Africa last year, 13% more than in 2015, and well over the 3.9% global average growth rate for the period. We asked Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, what the key trends are in terms of source markets.

The United Kingdom remained our leading source market for overseas arrivals in 2016 (447,840 arrivals) followed by the USA (345,013) and Germany (311,832).

China remained the leading growth market in 2016, with 117,144 arrivals and yearon- year growth recorded at 38%. China is the world’s largest source market for outbound tourism, and we are determined to grow this market even further through intensified marketing and enhancing the experience of Chinese tourists. We recently launched a Mandarin training course to help frontline tourism staff and guides to communicate with guests from China in their own language.

You recently announced a new tourism strategy for your country. Please tell us more about this.

With over one billion people travelling around the world every year, competition for a share of the global market is intensifying every year. Our efforts to grow tourism through effective marketing are directly linked to the need to expand our economy, create more jobs and support more enterprises.

The goal of our revised marketing strategy is to attract five million additional domestic and international travellers to South Africa within five years. Our destination marketing agency, South African Tourism, is enhancing its efforts to market and position South Africa as a preferred leisure tourism and business events destination. South African Tourism is also intensifying our brand building efforts, implementing strategies targeting the global trade, international consumers and domestic tourists, and entering into key collaborations and partnerships with the tourism trade.

How important is tourism as part of your economy, and what are the projections?

In South Africa, the role of tourism in the balance of payments has become increasingly important. This is a major stabilising force for the national current account. Tourism is a driver of economic development and social transformation on a broad scale. Many other sectors feed off the tourism industry, so the indirect contribution to gross domestic product is very high. Transport, infrastructure, financial services are all interlinked with the tourism economy, so the spinoff impacts of t o u r i s m a r e far higher than the 3% direct contribution to GDP. Tourists spent R250 billion in South Africa in 2015, which is a slight increase over the previous year. We are confident that spend in 2016 will be higher, and that this will help boost confidence in the sector, positioning it to grow from strength to strength.

What promotional activities, infrastructure, etc., are planned to underpin this growth?

South Africa has a vibrant,established local travel industry, and we believe that tourism holds massive untapped potential to play a meaningful role in the economic transformation of our country. We are in partnership with the private sector to enable new entrants to come in and contribute to the industry’s diversity, particularly small tourism enterprises that create jobs, offer authentic experiences and empower communities. We have a number of mentorship and incubation programmes underway, some of which will be seen at our upcoming travel trade show, tourism INDABA in May in Durban. We are deepening our work related to market access, destination development and skills development. We are also enhancing the visitor experience, and promoting inclusive tourism growth.

These are the core pillars of our work, in collaboration with industry. Specific programme include developing and enhancing key tourism attractions like our eight World Heritage Sites, and improving the experience of beachgoers at many of our beaches through our public employment programme, which will provide jobs for people in coastal communities. A vital component of invigorating the local tourism economy is our ongoing support for small and emerging tourism b u s i n e s s e s . We are increasing our efforts to mentor, incubate and enable these tourism entrepreneurs – particularly in townships and in rural areas – to ensure inclusive transformation of the sector