South Africa’s usually bankable tourist industry has taken a few knocks this year, and StatsSA’s latest release has got some commentators pinning dwindling numbers on land expropriation.
July 2018 – in comparison to July 2017 – has seen a 2% drop in the number of visitors coming to Mzansi. In fact, looking at the whole of 2018 so far, there’s also 2% less European travellers coming here compared to last year.
Is land expropriation affecting SA tourism?
Special Advisor to the Department of Tourism, Gillian Saunders, told Tourism Update that there was a myriad of factors affecting these numbers. As well as citing decreases in hunting tourists, Saunders suggested that “the land question” was having an effect on the numbers:
“Safety and security continue to be a concern, particularly service delivery protests. News of land grabs and the land question have also affected us, but we are drafting messaging around that to help reassure the trade.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Saunders also stated that bookings for 2019 are already showing that there will be more interest – and therefore, higher visitor numbers – in the near future. In her opinion, the easing of day zero fears in the Western Cape will contribute to the industry’s recovery, too.
Where most tourists to South Africa come from:
Largely thanks to repeat visitors and those with the luxury of sharing a border with South Africa, the top five for our tourist intake comes from SADC countries:
Zimbabwe – 1 266 681: Up 1%.
Lesotho – 1 093 341: Up 1%.
Mozambique – 800 688: Up 3%.
Swaziland – 494 318: No notable change.
Botswana – 363 240: Up 2%.
The picture looks pretty rosy from that data, with our five most reliable markets actually yielding some positive results. But if we look at the top 10 countries for tourists outside of Africa, that’s where the losses are coming from, and it’s perhaps where the land expropriation debate is most likely to be “misunderstood”:
United Kingdom – 246 063: Down 5%.
United States of America – 218 277: Up 1%.
Germany – 176 740: Down 1%.
France – 101 936: Down 3%.
The Netherlands – 77 198: Down 7%.
Australia – 63 130: No change.
India – 57 219: Down 3%.
China – 55 058: Down 2%.
Brazil – 40 120: Up 4%.
Canada – 36 570: No change.
Visitors from the UK still top the table, despite 12 000 fewer Brits visiting our shores in the last year. America comes in second, before Germany, France and The Netherlands all make up the top five. Only the US has seen tourist numbers increase over the year.
The biggest increase came from Argentina, as a 28% surge in visitors to South Africa from the South American country coincided with a relaxation of visa rules between the two nations.