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South African Tourism Facts – Proof That the World Loves South Africa

Updated Sunday, 3 September 2017

South African tourism facts are not only interesting to read for those of us involved in the industry.

They’re also essential to understand how intimately South Africa is affected by, and dependent on, tourism as a major contributor to GDP.

It’s not just ‘nice’ to have thousands of people land on our shores to explore its beauty, it’s imperative to South Africa’s well being.

Tourism is one of the world’s largest economy drivers, despite terrorist attacks, political instability, natural disasters and health pandemics world-wide.

Cape Town City Hall

In fact, perhaps because of the obvious issues elsewhere in the world South Africa’s political shenanigans are anything but centre stage.

Interestingly, Jacob Zuma said, during an opening speech at a recent tourism indaba in Durban:

“we believe tourism is everybody’s business. We do tourism.”

As a result of South Africa’s focus on tourism international tourism has remained robust and international arrivals grew by 3.9% in Cape Town alone, in 2016.

Visit Cape Town

Consequently travel and tourism’s GDP growth is anticipated to increase to 3.8% in 2017 (up from 3.1% in 2016).

Worldwide, the sector’s growth is so strong that the anticipated number of jobs by the year 2027 could be over 380 million.

Here are South African tourism facts in numbers:

USD 27.3bn (R402.2bn) – the *total contribution of travel & tourism to GDP in 2016, forecast to rise by 2.5% in 2017.

*Total contribution is generated by hotels, travel agents, airlines, other passenger transport services, restaurants and leisure industries supported by tourists.

Visit Johannesburg Graffiti

It also includes: the effects from investment (new hotels, new aircraft etc.), government spend to support the sector (marketing, promotion, security services for resorts, sanitation services etc.), and the buying of goods and services by those sectors who deal with tourists – food, cleaning services, fuel, IT services by travel agents etc.

USD 57.3bn – the world average contribution to GDP

R494 million – the tourism budget for 2017 in South Africa.

R25 billion – the amount tourism contributes to the Western Cape’s economy.

9% – the amount tourism contributes to GDP. Tourism not only offers a huge employment sector, it is also now one of the largest contributors to GDP.

Durban Visit

716 500 jobs – 4.6% of the total employed in South Africa work in the travel and tourism industry. This is expected to rise by 3.6% in 2017, and up to 1 110 000 job by 2027!

843 900 jobs – the world average number of employed in the travel and tourism sector.

2.2 million – the number of jobs government would like tourism to support by 2026.

Nigh on 10 million – the total number of international tourists who visited South Africa in 2016 (that’s a 13% growth in the number of tourists arriving in the country).

58 million – the number of tourist arrivals in Africa.

Travel Trends

12 million – the numbers of international arrivals anticipated for 2017/18.

39 million – the record breaking number of passengers arriving at South Africa’s network of nine major airports in 2016.

46.1% – the level of foreign visitor spend.

53.9% – the level of domestic spending in the travel and tourism industry. This level is expected to grow by 1.0% in 2017.

10.2 million – the number of paid bed nights in the Western Cape, ranked no 1 of all 9 provinces.

School Holidays in the Garden Route

11.1 nights – the top average length of stay of any of the 9 provinces (again the Western Cape)

No 1. Cape Town – the best African convention destination for 4 consecutive years.

40% – the number of convention delegates who return within 5 years as tourists, after attending meetings in South Africa.

1 in 10 – the number of employees in the Western Cape earning a living in the tourism industry.

4th France – the most dynamic European inbound country to South Africa, after the UK, the USA and Germany. In 2016 the number of French arrivals reached 154 226, taking over the Netherlands and Australia.

Lion's Head sunset

38% – the year-on-year growth of Chinese visitors to South Africa (now well over 100 000 annual visitors). It remains the leading growth market. India, the next growth market, grew by 22 %.

6.5% – the increase in income from accommodation based on statistics released at the end of May 2017, when compared with the initial three months of 2016 in South Africa.

98.7%  – the percentage of African travellers who come from neighbouring countries.

South African tourism facts References:
World Travel & Tourism Council – Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2017 SA Wesgro, the National Convention Bureau, government statistics