Tourism in South Africa: Where Are Our Visitors Coming From?

The researchers for StatsSA have been busy crunching the numbers again this month, and they’ve detailed a comprehensive picture of all the visitors to South Africa between May 2018 and May 2019. Overall, it’s good news for tourism in South Africa – foreign arrivals are up by 1.5% within the recorded 12-month period.

Despite reported struggles and increased regional competition, South Africa has remained an attractive destination for international visitors. More than 1.2 million foreign nationals set foot in SA over the past year, and plenty of our fellow countrymen and women have been on the move too: Over 896,000 of us traveled across our borders in the past year.

The South African has broken some of the major statistics down to determine who exactly is coming to visit South Africa, and who are most recurring visitors are.

Tourism in South Africa: Most popular overseas visitors
(Tourists from these ten countries constituted 75.5% of all tourists from overseas countries).

  1. United States of America: 35 699 (21.5%)
  2. United Kingdom: 21 834 (13.1%)
  3. India: 13 238 (8.0%)
  4. Germany: 11 827 (7.1%)
  5. France: 11 142 (6.7%)
  6. Australia: 8 825 (5.3%)
  7. China: 7 259 (4.4%)
  8. The Netherlands: 5 782 (3.5%)
  9. Brazil: 5 149 (3.1%)
  10. Canada: 4 771 (2.9%)

A comparison of movements in the ten leading overseas countries between May 2018 and May 2019 shows that the number of tourists decreased for four of ten leading countries, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Brazil. But the picture was pretty rosy elsewhere

The UK, for example, experienced the largest increase of visitors to South Africa (up by 6.5%), followed closely by China with an increase of 6.3%. The US also saw their visitor numbers increase by more than 5%.

Tourism in South Africa: Most popular African visitors
(Virtually all tourists from Africa – 97.9% – came from the SADC countries).

  1. Zimbabwe: 168 046 (29.3%)
  2. Lesotho: 121 426 (21.2%)
  3. Mozambique: 106 341 (18.5%)
  4. Swaziland: 75 161 (13.1%)
  5. Botswana: 51 668 (9.0%)
  6. Namibia: 14 682 (2.6%)
  7. Malawi: 12 853 (2.2%)
  8. Zambia: 11 527 (2.0%)
  9. Angola: 5 090 (0.9%)
  10. Nigeria: 3 597 (0.7%)

Who is visiting South Africa?

In total, the number of tourists increased for five of the ten leading countries (Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Angola), and decreased for the other five (Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique). Botswana showed the largest increase (15.2%), while Zambia showed the largest decrease (15.8%).

So, we know where people are coming from, but do we actually know the type of people that are most likely to come and visit South Africa? StatsSA also provided information on the demographics of travelers visiting South Africa. Their findings conclude the following:

  • 56.2% of tourists were male and 43.8% of them were female.
  • It’s the millennials and the mid-lifers who are propping up tourism in South Africa: The majority of tourists were aged between 35 and 44 years (29.4%), followed closely by the age group 25 to 34 years (27.9%).
  • Of all our foreign visitors, 97% of them came purely for a holiday: 2.4% traveled on business, with 0.5% of them coming here to study. Around one in a thousand travelers come to South Africa for medical treatment.
  • Just two people managed to make the journey from St Helena to South Africa – in an entire year!


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Cape Town Hosts World Travel Market Africa to Attract More Tourists to the Continent

The doors to the Cape Town International Convention Centre were opened on Wednesday morning with the hope that hundreds of millions worth of currency would change hands in the coming days.

The World Travel Market (WTM) Africa began in Cape Town and focuses on promoting and networking the tourism industry in Africa. In 2017, $365m (about R5.1bn) was exchanged in business transactions at the three-day event.

Nearly 6,000 industry professionals are expected to attend.

“Platforms such as WTM Africa provide us with an opportunity as Africans to share with the world what we have to offer not only as a city, or as a country, but as an African region,” Cape Town mayor Dan Plato told delegates.

“We are looking forward to sharing ideas with our counterparts on how to continue building a globally competitive tourism and business destination.”

The opening seminar focused on the economic potential the tourism industry has for SA.

“Currently, the tourism economy in Cape Town employs around 150,000 people which makes it the sector with the highest growth and employment potential,” said Plato.

Other panelists outlined plans to bring more visitors to SA. Tourism Business Council of SA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the organisation aims to double the number of annual tourists in SA by 2030 to about 21-million.

Gillian Saunders, special adviser to tourism minister Derek Hanekom, said marketing strategies need to change be changed to attract more Africans to SA.

“Often aspirational destinations are in Europe, even though there is nothing wrong with Joburg and Cape Town,” Saunders said. “Aspirational destinations of Africans should also be down here.”

The event is hosting about 600 exhibitors and lasts until the evening of Friday 12 April 2019. For more information about the Expo, and to register, click here.


For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

How will the cabinet reshuffle affect SA’s travel and tourism industry?

According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), the appointment of new cabinet ministers in Tourism, Transport, Home Affairs and Finance, present mixed fortunes for the travel and tourism industry. Having two female leaders at the helm of South Africa’s travel and tourism public sectors sets a new precedent for women empowerment in the industry says the TBCSA, however, adding its voice to the broader business community, it laments the uncertain political ramifications of the cabinet reshuffle on the economy.

“First and foremost, we congratulate Tokozile Xasa on her appointment as the country’s first female Minister of Tourism,” says TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela. “Xasa has served as Deputy Minister of Tourism since 2009 and is thus familiar with the dynamics and issues in the sector. During her tenure as deputy minister, she amassed the necessary knowledge and experience which should stand her in good stead in her new role.” We further extend a warm welcome to the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Tourism Elizabeth Thabethe.”

Concern over impact of changes in other ministerial portfolios

The council says Xasa’s appointment will provide a level of continuity for the travel and tourism industry. It has, however, highlighted that it was unclear how changes in other ministerial portfolios – particularly at National Treasury and the departments of Home Affairs and Transport – will impact the industry. “There is anxiety that the reshuffle is likely to impact engagements and programmes that are already underway in collaboration with different role-players within government,” says Ramawela.

For instance, the airline sector, in collaboration with the Department of Transport, is preparing to host an Aviation Indaba which will determine, amongst other matters, South Africa’s readiness to implement the ‘open skies’ policy. Then there are the VAT issues that are of particular concern to tour operators and travel agents and involve the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the National Treasury.

When it comes to Home Affairs, TBCSA is yet to hear the decision of the Immigrations Advisory Board (IAB) on the amendment of the regulation for travelling minors – a matter that will now be handled under the leadership of the new Minister of Home Affairs, Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize. “Of course, the biggest anxiety element is the possibility of a credit downgrade for the country if the reshuffle brings negativity into the economy and instability in the society.”