South Africa’s tourism industry has managed to build on the momentum achieved during a record-breaking 2010, by growing a further 3.3% and attracting 8 339 354 international tourists in 2011.
The official 2011 tourism statistics were released in by South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who said that despite tough global economic conditions South Africa’s tourist arrivals had surpassed the 8 073 552 mark it reached when recording 15.1% growth in 2010, on the back of the country’s successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a once in a lifetime global showcase for our country which gave us unprecedented international media exposure worth billions of dollars and left us with enhanced, modern world-class tourist infrastructure.
“However, while it was a wonderful opportunity that certainly gave us a big boost, the tourism industry never became complacent after its success. Instead, we used it as a catalyst to work even harder to sustain that tourism growth, to defend our core tourist markets and to tap into the potential of new tourism markets.
“We capitalised on our enhanced international awareness and positivity and refined our marketing efforts with our media and trade partners,” Minister van Schalkwyk said.
“And I’m delighted to say that the hard work by all in the tourism industry, both in the public and private sector, has paid off as we recorded a 3.3% increase in our 2011 international tourist arrivals figures. If you exclude the nearly 310 000 people who travelled specifically for the FIFA World Cup, then actual growth in 2011 was 7.4 percent, above the rate of global growth of 4.4%. We are therefore extremely happy with the 2011 tourist statistics and optimistic about the potential for future growth in South Africa’s tourism industry,” Minister van Schalkwyk added.
While South Africa’s core markets in Europe and North America remain our major source of long-haul tourists, the country’s overall growth in 2011 was largely due to a 14.6% growth in the emerging markets of Asia (driven by growth of 24.3% from China and 26.2% by India in 2011). Tourist numbers were also up thanks to a 6.9% increase in tourist arrivals from regional Africa continent (with growth of 37.5% from Nigeria).
European tourist arrivals declined by 3.5%, due largely to the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis in many countries in Europe, while North American numbers grew by 2.3%, despite the continent also facing major economic challenges.
Once again, if World Cup numbers are excluded, growth would have been 2.4% for Europe, 13.7% for North America, 26.3% for Asia and 9.1% for Africa in 2011.
Germany leads the way for Europe
South Africa attracted close to 420 500 tourists from its long-time number one overseas tourist market, the United Kingdom, with the UK numbers down 7.2% on 2010 figures due to the effects of the global economic crisis.
Germany provided the major highlight in Europe, recording growth of 9.3% and nearly 236 000 tourist arrivals in 2011.
“The World Cup cushioned us from the difficulties facing the European market in 2010. Given that Europe’s woes are not over yet, a drop in tourists from this market in 2011 was expected as the continent’s price conscious consumers chose instead to travel for shorter periods of time closer to home and adapt their spending patterns,” said Minister van Schalkwyk, adding that excessive Air Passenger Duty taxes were also having a detrimental impact on outbound travel from the UK.
“The global economic crisis and high, unilateral taxes have undoubtedly had an impact on us, but Europe remains our bread and butter market and we’re extremely committed to defending and growing our market share in this important region,” explained Minister Van Schalkwyk.
“We are extremely heartened by the growth in Germany, our second largest European market and third largest overall overseas tourist market. Germany saw close to 10% growth in numbers (9.3 %) for the second year in a row. It is exciting to see South Africa remains an increasingly popular destination for the German market, especially among the younger generation. No doubt the hard work, excellent partnerships and activations of the South African Tourism country office have added to this increased awareness and positivism towards the destination, with a strong focus placed on highlighting South Africa’s lifestyle attributes,” said Minister van Schalkwyk.
Growth out of two of South Africa’s other key European markets, the Netherlands and France, was down in 2011, with both markets having seen good growth in 2010 as a result of the World Cup. Italy, however, to our delight managed to maintain its 2010 growth in arrivals, despite being one of the hardest-hit economies during the global recession.
South Africa holds on to USA World Cup-related gains
The USA was one of the countries that saw the most fans travelling to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with a 22.6 percent increase in US arrivals to South Africa in 2010 as over 30 000 US fans travelled for the tournament alone. And we are extremely happy that South Africa saw further growth out of the USA market in 2011, with a 1.9% increase in tourist arrivals seeing 287 614 US tourists travel to South Africa in total in 2011.
“That we were able to maintain the massive increase in arrivals of 2010 and still grow even more in 2011 in an uncertain economy is evidence that the successful hosting of the tournament had an excellent impact on arrivals out of this very important market. It is also testament to the hard work by our team in the United States, in tandem with our trade and media partners,” said Minister Van Schalkwyk.
Impressive growth from emerging markets and Africa continues
“Our decision to increase our marketing focus on the major emerging economies continued to bear fruit in 2011 and we remain excited by the prospects for these markets going forward,” said Minister van Schalkwyk, who recently led trade workshops to both India and China as part of South Africa’s efforts to increase its foothold in these growing markets.
South Africa saw a 24.3% increase in tourists from China to reach 84 883 arrivals from China in 2011, and a 26.2% increase in tourists from India to 90 367 visitors for the first time in 2011, with growth from Asia overall up by 14.6%. And Minister van Schalkwyk confidently said South Africa’s target was to top 100 000 Indian tourist arrivals by the end of 2012 and 100 000 tourist arrivals from China by the end of 2013.
“China and India have emerged as major global economic powers and naturally too have become important tourism markets for all destinations. We have for many years now had an established marketing presence in India and China and we will continue to heavily invest in these markets, which we have no doubt will soon become core markets for us. We are hopeful that arrivals from China will benefit from the launch of direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing by SAA in January this year. It is now important for our collective industry to prepare to harness this growth from Asia, with increased training, excellent service levels, responding to the language challenge, catering for their dietary requirements and, critically, providing the kinds of itineraries that cater for the needs of travellers from the Asian markets,” the Minister added.
South Africa also held on to its massive World Cup year growth of 66.7% out of Brazil, growing by a further 0.8% in 2011 and attracting over 54 000 tourists from Brazil in 2011. South Africa plans to increase its focus on this market, opening an office in Brazil in the coming financial year.
“What the global economic crisis has clearly illustrated is that building the domestic market and the African land market is crucial to protecting our tourism industry against global shocks. I am pleased to report a 6.8 percent growth rate from Africa land markets, which remains one of our most important growth markets. In addition to our sustained and effective trade and marketing efforts in Africa, we have also benefited from the effective usage of mobile phone technology in our marketing campaigns to market more effectively to potential consumers across the African continent,” said Minister van Schalkwyk.
Nigeria and Tanzania were two of the continent’s biggest growth markets in 2011, with tourist arrivals from these two countries growing by 37.5% and 45.8% respectively.
“These are excellent numbers we are extremely pleased with. And I would like to take this opportunity to announce that the South African Government has allocated R218 million over the next three financial years to South African Tourism to grow our share of the African market. We have opened a country office in Angola and plan to have five SA Tourism offices open on the continent in the next five years, the second of which is set to open in Nigeria in the coming financial year. We cannot stress strongly enough how important the African tourist market is to us. Tourists from Africa are major leisure tourists, attracted by our country’s beauty, nightlife and lifestyle and shopping attractions. The upcoming 2013 African Cup of Nations being hosted by South Africa next year is a major opportunity for us to drive arrivals growth from the African continent in this financial year,” said Minister van Schalkwyk.
Little change in how tourists experience South Africa
Neighbouring SADC countries continue to be the major source markets for tourist arrivals, with the most arrivals coming from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana, while the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands and France remain the country’s top five overseas source markets.
South Africa saw an increase in tourist arrivals for all purposes of travel, while the average number of provinces visited dropped slightly to 1.2. The average length of stay increased for all overseas markets and for African air markets.
Gauteng and the Western Cape remain by far the most visited provinces.
“Although the global economic financial crisis has not had a massive effect on tourism arrivals to South Africa, we have felt its effects in terms of length of stay and spend and look forward to seeing improving numbers in this regard as the world economy recovers,” said the Minister.
Leveraging off the diversity and vibrancy of South Africa’s people
“From a marketing perspective, the challenge in 2011 was to leverage off our phenomenal brand awareness and positivity from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which was done across a variety of international platforms with the launch in May 2011 of the second phase of the successful 20 Experiences in 10 Days global campaign, which reached 1.2-billion consumers in 2011. As far as our brand was concerned, the focus was on developing a stronger emotional connection with South Africa and its people through our marketing work.”
“South African Tourism plays an active role in marketing the country, with 128 Joint Marketing Agreements in place across our key markets, with particularly successful partnerships in place in Germany, Brazil, the UK and at home in South Africa as well as globally with travel booking website Expedia,” explained Van Schalkwyk.
Festive season numbers give confidence that growth is set to continue
The outlook for the South African tourism industry looks increasingly positive with excellent festive season figures.
“We are confident that this growth in tourist arrivals is set to continue. In total we saw 9.3% more people visit South Africa in December 2011 than in December 2010, with a 9.6% increase in overseas arrivals and growth recorded in all of our key markets,” said Minister Van Schalkwyk.
Shaping our future together
In conclusion, Minister Van Schalkwyk called for a renewed commitment by both the private and public sector to grow the tourism industry.
“Although there is good reason for optimism for the South African tourism industry the economic climate remains difficult and competition for tourist arrivals fierce. For South Africa to maintain its tourism arrivals we need to see a collective, robust approach by all in the industry to keep South Africa on its current growth trajectory. With this in mind we will gather in Durban for INDABA 2012 from May 12-15 under the theme of “Shaping our Future Together” building strong partnerships for continued, sustainable tourism growth, the creation of jobs and a greater contribution to the country’s economy from our industry going forward,” said Minister van Schalkwyk.