South Africa says it recorded 7.6 million international tourists arrivals into the nation from January to November 2023.
Patricia De Lille, South Africa Minister of Tourism, disclosed this in a statement in Lagos on Friday.
“International tourist arrivals from January to November 2023 totalled 7.6 million representing a remarkable 51.8 per cent increase when compared with same period in 2022.
“While recovery towards pre-COVID-19 numbers is encouraging, this performance is 17.6 per cent lower compared to the same period in 2019.
“Africa continues to lead the way during the first 11 months of 2023. South Africa welcomed 5.8 million visitors from the rest of the African continent, marking a significant 75.5 per cent of all arrivals, compared to the same period in 2022,” she said
“Within the African region, Zimbabwe and Kenya stood out for their remarkable growth.
“Zimbabwe saw an exceptional 77.5 per cent increase in tourist arrivals, totalling 1.9 million, while Kenya recorded a 94.2 per cent surge, reaching 37,414 arrivals for January to November 2023 compared to the same period last year.
“I am so pleased by these numbers from the rest of the African continent. We view the region as very significant and important,” she said.
Lille noted that Kenya’s remarkable performance could be attributed to the strategic decision by government to simplify the visa regime earlier in the year as well as targeted and effective insights-driven marketing campaigns.
According to her, this impressive results on the continent was achieved through focused marketing, various collaborations and leveraging various strategic opportunities by the Department of Tourism, South African Tourism and the broader tourism sector.
She said South Africa remained an attractive destination for both domestic and international travellers.
She noted that the numbers showed that the tourism sector was successfully driving travel to South Africa while shaping cultural exchanges and contributing to inclusive economic growth.
She explained that Americans exhibited strong momentum with tourist arrivals from the Americas between January and November this year registered at 411,254 reflecting a 44.1 per cent growth compared to the same period in 2022.
She said the U.S. contributed the most, with 320,948 arrivals, marking a 39.5 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022.
“The U.S. remains a top international source market for South Africa and has been recording robust steady growth in arrivals in 2023.
“Based on our December projections, we anticipate recording our 2019 pre-pandemic arrivals well ahead of the forecasted recovery mooted for the 2024/2025 financial year.
“We are proud of the work done by the team working collaboratively alongside our stakeholders in the public and private sector to deliver exciting consumer and trade-facing projects to drive brand affinity and distribution channel initiatives to reignite this market,” she said.
The Minister said the European markets showed some strength with 1.1 million tourist arrivals, as Europe contributed to 14.6 per cent of the total arrivals, during the first 11 months of 2023.
She said this marked a 43.2 per cent increase when compared to the same period in 2022.
She said that the UK remained the top European source market with 315,054 tourists choosing South Africa, marking a 30.4.per cent growth.
“Germany experienced a 47.9 per cent increase in arrivals, amounting to 219,971 tourists. This was followed by the Netherlands which saw an increase of 48.4 per cent amounting to 117,948 tourist arrivals from this country.
“Russia exhibited a dramatic growth of 83.9 per cent, contributing 25,116 arrivals.
Europe continues to show strong growth and recovery when compared to the same period in 2022.
“Notably, the Netherlands has achieved 90 per cent of 2019 arrivals, solidifying their position as the fourth largest international market behind the United States of America, the United Kingdom and
“This recovery can be attributed to consistent efforts to showcase South Africa as a welcoming, responsible tourism destination, highlighting experiences that align with intrepid, green economy conscious travellers,” she said.
According to Lille, Asian markets also showed significant growth with a total 182,497 arrivals from the region, representing an astounding 72.6 per cent when compared to the same period in 2022.
She said in this region, India led the way with 73,037 tourists, a 46.3 per cent growth, closely followed by China, which saw a massive 215.7 per cent surge, amounting to 34,669 arrivals.
“The performance highlights South Africa’s charm as well as magnetism as a tourism destination for tourists coming from this region.
“The rich and varied cultural heritage, historical connections, natural beauty and diversity continue to make our country very attractive to travellers coming from this region.
“The re-opening of the Chinese market and the initiation of direct flight routes have catalysed a resurgence in arrivals, highlighting the vast potential and significance of this market to South African,” she said.
According to her, the Middle East registered solid gains as it saw a robust increase with 51,779 arrivals in the January to November 2023 period, a 37.5 per cent growth when compared to the same period in 2022.
She said South Africa received 15,507 arrivals from Saudi Arabia marking an increase of 40.9 per cent.
She noted that the United Arab Emirates showed a remarkable 114.2 per cent growth, accounting for 6,360 arrivals.
“It is evident that our country remains attractive and that more can be unlocked with more policy and regulation revisions.
“I am committed to working with all partners and government colleagues to unlock barriers such as visa regulations, safety concerns, limited air access and air lift, so that we can grow our sector and meaningfully contribute to our country’s economy.
“I look forward to continue working with the rest of my colleagues in government in this regard so that we can all attain mutual benefits of our collaborative initiatives.
“Our country offers unique and undeniable breathtaking landscapes and tourism products and experiences.
“We also thank all the South Africans for their continuous hospitality and extending a warm welcome to all our visitors. Here is to South Africa’s sustained charm, attractiveness and relentless tourism growth,” she said.