Pretoria - Foreign visitors to South Africa had risen by more than 350 000 for the first four months of this year as compared to the same period in 2009, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the annual Tourism Month on Thursday, Van Schalkwyk said from January to April this year foreign arrivals totalled more than 2.5 million, compared to approximately 2.2 million in 2009, representing a growth of 16.3 percent.
"Our foreign arrivals continue to reflect the consistent growth of our tourism industry and I have no doubt that 2010 is going to be a very successful year," he said, adding that the department expected 2010 to be a strong year in tourism, amongst others due to the recent World Cup.
"We have always understood, however, that the backbone of any tourism industry is its domestic market. We will continue to promote the richness of our destination to South African travellers and during Tourism Month we have a particular focus on showcasing our local tourism offerings," he said.
Approximately 14.6 million adult South Africans undertook about 30 million domestic trips in 2009, with a total annual spend of more than R22 billion. In 2009, 75 percent of all tourist volume in South Africa was derived from domestic tourists, making it by far the biggest segment of the industry. Van Schalkwyk said the figures are also less volatile than foreign tourism and offer the industry and the country's economy a steady income stream.
"South African Tourism's (SAT) Sho't Left campaign is specifically aimed at making travelling more accessible and affordable for all South Africans. Over the last six years we have invested approximately R70 million... this significant investment reiterates the fact that we are serious about strengthening domestic tourism as the foundation of our industry."
South Africa celebrates Tourism Month annually in September and will also commemorate World Tourism Day on 27 September, with this year's theme being "Tourism and Biodiversity".
"In South Africa, the majority of our tourism offerings are rich in biodiversity. It is important for each and every South African to preserve this in order to ensure that we have a sustainable tourism offering," explained SAT CEO Thandiwe January Maclean.