Tourist arrivals to SA on the rise after COVID-19 pandemic

Monday, April 3, 2023

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille announced on Monday that tourist arrivals to South Africa are on the rise, while airline traffic is on a rebound after the industry was battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between January and December 2022, data shows that South Africa welcomed 5.7 million tourists – a sharp increase of 152% when compared to the same period in the previous year.

“It is encouraging that arrivals from other African countries continue to be our most substantial source of arrivals, with just over four million arrivals during this period,” she said.

The Minister was speaking at the opening session of World Travel Market (WTIM) Africa at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

WTM Africa is a leading global event for the travel industry that brings together global expertise to travel professionals in the region.

The Minister told delegates that the tourism sector has a major role to play in South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan aimed at stimulating equitable and inclusive growth.

“Tourism has for many years made a great contribution to the livelihoods, economies and vibrancy of our cities and countries.”

Following the pandemic, she said her department adopted the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, which was approved by Cabinet in March 2021. 

The plan outlines strategic interventions needed to take to boost the economy back to pre-pandemic levels and beyond.

These include protecting and rejuvenating supply, re-igniting demand and strengthening enabling capability for long-term sustainability.

Air access

Meanwhile, she described air access as a key area needed to meet both domestic, regional and international demand.

“Encouragingly, airlift to and from South Africa has seen continuous recovery.”

Last year, she said, the country welcomed numerous direct flights from key source markets. This includes a direct United Airlines flight from Cape Town to Newark in the United States.

In addition, Air China's Flight first flight since the pandemic, from Beijing-Shenzhen landed in Johannesburg last week.

Meanwhile, the LATAM Airlines Group plans to re-launch a non-stop flight between São Paulo International Airport, Brazil, and OR Tambo International Airport.

The route is expected to resume in July or August 2023 after more than three years, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, she said she was pleased that South African Airways expanded to various markets across Africa.  

“These flights undoubtedly contribute to boosting our attractiveness and will contribute to seeing us return to pre-COVID-19 performance levels and beyond.”

Small business

According to De Lille, the Department of Tourism has supported, through funding, 30 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to attend the WTM Africa and display their offerings and products.

Of the 30 SMEs, 25 are majority black-owned, of which 16 are women-owned, while two businesses are run by the youth.

Of these, half are tour operators and the rest are accommodation service providers.

“To these business owners and all emerging SMEs, I want to say that you are the lifeblood of this sector. Keep pushing and keep being part of offering visitors a truly South African experience.”

So far, 410 beneficiaries received support to participate in international trade platforms, while 577 were sponsored to attend local travel trade shows for several years.

The return on investment to the 410 beneficiaries at international trade platforms is an estimated R265 million in foreign exchange earnings from the R35 million in government spending for those trade platforms.

In addition, De Lille that government support has yielded 1 000 permanent jobs for the SMEs.

De Lille has urged the attendees to take full advantage of opportunities now that industries are open for business following COVID-19-induced lockdowns.  

“Let us move ahead full steam to broaden our horizons, increase travel, trade, investment, and jobs and increase the economic contribution of tourism to all our economies.” –