23 May 2014

International tourist arrivals to South Africa approach the 10-million mark

More than 9.6-million international tourists visited South Africa in 2013, representing an increase of 4.7% on the 2012 arrivals figures.

Asian tour group in Cape Town An Asian tour group in Cape Town

Two decades into our democracy, I am proud of what this industry has achieved and confident of its ongoing ability to contribute to the growth and development of South Africa. – Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk

The 2013 tourist arrivals figures, released by Statistics South Africa, also show a 7.1% increase in overseas tourist arrivals, to 2 683 141 arrivals, when compared with 2012.

Growth was achieved in all markets where South African Tourism actively markets the destination.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said South Africa’s tourism sector continued to grow in 2013, recording 428 596 more tourists in 2013 than it did in 2012.

‘Following excellent growth in 2012, when tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 10.2%, which was more than two-and-a-half times the global average, we are pleased to report that tourist arrival numbers to South Africa grew by a further 4.7% in 2013,’ he said.

He added that he was confident in the ongoing performance and sustainability of the sector. ‘South Africa’s international tourist arrivals grew at an annual average growth rate of 7.4% between 2011 and 2013, well above the global average of 4.5% during this period.’


Tourist arrivals from Europe grew by 7% to 1 494 978 arrivals, up from 1 396 978 in 2012. But there was sluggish growth out of the United Kingdom market, South Africa’s largest overseas source market, which only grew by 1% in 2013 to 442 523 tourist arrivals. 

Arrivals from Germany, South Africa’s third largest source market, achieved double-digit growth of 14.2% to 304 090 arrivals in 2013, the best-performing European market in terms of arrivals growth. In total, 98 000 more Europeans visited South Africa in 2013 than in 2012.

Van Schalkwyk said the National Department of Tourism is very pleased with the good growth from the majority of South Africa’s European markets, with double-digit growth also achieved in France (10.3% to 134 840 arrivals) and Italy (10.6% to 67 790).

North America

North American arrivals grew by 6.1% to 417 582. The United States, South Africa’s second largest source market after the UK, accounted for 348 646 tourist arrivals in 2013, reflecting 6.7% growth.

‘The US market remains a major focus of our global marketing efforts and we are heartened by the continued good growth we have seen out of this market in recent years,’ said Van Schalkwyk.


Asia and Central and South America continued to record good growth on top of the exceptional levels witnessed in 2012, when these markets grew by 34% and 37% respectively.

A total of 435 076 Asian tourist arrivals were recorded in 2013, a 9.2% increase on 2012 numbers.

China, South Africa’s fourth largest source market for tourist arrivals for the second year in a row, continued to perform, growing by 14.7% to reach 151 847 tourist arrivals in 2013. Arrivals out of India tempered in 2013, growing by 5.5% to reach 112 672 arrivals.

Central and South America

Central and South American tourist arrivals grew by 8% in 2013 to 129 463 arrivals, with Brazil by far the biggest market out of this region, growing by 5.6% to 82 802 tourist arrivals.

South African Tourism is increasing its marketing efforts in Brazil, having appointed a marketing agency in the country earlier this year and will, for the first time ever, take a delegation of South African exhibitors to the ABAV travel trade show in Sao Paulo, the largest travel trade fair in the Americas.

‘We remain excited by the potential offered by emerging markets. We are working closely with our partners in the industry to better market the destination in these regions and to make South Africa a more accessible destination for travellers from these countries,’ said Van Schalkwyk.

Arrivals from Australasia grew steadily, by 4%, in 2013, with 148 660 tourist arrivals recorded.


Africa, by far the largest source of tourist arrivals to South Africa, grew from 6 634 933 in 2012 to 6 889 389 in 2013 – an increase of 3.8%.

African air markets grew by 12% in 2013, with growth recorded in all markets. Arrivals from Nigeria, South Africa’s largest African air market, grew by 15.4% to 84 589 tourist arrivals.

Van Schalkwyk said travel is becoming ever more accessible for Africa’s rapidly growing middle class. ‘We are certainly seeing this reflected in the growing number of African air arrivals to South Africa,’ he said.

He added that South Africa expects continued growth in arrivals from this market and from the West Africa region, following the opening of South African Tourism’s office in Lagos earlier this year.

The ongoing growth in all markets in which South Africa actively markets the destination, said van Schalkwyk, is proof that the country’s carefully considered marketing strategy is delivering the desired results.

‘Two decades into our democracy, I am proud of what this industry has achieved and confident of its ongoing ability to contribute to the growth and development of South Africa,’ he said.

According to the latest Tourism Satellite Account data for tourism receipts and job creation released by Statistics South Africa for the period ending December 2012, direct tourism contribution to GDP grew from R83.5-billion in 2011 to R93.3-billion, or 3% of GDP, in 2012. Tourism contributed 617 287 direct jobs to the economy in 2012, about 4.6% of direct employment, up from 591 785 direct jobs in 2011.

Tourism performance dashboard

Meanwhile, Van Schalkwyk has announced plans to develop a tourism performance dashboard for the tourism industry, to take industry insights and market intelligence to the next level.

‘This dashboard will cover indicators for both the demand and supply sides of our industry, better reflecting our full value chain, as well as forward-looking lead indicators to supplement the current focus on historical arrivals and receipts. Working closely with our key stakeholders, we will be ready to launch this dashboard during Tourism Month in September,’ he said. 

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