SA expects festive tourism boom
Tourism officials said the country was preparing for what would hopefully be one of its “biggest tourism seasons before the World Cup”.
Ndabo Khoza, Acting CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal , said local tourism industry players were already putting in place special festive season packages to lure tourists from as far as Japan and North America.
The packages have also included excursions to neighbouring countries such as Livingstone in Zambia and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which have been extensively marketed by South African tour operators.
National tourism agency, South Africa Tourism, said indications were that the country’s tourism profile was growing considerably as the world soccer showcase drew closer.
South Africa’s reputation as one of the world’s prime tourist destinations received a major boost recently following revelations that the country attracted a record 2.7 million tourists during the first four months of the year.
South Africa Tourism said the country had received 4 672 856 tourists between January and June this year, 15 percent more than those who came into the country during the same period last year.
Environment and Tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the latest statistics represented the first time the tourist arrivals to country had breached the 2.5 million mark, putting the country on course to break last year’s record arrival figures.
“We have seen a 16 percent increase in arrivals across all territories compared to the same period last year, which translates into almost 377 000 more visitors (in all territories),” Van Schalkwyk said.
The boom in tourist arrivals was in spite of a soaring crime rate that many believed would damage the country’s tourism profile.
Crime statistics revealed by Safety and Security minister Charles Ngqakula two weeks ago indicated that the country South Africa still has some of the highest crime figures in the world, with an estimated 19 000 murder cases, 55 000 rape cases and 120 000 robberies reported in the past year.
However despite the nation’s highly publicised crime profile, tourists continue to flock into the country, with Cape Town and the Kruger National Park being the major destinations.
This year’s figures are thought to have been significantly boosted by the country’s status as the next soccer world cup destination.
According to Van Schalkwyk, the country was “already beginning to see the benefits” of its “elevated international profile” due to its status as the next world cup host.
South Africa tourism CEO, Moeketsi Mosola said the agency was putting together a strategic tourism plan specifically for 2010.
He said the plan would draw on lessons from other countries that have hosted sporting showcases.
“We have learnt from the last five world cups in terms of what has happened, including the Olympics in Atlanta and in Australia to be able to really understand the magnitude of this event,” he said.
The World Tourism Review show that tourist sites in Africa and the Middle East had witnessed greater growth compared to destinations in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The WTR says Africa and the Middle East had growth of 21.9 percent, followed by Asia and Australasia at 7.1 percent.
“The data reveals that our international competitiveness compares favourably with other countries,” Van Schalkwyk said.
The largest numbers of international tourists to South Africa continue to come from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.
Statistics indicate that there has been continued growth in arrivals from the USA in all months so far this year, as well as a 3.6 percent increase in tourists from Europe .
Van Schalkwyk said the government was currently undertaking a tourism skills audit in an effort to maintain the steady growth in tourism, ensuring that it did not run into “capacity constraints” ahead of the world cup.
Projects being conducted in coming months would also focus on beginning preparations for the 2010 World Cup, particularly promoting the development of tourism sites and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises trading with tourists.