The upward trajectory in tourist arrivals and stays across South Africa continues with this week’s Statistics South Africa figures revealing a 480% increase in overseas arrivals between January to May 2021 compared with the same period this year.
This is off the back of the reported 61.6% year-on-year increase in tourist accommodation income in May 2022, according to Statistics South Africa.
“South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sector is recovering steadily and while we still face a few hurdles, we are well and truly ready for the rebound,” says Rosemary Anderson, FEDHASA National Chairperson.
“Chaos in airports across some of our key source markets is not making international travel easy, but long-haul visitors are determined to make the journey. According to hospitality benchmarking firm, STR, the upward May trajectory we have seen in the accommodation space increased in June, but we are still under 50% occupancies nationally,” says Anderson.
Year-to-date figures are looking much healthier than in 2021, according to STR figures. “We’ve gone from a national occupancy in 2021 of 31% to 50%, with the clear winners in terms of higher occupancies being KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape,” Anderson adds.
As inbound visitors return to shores, accommodation establishments in international tourist strongholds such as the Western Cape will increase, Anderson says. With the airlift capacity from the US (South Africa’s strongest inbound market at present) and other key source markets in Europe, the opportunity exists for Western Cape to increase its occupancies; perhaps by providing an even more compelling offer for swallows and remote workers.
“South Africa has for many years been a destination of choice for more mature visitors who choose to spend the Northern Hemisphere winter in sunnier surrounds. It is also consistently cited as a favourable destination for remote workers; however our visa system does not cater to these types of travellers.
“If we want tourism to make the significant impact in unemployment in South Africa it has the potential to do, it’s time to start thinking out the box and waive visas for certain key markets, as well as create special visas for visitors who stay longer term and fund their stay themselves. We further have a long way to go to introduce a world-class eVisa system which has been on the cards for some time. It really is time to stop talking and to start actively removing red tape to grow South Africa’s tourism sector,” Anderson concludes.