South Africa’s tourism industry has seen its ups and downs, and right now, it’s up, thanks in part to Chinese tourists.
Overseas arrivals to South Africa in January 2016 increased 16 percent compared to January 2015, part of a growth in overseas arrivals that started in November and continued in December.
A fairly horrible year for South African tourism in 2015, the industry was hurt by Ebola fears over an outbreak thousands of miles away, and changes in the country’s visa regulations. Tourism arrivals dropped 6.8 percent overall for the year, TourismUpdate reported.
Arrivals from China, which have been growing since September, were up 93 percent in January, according to TourismUpdate. South Africa’s key source markets all experienced significant growth in January, with arrivals from the U.K., U.S. and Germany up 16 percent, 11 percent and 22 percent respectively. Arrivals from The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and France were also up.
India contributed an 11 percent increase in arrivals while arrivals from fellow BRIC country Brazil were down 8 percent.
Arrivals were up 15 percent from the 14-member Southern African Development Community — Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
When tourists enter South Africa, they generate much-needed foreign exchange. The V&A Waterfront, South Africa’s most popular tourist attraction, sees over 24 million visitors a year. In 2014, it contributed around $3.4 billion US to South Africa’s GDP, News24 reported.
Tourism overall contributed 3 percent to South Africa’s GDP in 2014, exceeding agriculture which contributed 2.5 percent, according to the latest Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report. Released in February 2016, the report is based on data from StatsSA for 2004 to 2014.
Chinese tourist traffic to Africa has grown by 50 percent since 2010 — higher than to any other part of the world, according to the China Outbound Travel Development Report, CCTV reported.
The most popular African destination for Chinese tourists is South Africa. Other destinations popular among the Chinese are Egypt, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria, Angola, Mauritius, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s “bumper month in January clearly indicates that the industry is on the rebound, which bears testimony to the tourism sector’s resilience and its ability to bounce back,” said Lee-Anne Bac, Director Advisory Services at U.S. accounting and advisory group Grant Thornton, TourismUpdate reported.
The growth in Chinese tourism to South Africa is the result of changes in visa processing including new visa processing centers, accredited travel programs and specific visa exemptions, according to Grant Thornton.