Tourist Arrivals for 2018 Paint a Gloomy Picture
08 March 2019
The Stats SA full year 2018 tourist arrivals data released recently shows a mixed picture, with the negatives far outweighing a few positive glimmers.
Positive - Total tourist arrivals for the year increased, albeit only slightly at +1,8% from 10,2 million tourists in 2017 to 10,4 million in 2018. Growth was achieved in African markets (+3%).
Negative – Arrivals from nearly all key overseas source markets (particularly from Europe and Australasia) decreased in 2018 (-1,5%). This includes UK (-3,8%), Germany (-1,7%), France (-5%), Netherlands (-8%), China (-0,2%), India (-4%), Australia (-0,4%), New Zealand (-11%) and the Middle East (-11%).
The impact of a decline in overseas markets is significant as these are the tourists that make the most use of tourist products such as accommodation, attractions and travel. These declines not only impact negatively on spend and employment but may put the hard work of the industry or South African Tourism (SAT) to add additional air routes (2,2 million seats added in the last year) in jeopardy.
Feedback from the industry on future booking levels indicates that the negative trend in overseas arrivals is expected to continue into 2019. This does not bode well for achieving the SONA target of 21 million tourist arrivals by 2030 which would require a 6% compound growth per annum for 12 years. Although positive, 2% growth per annum is simply not good enough. To turn this ship around, the industry would need significant investment into marketing and infrastructure, as well as the cutting through of red tape issues such as the visa regime. We need a plan and we need it now. The tourism budget vote of +6% for the National Department of Tourism (NDT) and +4% for SAT will not make the required dent, simply put “we need more”.