SA’s international tourist arrivals ‘not looking good’

Declining numbers from key markets has sector concerned.
A beautiful country with strict visa regulations, the requirement of unabridged birth certificates for travelling minors, and a resurgence of xenophobic violence. Image: Supplied

Forward bookings of trips to South Africa by international tourists are not looking good for the rest of 2019.

In fact, if foreign tourist arrival numbers continue to decline, 2019 will turn out to be even worse than last year for the industry.

Read: New Durban cruise terminal to boost tourism, jobs in SA

That’s the word from Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, speaking to Moneyweb this week following the latest Statistics SA data showing a decline in foreign arrivals. The council’s own Tourism Business Index (TBI), released last week, also painted a grim picture in terms of the outlook for the rest of the year.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA. Image: Supplied

Stats SA reported on Monday in the release of its monthly tourism and migration data that foreign arrivals were down 5% for July, compared to July 2018. The data also reveals that South Africans are travelling less overseas with arrivals by South Africans down 11.8%, while departures were down 11.6%.

Read: Rising Cape Town dam levels to buoy agriculture and tourism

The figures speak for themselves, says Tshivhengwa. “We have been saying for some time things are tough and are not looking good in terms of international tourist arrivals into South Africa. Our TBI results from last year predicted this and now it is a reality with international arrivals continuing to decline.”

Tshivhengwa says according to the latest TBI figures, international tourist arrivals for the year to date are down 1.4% compared to 2018. SA Tourism’s research, based on Stats SA data, puts the decline for the first six months of the year at 1.1%.

Source: SA Tourism

“The results for July have further negatively affected foreign tourist arrivals for the year, which is really concerning for us as the tourism industry,” he notes. “However, the bigger worry is that it puts our target of doubling tourist arrivals by 2030 at risk. To achieve this, we require a 6% compound growth annually in international tourist arrivals to 2030.”

Read: City Lodge shares fall more than 8% on negative trading update

TBCSA identifies itself as the umbrella body representing the “unified voice of business in the travel and tourism sector”. It also administers the tourism marketing levy, known as Tomsa, which tourists pay on specific services such as accommodation in South Africa.

Recovery unlikely this year

“Forward bookings for the rest of the year are not looking good,” says Tshivhengwa. “We were hoping for a recovery in 2019, but it is looking increasingly unlikely from an international tourism perspective. We are not seeing signs of a recovery.”

Last year foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by a lacklustre 1.8% to 10.5 million. The TBCSA described 2018 as “the most challenging trading year for the tourism sector since the inception of the TBI in 2010”. The index recorded its lowest results in 2018.

Tourists from Africa, mainly the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, make up the majority of foreign tourists to South Africa (around 7.8 million), according to auditing and professional services group BDO South Africa. Around 2.7 million tourists were from overseas (including Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East and Australia).

Source: SA Tourism

The TBCSA, with support from SA Tourism, has set an ambitious target to double arrivals to the country to 21 million by 2030.

The organisations have secured the support of President Cyril Ramaphosa to grow the tourism industry and have been calling for relaxation of visa regulations and addressing the issue of unabridged birth certificates for travelling minors.

“Domestic tourism is doing better,” says Tshivhengwa. “However, on the international tourism front where tourists spend more, a continued decline in arrivals will mean that this year will be worse than last year for the tourism industry.”

Tshivhengwa concedes that recent xenophobic violence and crime incidents have not helped matters.

“These issues hurt our industry’s growth potential,” he says. “We cannot ignore them as they impact the image of our country as a whole.

“These issues, together with SA’s visa regime and continuing challenges around unabridged birth certificates, were raised by international travel companies in our recent roadshow to Europe.”

Read: SA bound for tourism growth in 2019

Responding to Moneyweb queries, SA Tourism acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini points out: “South Africa views violence in a serious light and condemns it in the strongest possible terms. While we are unable to quantify the impact from an international arrivals perspective, what is concerning is the negative image the attacks have had on South Africa as a brand.”

She adds: “The recent attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies. Our country stands firmly against all intolerance.

“We have seen queries from various international tour operators, but we have assured them that our government and safety authorities are urgently addressing the situation and that South Africa remains a warm and welcoming country, and open for business.”

On the recent roadshow and SA Tourism offensive in Europe, Dlamini says Europe is a crucial market for South Africa as it generates significant tourism numbers for the country.

“The roadshow was a great success, providing more insights into some of the barriers and concerns of tourists wanting to travel to South Africa,” she says.

“The concerns coming out of this roadshow such as unabridged birth certificates, marketing of the less popular regions as well new product offerings, will be addressed in order to make sure South Africa is more accessible to travellers from Europe and other parts of the world.”



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No reason to worry. An imbizo will be called, followed by a commission of enquiry. This will then translate into a slew of whitepapers filled with feely-goody please-everyone sentences with zero meaning or intention. Followed by promises of swift action. Gala dinners will be had, babies kissed and palms greased.
Oh, the problem will still exist of course. We’ll all just sleep easy knowing that there is a plan. Not a viable solution so to speak, just an intent to find one…

@blatt.r….yes…..agreed !!!

One can only surmise that this is all part of a bigger agenda though

As this destructive, totally bewildering, slash and burn approach is implemented across most industries here

And please dont allude to incompetence – nope, this is more than that….this is intentional destruction, driven from the top

Now, one has to wonder: Why ????

Why this wanton, purposeful, illogical campaign to simply just destroy us economically

Perplexing at the least…….too horrifying at best !

Please, what is the ultimate gain here ??

And CR will announce a 15 point plan ….

I wonder if this will be a 7-step plan as most SA plans go…….

Bit like Gaza complaining about a lack of tourism?

The only gold left is looking dodgy

Far to travel.
Red tape.
Maybe tourists has had enough of “struggle Tourism” now?

….the recent news of a panga attack at a Eastern Cape wild coast resort, resulting in a pregnant mother and her unborn murdered and husband left to watch

This was in a UK and Dutch newspaper

Pay attention—-My friends from Chicago (murder capital of America) say it’s too dangerous to come here.That’s what they think over there.

It’s good to hear the civilised world is belatedly taking the trouble to investigate the goings-on in South Africa. Can we now hope for international sanctions to be imposed on the multitude of corrupt South African politicians?

Bwahahahaahhaha, why would they do that. Africa is already captured..

@Pistov…..keep dreaming !

You should know by now – all politicians are corrupt !!…. just in varying degrees

Asking them to police ours is like asking Attila the Hun to police Pol Pot

I can’t think why tourists would not want to come here with all our attractions. They can visit our filthy, run down crime infested towns. See our rubbish strewn environment. Take their lives in their hands on our potholed roads or witness one of our well known violent looting and burning demonstrations.

This place is not worth the effort. Much better, safer, more beautiful and cost effective places to visit. Too much politically inspired hate in this place. Stay away! South Africa is not worth threats to your life. I don’t even vacation in this country.

Seems like the World Cup was a wise investment.

In all analysis … No one is thinking there is a global economic slowdown and maybe marketing less expensive holiday could be new strategy …. China, Germany, India, UK are all slowing drastically … this could be one of the reasons for the decline.

Sales of foreign properties have almost dried up in New York, Sydney, Vancouver, London etc. So is sales of luxury goods.

People just dont have money

Well sadly those that do still have money chose to travel to much safer places like North America and Asia and I don’t blame them. Even Europe is taking a hit with just a handful of countries still high on the must visit list.

The truth is people are looking for value … I have friends in UK who come to Cape Town every year and had plans to come in December… Guess what they cancelled on the basis that Cape Town is expensive and Bali is offering far more value even with the distance.

The global economic slowdown means that people are looking for value and South East Asia is winning big.

Somehow those in the tourism board are not thinking of that at all.

Gov has done zero to make SA an attractive location, even Cape Town which is generally one of the top locations to visit. Harder visa stories, no crime protection etc.

Now you go to SE Asia, they treat you like a VIP despite the trip being cheaper and much better value.

Every time I come to the SA airport, I wait for the first guy to treat me like he is processing chicken on a farm.

I’m glad I’m not sharing a meal with the comments people on Moneyweb – they are such a cheery and positive lot. For them the glass is definitely broken!


That might be true to an extent, but there’s no point in putting your head in the sand like an ostrich when facts are presented.

It sure is sad to read stories such as that of Thomas Mobille who was bludgeoned over the head with a brick so they could rob him of his wallet and phone. Bail hearing was suppose to be the 7th of August, but sadly I can’t find any updates after the 1st of August. Talk about keeping the story quiet.

There’s the story of the Ukrainian tourist that was stabbed on Table Mountain and I can go on, how many more stories do you want to ignore?

Just because you wish facts away doesn’t mean they cease to exist.
A view is one thing, but sometimes one should measure how full or empty the glass is in reality, as one can suffer from bias viewpoints and facts can help provide a clear picture.

Yeah, but I have to admit to having a good laugh at some of the comments even though I should not as this is a reality. Sometimes venting is also good.

Have to admit that I have been asked by foreign acquaintances that are going to visit or want to visit SA “if it is safe”. Sorry I cannot lie and tell them that it is safe.

More likely optimistic realists, well-informed intellectuals and disillusioned and betrayed patriots whose contributions and positive intentions are constantly rejected and ridiculed, and whose financial sacrifices are completely ignored.


They say an optimist is someone who doesn’t have all the facts !

Firsly, most of us love SA…..but lets face it – its no where the place it used to be

We’ve watched our beautiful country slowly torn down since 1994

We kept being optimistic – and were always glass ‘half-full’

However, just based on the reality around us, well,….looks like the water is being bled out

Lets hope it gets topped up again [ but based on current leadership, dont hold your breath either ]

The anc broke my glass after stealing my fine Scotch tipple!

I would want a drink in your company ….to ignorantly to pull your head out of your derrière

Yep, seemingly people thoroughly enjoy being miserable and trying to make everyone else the same. It’s like a computer virus. Those who’ve left take especial pleasure in justifying their decision to go. Very few comments ever take into account the positives. And there ARE positives, although this statement will be anathema to the doom and gloom mob.

Most of the positives are unfortunately “expected normality”. Not much to crow about or be fascinated by. The negatives on the other hand are like the water from a dripping tap. Never seem to stop and increasingly irritating and frustrating. Drives normal people up the wall.

@Dougalan you seem to have forgotten to list these positives…please, the floor is all yours…We could all do with a laugh.

Can’t you find some estate agent to put a positive spin on this?

That is funny. Problem is most of the top ones are in prison right now…..

Estate agents ….. Love it! “I think you should put in an offer quickly! I have three other viewings this afternoon and an overseas visitor is VERY interested!”

Bwahahahahaaaaa ….!!!

There appear to be quite a few “victims” in the commentary section. I truly hope all are okay and are managing to survive in what sounds like absolute hell for them.

@Investment pleaser…..sure !

Surviving is the key word, and you unintentionally validated the current dismal status quo


Most would love to be more than ‘surviving’ though

Lets hope for a future in which to ‘thrive’ instead

A country, very much like a firm, needs to evaluate where it has a competitive advantage relative to other countries. Tourism is on of the few areas where we have a potential competitive advantage yet we are frittering away the opportunity through a combination of idiotic visa requirements thast are terribly managed and ongoing negative perception of the attitude of South Africans to foreigners.

Not only the recent xenophobic attacks but also consistent negative references to white and Indian people have a devastating impact. Cutting the throat of whiteness is unlikely to inspire people to visit South Africa…

Touring a part of America at the moment. Am asked by fellow travellers about SA, as they all travel extensively. What can I answer? Don’t go for a walk anywhere, you may be killed, don’t drive under bridges, a rock may be thrown on your car, don’t visit a national park, you may be randomly knifed to death, the list is endless. SA is a violent, unsafe and expensive country (accomodation is cheaper in the US, despite the weak rand, eg), so why would people come here? And I cannot advise them to visit us, much as I would have loved to be able to.

“We have seen queries from various international tour operators, but we have assured them that our government and safety authorities are urgently addressing the situation and that South Africa remains a warm and welcoming country, and open for business.”

Assured them?
Why am I not so assured? I am too scared to go out at night in my own country. Why would a tourist pay good money to come and sit in a hotel room in SA?

Cyril in his new dawn plan laid down the first things they would be doing for the country:

– release spectrum for lower data costs, nothing has happened
– Remove visa regs that are stopping tourism, nothing has happened
– Sort out the mining charter, not sorted
– Sort out the energy resource plan, not sorted

That’s what I can recall, there was a few more.

Now if I failed to achieve any of my targets which are completely within my own control then I’d be fired.

Ministers should have to submit a top ten impacts list at the end of each year.

The article headline made me chuckle:

Are the ‘arrivals’ not looking good, OR the tourists themselves not looking good? *lol*

Would be nice if SA can be assured of GOOD LOOKING incoming tourists….worth some eye candy 😉

At the moment it is cheaper to go to Thailand for flights, accomm, full board at a nice resort for ten days than a shorter holiday locally. Flights CPT: Nelspruit cost more than CPT: Greece. R10,400!!!

Mass tourism chases value. How many foreign tourists think $1,500 per couple per night is value at a game lodge? A few thousand per year, not hundred thousand

We compete with other countries for tourists but our know-it-alls but-done-nothings think that there are no consequences to things like violent crime, rape, filth, xenophobia etc.

End of comments.



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