South Africa not only continues to lead the way when it comes to attracting the largest numbers of foreign visitors to Africa, but studies have shown that there has been impressive growth in the number of visitors from European countries that previously sent few tourists beyond the pools and beaches of resorts in Tunisia and Egypt. By Tourism Tattler correspondent Sue Blowers.
Europeans are now going deeper and exploring the authentic sights and sounds of a continent that eschews cookie cutter vacations for something unique and adventurous. South Africa, with its highly developed tourism sector and large number of regular flights connecting it to capitals throughout the world, is serving as a gateway to the continent. This growth is now being felt in a growing number of South African industries, most notably the hospitality sector, where economists are forecasting continued growth well into 2016.
Trends in South African Tourism and the “New Arrivals’
Being able to attract new cohorts of travellers from countries that previously sent very few visitors is a clear sign of a well-developed tourism industry. Some of the most impressive growth in the number of visitors to South Africa has been from these types of countries. For instance, the number of tourists to South Africa from Austria jumped by an impressive 20% in 2013, while those coming from the Russian Federation grew by nearly 9%.
Additionally, while over the years a traditionally large number of visitors have flown in from France, most recently the number of French visitors increased by 19%. Britons continue to flock to South Africa in large numbers (nearly 51,000 tourists each year), and interest in South African destinations increased by over 5% among those from the UK.
Further Growth on the Horizon
Overall, the number of foreign tourists to South Africa rose by 5.5%, according to the most recent statistics of the South African Tourism office. While the sharpest rise in visitors has been from those arriving by air from within Africa, the number of visitors from Europe, North America and Asia grew an average of just over 9%. Yet what bodes particularly well for South Africa’s tourism prospects is the fact that the domestic middle class has been growing, which means that regional tourism is likely to expand as well, much like leisurely travel took off in the West, at a time when the middle class was going through a period of expansion. Evelyn Mahlaba, South African Tourism’s new regional director for Africa, is certainly banking on this, as part of her strategy includes encouraging South Africans to explore their own country through regional travel.
Exploring South Africa By Car
Since the vast majority of foreign tourists arrive in South Africa by plane, the country boasts a comparatively large car rental industry. According to the most recent market research, leisure car rentals comprise one third of all car rentals in South Africa, with approximately 52% of vehicles booked by business travellers. The value of the car rental industry is expected to grow by a steady 1% each year over the course of the this decade, although with the growth in services related to car rentals, this rate of increase is likely to be higher. More South Africans who previously did not spend additional funds on car insurance are beginning to understand its importance and analysts expect that this will help drive up the value of the car rental industry in general, including within the realm of leisure car rentals. With over 350,000 kilometers of roads in South Africa and with much to see outside of the major urban centers, renting a vehicle is often essential for the independent traveller.
Urban centers like Cape Town offer the hustle and bustle and cultural venues of world class cities, but the government is keen to ensure that visitors also explore the country’s unique rural scenery and have launched a range of programs to help move this forward.
Exploring South Africa’s neighbour – Namibia
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