The South African Government has disclosed that it received 5.8 million tourists from across the globe in 2022.

Patricia De Lille, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, disclosed this at the  Africa’s Travel INDABA (ATI) held in Durban recently.

She said out of the 5.8 million tourists received, four million were from Africa.

She said this was an indication that Africa’s tourism sector was open and thriving post-COVID-19 era.

“For South Africa, we have seen encouraging growth in our tourist arrival numbers between January and December 2022 where it reached 5.8 million with over four million of those arrivals from African countries.

“This represents an overall inbound increase of 152.6 per cent for South Africa compared to January to December 2021.

“The future looks bright. We have, as a collective, weathered the COVID-19 hurricane and it should only propel us to exceed our targets.

“After stronger than expected recovery in 2022, this year could see international tourist arrivals to South Africa return to pre-pandemic levels in Europe and the Middle East.

“These numbers demonstrate the immense potential of tourism in Africa, not only as a revenue generator but also as a job creator and a catalyst for faster economic growth,” she said.

Lille noted that going forward, Africans needed to work together to unlock the full potential of their tourism sector, which entails the visa regime in all African countries.

She said that South Africa had rolled out the e-visa system to several countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She said to further ease the visa procurement process, the country would be expanding its e-visa system to additional 20 countries.

“We must have a harmonised visa regime across the continent to make it easier for visitors to move from one country to another.

“We must also simplify the e-visa application process and reduce visa costs to make Africa a more attractive destination for both Africans and international travellers.

“In this regard, South Africa has visa waivers for several African countries for a specified period and up to a maximum of 90 days, including SADC countries such as Tanzania, Namibia. Angola, Mozambique. Mauritius, Malawi and Botswana. We are expanding the e-visa system to an additional 20 countries,” she said.

Lille expressed readiness to work with various partners in reducing the high cost of air travel in Africa as this deters visitors and limit tourism growth.

She spoke on the need to prioritise sustainable tourism practices that addresses climate change, protects the environment and cultural heritage while promoting economic development.

”Sustainability is big for our sector. We must invest in sustainable tourism to protect communities’ natural resources, cultural heritage and social fabric while creating economic opportunities.

“Also, collaboration and partnerships between African countries and the public and private sectors will be critical in achieving this objective.

“We must also prioritise innovation and technology, which can help us develop and promote our tourism offerings more effectively and efficiently.

“Finally, we must ensure that our efforts to promote the African tourism sector are inclusive and benefit all members of our society,” she said.

Also speaking, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Premier of Kwazulu-Natal, said tourism was one of the foremost sectors the province had identified as part of its economic recovery and reconstruction plan.

According to her, the ATI gathering marks a critical tipping point in the province’s recovery as all legacies of the damaging floods were consiously left behind.

“Figures for the festive season indicated the return of the province’s tourism sector was well on its way having recorded a recovery of R2.5 billion during the December period.

“As provincial government announced, the province welcomed over half a million domestic tourists and 51,000 international tourists.

“We were also pleased that according to Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, the occupancy rate from 26 December 2022, to 1 January 2023, reached an average of 81 per cent across the province.

“For KwaZulu-Natal, the tourism sector is the goose that lays the golden egg which will boost efforts for the creation of jobs, ending poverty and narrowing the gap between the rich and poor, by availing opportunities for entrepreneurship and opening the sector to new players,” she said. (NAN)

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