Tourism industry’s rapid recovery welcomed

President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed the tourism industry’s recovery, following the near decimation of the sector during and shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President was addressing the nation through his weekly newsletter.

Statistics South Africa and Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille released tourism statistics indicating that some 5.7 million visitors – an increase of 150% – graced South African shores last year with just over 2 million coming to Mzansi in the first quarter of this year.

“Although tourist arrivals are not yet at pre-pandemic levels, the latest figures show that a significant and rapid recovery is underway. This is taking place in the midst of heightened political and economic uncertainty across the world and particular challenges, especially around electricity supply, here at home.

“Yet, despite these difficult conditions, visitors see South Africa as an attractive destination with unparalleled natural beauty, warm and hospitable people, and good value,” he said.

President Ramaphosa highlighted that as tourists begin to stream into the country, so too does the economy benefit.

“Not only are we seeing more tourists coming to our shores, but they are also spending more during their visits – more than R25 billion in the first quarter of 2023. This is a valuable stream of foreign exchange, sustaining and creating jobs and enabling further investment in our tourism infrastructure,” he said.

The President said the recently held Africa Travel Indaba served as an opportunity for smaller players in South Africa’s tourism sector to showcase the variety of tourism products “to give further impetus to our recovery”.

“Of the exhibitors at the Indaba, over 120 were small local tourism enterprises that were supported by Government to display their unique products and services, expand their networks and foster partnerships. This is part of our commitment to nurturing small operators in the tourism sector to encourage transformation and the creation of many more jobs,” he said.

Continental travellers

President Ramaphosa noted that the release of the tourism figures during Africa month “is particularly encouraging given that the majority of visitors to South Africa in 2022, approximately 4 million, were from our continent”.

In that vein, the President said, South Africa will be pressing forward with expanding the e-Visa system.

“Travellers from the region and the broader continent are increasingly seeing South Africa as a premier tourism destination and are flocking here to experience our natural wonders and to spend money at South African businesses.

“Given the importance of growing tourism to South Africa’s economy, we are determined to forge ahead with the process of immigration reform to improve our competitiveness as a tourism destination.

“At this year’s 5th South Africa Investment Conference, I announced that we will be expanding the e-Visa system from the 14 countries in which it currently operates to include an additional 20 countries.

“There are obviously linkages between tourists visiting a country and potential future trade and investment. Last week, the Department of Home Affairs published its visa reform implementation plan, which will help to further boost tourism and attract investment,” he said.

President Ramaphosa also noted that South African Airways’ steady rise into other countries also acts as a springboard to bring tourists back into the country.

“South African Airways is expanding into ever more markets on the continent, and we are seeing the resumption of direct flights from major destinations. By way of example, Air China has resumed direct flights to South Africa, and United Airlines now flies directly to New York and Washington DC.

“The latest tourism figures are very encouraging and should strengthen our resolve to ensure that tourism becomes one of the biggest drivers of our economic recovery,” he said.

Source: South African Government News Agency