Fears For Economy As SA Tourist Arrivals Hit ‘Three-And-A-Half-Year Low’


Tourism is one of the pillars of the South African economy. We have a beautiful country, and people want to visit it. However, fewer travellers are making their way to Mzansi according to data from the last financial quarter.

How many tourists visit South Africa?

Mike Schussler of economists.co.za has put together the data for tourist arrivals in South Africa over the past few years. His graph shows how visitors emphatically turned their backs on this country, marking one of the worst individual declines seen in recent years.

Most of 2019 was tough for the industry. Only on the odd occasion did tourist numbers climb positively. Things looked to have turned a corner in Q3 – following 0.75% increase in visitors to SA – only to be wiped out by a decrease of 2% just months later. It represents the worst quarterly decline in three-and-a-half years.

Why are fewer tourists coming to South Africa?

Speaking via his Twitter account, Schussler gave his brief assessment of the situation. He believes a myriad of factors have contributed to these figures, including reports of crime against foreign nationals. A Ukranian hiker was killed on Table Mountain in 2019, whereas a number of tourists are being targeted by criminals who follow them from OR Tambo and back to their accommodation.

“This is the sharpest decline in SA foreign tourists arrivals since 2016, and it is not good news for our fourth-quarter GDP. It’s not clear what the main reason is, but the decline is partly due to less advertisement, a stronger rand, and even crime reports of foreigners being killed. There’s not just one reason for these numbers.”

Mike Schussler

Will things get better?

What’s more worrying is that this current graph does not reflect the months of December 2019 or January 2020. The hopes of a quick turnaround could be pegged back by the implementation of Stage 6 load shedding, and the crippling financial woes that have stopped dozens of South African Airways (SAA) flights.

The summer months are likely to be kinder to this particular industry, but nothing is a given here. Once an effortless task, South Africa now faces an almighty job to convince travellers to return to our shores.


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