Tourism booming as South Africa becomes Africa’s tourist haven


Johannesburg – African states inject bucketloads of revenue into the South African tourist industry, and this year should be no different.

Tourism is one of the engines of job growth, wealth creation and economic empowerment, contributing 8.2% of gross domestic product (R79bn) to the economy.

The tourist industry is fuelled primarily by foreign tourists’ direct spending. This amounted to R83.4bn last year, 7.3% higher than the previous year. During the same period, domestic tourists spent R26bn.

According to communications manager at South African Tourism Thandiwe Mathibela, total foreign direct spend is the total amount spent directly in South Africa by foreign tourists and includes funds laid out on goods for resale and capital investments.

South Africa has become a haven for African tourists. Revenue from the region’s land markets provided the biggest increase of 19.6% to R43.5bn in 2008. Although Europeans’ revenue contribution to the industry rose 15.3%, it lagged behind with a R16.7bn injection.

Goods for personal use, food, medical services and accommodation are the major drivers of the surge in revenue from other African states. African land markets threw in more than 50% (R2.4bn) to the R4.6bn hike in shopping for personal use.

Expenditure on food rose 93% (R1.3bn) and accommodation 82% (R1.4bn), driven mainly by tourists who travel by air.

Regular visits

Chimwemwe Mwanza, who owns Kwacha Hotel, a low-end accommodation establishment in Johannesburg’s central business district, said 95% of his clients are African foreigners. According to Mwanza, about 80% of his guests come from Zambia although Malawians and Zimbabweans also frequent his hotel.

He said his clients are traders who buy goods for resale in their home countries. “They prefer to stay here because of the close proximity to businesses and banks,” said Mwanza.

He said most of his guest paid monthly visits.

Establishments like Kwacha have performed well financially. Mwanza said his business managed to break even in just the first month of operation. He said besides the goods bought by his clients, they also spend a lot of money on traditional African cuisine sold at his hotel.

However, the upper end proved a bit different. MD of Orient-Express Hotels Africa Nick Seewer said: “We do have a number of prominent African tourists at the hotel, but they do not make up a large percentage.”

According to Seewer, tourists from Nigeria and Botswana make reservations at the likes of the Mount Nelson Hotel.

He said African tourists spend their money on “everything from accommodation to food and beverage offerings”.

Despite the global recession, African arrivals will continue to grow.

Already for the five months to May 2009, Statistics SA figures showed a 4.6% increase in the number of African arrivals to 3.1 million in comparison to the previous year. May alone had a 5.1% surge to 611 075 arrivals.