• Grant Thornton comments on Stats SA’s Tourism arrival stats for 2017

Stats SA released the 2017 tourism arrival statistics this afternoon. For the 12 months, South Africa welcomed 10,29 million foreign tourists (visitors who stayed overnight) in 2017. This is up only 2,4% over 2016.

Lee-Anne Bac, Director: Advisory Services at Grant Thornton says: “This increase is unfortunately underwhelming and significantly below the global average of 7%.”

She added that although the number of overseas tourists (2,7 million) is up 7,2% in 2017, this good growth was driven by excellent performance in the first half of the year.   In the fourth quarter of 2017, Stats SA reveals that the number of overseas tourists increased by only 3,7% - and this figure was driven down by a dismal increase of less than 1% in December 2017. 

“We attribute the dramatic decline at the end of the year to the impact of the water crisis in Cape Town, coupled with South Africa’s strengthening currency,” continues Bac.

According to Stats SA, the number of African arrivals (7,6 million) is a mere 0,8% up in 2017 – driven by a significant decline in Q1 of 8%.  For the remaining three quarters of 2017, African arrivals increased by 5% (Q2), 3,7% (Q3) and 3,6% (Q4) respectively.

“Overall, this level of growth is not good enough for meaningful change and these numbers will not contribute towards sustaining economic transformation,” says Bac. “We are encouraged however, by Minister Malusi Gigaba’s Budget speech this afternoon.  In particular we welcome the SA Tourism budget increase from R1,14bn to R1,23bn, an 8,2% increase – well ahead of inflation, and given that many budgets accelerated by less, we appreciate the commitment by Minister Gigaba to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s SONA statement  that we will ‘enhance support for destination marketing’.”

Key source countries with low growth/ declines in tourism numbers in 2017:

  • UK: 0% (no growth over 2016).  As the UK is a significant source market, no growth from this market has a big impact on total arrival figures
  • New Zealand:  down 24% in 2017.  A clear indication of the impact of visa regulations on demand
  • Nigeria:  down 22%
  • China:  down 17% (eroding half the growth from this market in 2016)

Key source markets with excellent growth in arrivals in 2017:

  • Russia:  up 51%. 
  • France:  27%
  • Germany: 12%