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Tourist arrivals in South Africa are showing a steady increase


In December 2023, a total of 3,478,783 travellers, including arrivals, departures, and transits, entered and exited South Africa. Among these, 1,094,176 were South African residents and 2,384,607 were foreign travellers, of which 1,160,045 were visitors and 22,990 were non-visitors. Out of the visitors, 862,460 were overnight visitors (tourists) and 297,585 were same-day visitors.

The statistics show that 23.8% of all tourists were overseas tourists, with the UK, USA, and Germany contributing 48.3% to that number. On the other hand, 74.2% of all tourists were from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho contributing 69.4% to the number. ‘Other’ African countries (non-SADC) contributed 1.8% of all tourists, with Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda contributing 64.0% to the number. The country of residence of 1,009 (0.1%) tourists was not specified.

Tourists

The data also showed that the majority of tourists (97.9%) visited South Africa for holiday purposes.

Number of travellers

The Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) immigration officers collected routine data at the ports of entry into and out of South Africa, which revealed that a total of 3,478,783 travellers passed through South African ports of entry/exit in December 2023. Of these, 473,131 were South African residents, and 1,183,035 were foreign arrivals.

A comparison between the movements in November 2023 and December 2023 showed an increase in the volume of arrivals and departures for both South African residents and foreign travellers, with a decrease in the volume of transits. Similarly, a comparison between the movements in December 2022 and December 2023 showed an increase in the volume of arrivals, departures, and travellers in transit for both groups of travellers.

Number of South African residents and foreign travellers by travel directionNumber of South African residents and foreign travellers by travel direction

Mode of travel of travellers

The data presented below provides insights into the mode of travel used by South African residents and foreign travellers. In December 2023, the majority of the travellers, i.e., 67.1% (2,390,122), used road as their mode of travel, followed by air which was used by 29.7% (1,032,087) of the total travellers. Only 1.6% (56,574) of the travellers used sea as their mode of travel. For South African residents arriving in the country, 42.4% (200,812) came by air, 53.1% (251,367) came by road, and 4.4% (20,952) arrived by sea. For departures, 38.6% (239,500) used air, 57.6% (357,669) used road, and 3.8% (23,429) left by sea. All travellers in transit used air.

As for foreign travellers, 24.5% (289,863) arrived by air, 75% (887,490) came by road, and only 0.5% (5,682) arrived by sea. When departing South Africa, 22.9% (267,443) foreign travellers left by air, 76.5% (893,596) left by road, and 0.6% (6,511) left by sea. All travellers in transit used air. This information can be useful for the travel industry to plan and optimize their services as per the travellers’ preferences and needs.

 Number of South African residents and foreign travellers by travel direction and mode of travel

Number of South African residents and foreign travellers by travel direction and mode of travel

Visitors

It is important to note that the movement control system does not provide detailed information on the departure of travelers. Additionally, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) does not collect data on the purpose of travel and the number of days that South African residents intend to spend or have spent abroad. Therefore, it is not possible to categorize South African residents as tourists or non-tourists based on this data. However, the DHA has some data on foreign arrivals, which can be used to categorize visitors. For example, in December 2023, out of 1,182,035 foreign arrivals, 22,990 were classified as nonvisitors, and the rest were categorized as visitors.

Further analysis of the visitor data reveals that visitors were classified into three groups: arrivals only, single trips, and multiple trips. Arrivals only comprised visitors who entered the country in December 2023 but did not depart in December 2023. On the other hand, single trips comprised visitors who came to South Africa once in December 2023 and left in December 2023. Lastly, multiple trips comprised visitors who came to and left South Africa more than once in December 2023.

Visitors were also grouped based on their length of stay, with same-day visitors and overnight visitors (tourists) identified. In December 2023, there were 297,585 same-day visitors and 862,460 tourists. The volume of same-day visitors increased by 15.7% between November 2023 and December 2023, while that of tourists increased by 17.9% during the same period. Looking at the data over a one-year period, the volume of same-day visitors increased by 36.4%, while that of tourists increased by 27.2%. Furthermore, the majority of same-day visitors arrived in the country by road, while most tourists used road and air transport to enter the country.

Number of visitors by type of visitor

Number of visitors by type of visitor

Distribution of Tourists

The statistics reveal that the number of male tourists was higher than female tourists, accounting for 54.8% and 45.2%, respectively. Among all three regions, namely SADC countries, overseas countries, and ‘other’ African countries, male tourists constituted the majority. SADC countries had the highest proportion of female tourists, followed by overseas countries and ‘other’ African countries.

Considering the age distribution, tourists younger than 15 years accounted for 9.5% of the total tourists, while tourists aged between 15 and 24 years were 10.8%. The highest proportion of tourists from SADC countries and ‘other’ African countries were aged between 35 and 44 years, while overseas countries had the highest proportion of tourists aged between 25 and 34 years. The median ages of tourists from overseas, SADC, and ‘other’ African countries were 39, 36, and 36 years, respectively.

Moreover, tourists aged younger than 15 years were more common among overseas countries and ‘other’ African countries than SADC countries. Overall, the statistics provide valuable insights into the age and gender distribution of tourists across different regions.

Percentage distribution of tourists by region of residence and sex, December 2023

Percentage distribution of tourists by region of residence and sex, December 2023

Percentage distribution of tourists by region of residence and age, December 2023Percentage distribution of tourists by region of residence and age, December 2023

Regional and national distribution of tourists

In December 2023, South Africa received a considerable number of overseas tourists with Europe being the largest contributor at 63.5%, followed by North America at 18.7% and Asia at 8.2%. The top ten countries that brought the highest number of tourists to South Africa in December 2023 were the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia, India, Canada, Switzerland, and Italy, respectively. These countries accounted for 74.6% of all overseas tourists. Interestingly, eight of the top ten countries showed an increase in tourist numbers as compared to December 2022. The Netherlands showed the highest increase of 24.3%, with a total of 13,423 tourists visiting South Africa in December 2023.

Number of tourists from the 10 leading overseas countries in December 2022 and December 2023Number of tourists from the 10 leading overseas countries in December 2022 and December 2023

In December 2023, South Africa welcomed a total of 656,767 African tourists. Out of these, 97.6% came from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The remaining African tourists were from East and Central Africa (1.3%), West Africa (0.9%), and North Africa (0.2%). The top 10 SADC countries that contributed the most to the number of tourists visiting South Africa were Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, DRC, and Tanzania. These 10 countries accounted for 99% of all tourists from the SADC countries. Interestingly, all of the top 10 countries saw an increase in the number of tourists between December 2022 and December 2023. Eswatini showed the highest increase at 127.3%, followed by DRC at 106.4%.

Number of tourists from the 10 leading SADC countries in December 2022 and December 2023

Number of tourists from the 10 leading SADC countries in December 2022 and December 2023

In December 2023, South Africa received a significant number of tourists from ‘other’ African countries. According to Figure 5, the top 10 countries with the highest number of tourists were Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Gabon, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Benin. These countries contributed to 89.3% of all tourists from ‘other’ African countries. Kenya had the highest number of tourists with 4,989 visitors, followed by Ghana with 3,393 visitors, and Uganda with 1,825 visitors.

Comparing the data from December 2022 and December 2023, nine out of the top 10 countries showed an increase in tourist numbers. Ghana had the highest increase of 250.9%, with the number of tourists increasing from 967 in December 2022 to 3,393 in December 2023. Kenya followed with an increase of 144.3%, with the number of tourists increasing from 2,042 in December 2022 to 4,989 in December 2023.

– Number of tourists from the 10 leading 'other' African countries in December 2022 and December

Number of tourists from the 10 leading ‘other’ African countries in December 2022 and December

Purpose of visit of tourists

The data on the number of tourists by region and sub-region is presented below. According to the data, in December 2023, the majority of tourists in South Africa, 97.9% (884,059), were on holiday, while 1.9% (16,362), 0.2% (1,832), and less than 0.1% (207) were there for business, study, and medical treatment, respectively. Among the overseas regions, Australasia had the highest proportion of tourists who came for holiday, 99.6% (11,035), followed by North America, 99.1% (38,184), Europe, 99.1% (129,422), Central and South America, 98.4% (6,033), The Middle East, 96.7% (2,476), and Asia, 96.4% (16,201). Asia, 2.8% (472), had the highest proportion of tourists who came to South Africa for business, followed by The Middle East, 1.6% (42); Central and South America, 1.4% (85); North America, 0.7% (267); Europe, 0.7% (893); and Australasia, 0.4% (43). The Middle East, 1.6% (42), had the highest proportion of tourists who came to study, followed by Asia, 0.8% (128); Central and South America, 0.2% (12); Europe, 0.2% (239); North America, 0.1% (55); and Australasia, less than 0.1% (4). Asia, 0.1% (10), had the highest proportion of tourists who came for medical treatment. Europe (30) and North America (11) had less than 0.1% of medical treatment tourists, whereas The Middle East, Central and South America, and Australasia had none.

The majority of African tourists, 97.6% (639,750), came to South Africa for holiday. However, there were differences in terms of reasons for travel between tourists from the SADC countries and other African countries. Holiday makers constituted 97.6% (624,626) of tourists from SADC countries compared to 94.8% (15,124) from other African countries. Information on the regions of other African countries shows that 95.3% (8,350) of tourists from East and Central Africa were on holiday, followed by tourists from West Africa, 94.8% (5,742), and those from North Africa, 91.1% (1,032). Businesspersons constituted 2.2% (13,966) of tourists from SADC countries compared to 3.4% (544) from other African countries. North Africa, 5.6% (64), had the highest proportion of tourists who came to South Africa for business purposes, followed by East and Central Africa, 3.4% (300), and West Africa, 3.0% (180). Students constituted 0.2% (1,105) of tourists from SADC countries compared with 1.5% (246) from other African countries. North Africa, 3.0% (34), had the highest proportion of tourists who came to South Africa for study purposes, followed by West Africa, 2.0% (120), and East and Central Africa, 1.1% (92). Tourists who came for medical treatment constituted less than 0.1% (119) of tourists from SADC countries, while those from other African countries constituted 0.2% (37). West Africa, 0.3% (18), had the highest proportion of tourists who came for medical treatment, followed by North Africa, 0.3% (3), and East and Central Africa, 0.2% (16).

Number of tourists by region of residence and purpose of visit

Number of tourists by region of residence and purpose of visit

Mode of travel for tourists

It’s worth noting that tourists visiting South Africa are categorized based on their countries of residence and regions. Detailed information on the specific region and country of residence of tourists, as well as the mode of travel used to enter South Africa, is provided in Annexure B on pages 17 to 20. Based on the statistics shown in Figure 6, it can be inferred that the majority of overseas tourists, 192,731 (93.7%), arrived in South Africa by air, while 11,273 (5.5%) used road transportation, and 1,680 (0.8%) preferred sea travel. On the other hand, tourists from the SADC countries predominantly used road transport, with 578,659 (90.4%) arriving by road, 60,104 (9.4%) by air, and 1,053 (0.2%) by sea. Finally, it’s worth noting that the number of tourists who arrived in South Africa by air from ‘other’ African countries was 14,171 (88.8%), 1,758 (11.0%) used road transportation, and 22 (0.1%) preferred sea.

Percentage distribution of tourists by region of residence and mode of travel, December 2023

Percentage distribution of tourists by region of residence and mode of travel, December 2023

Quarterly and annual trends

It is worth noting that the months of January to March and October to December are the peak periods for overseas tourists visiting South Africa. Conversely, the number of tourists decreases significantly between April and June, reaching its lowest in June. In 2023, the number of tourists from overseas increased by 21.7% between quarters three and four (from 485,488 to 591,011). Additionally, a comparison between 2022 and 2023 for quarter four shows a 17.8% increase in the number of overseas tourists (from 501,627 in 2022 to 591,011 in 2023).

Number of tourists from overseas countries by month: 2019 – 2023

Number of tourists from overseas countries by month: 2019 – 2023

It’s worth noting that there is a significant increase in travel during the Christmas holiday break, which is typically observed in December. Additionally, there is a smaller peak in March/April, depending on the month when the Easter holiday occurs. During these periods, there is typically a high number of travellers between South Africa and neighbouring SADC countries.

Between the third and fourth quarters of 2023, there was an increase of 7.9% in the number of tourists, with the fourth quarter seeing a total of 1,687,754 visitors compared to 1,564,315 in the third quarter. If we compare the fourth quarters of 2022 and 2023, it’s noteworthy that the number of SADC tourists increased by 32.5%, rising from 1,273,947 in the last quarter of 2022 to 1,687,754 in the same quarter of 2023.

– Number of tourists from SADC countries by month: 2019 – 2023

Number of tourists from SADC countries by month: 2019 – 2023

According to the data collected the number of tourists visiting ‘other’ African countries increased significantly between quarters three and four of 2023. Specifically, there was a 36.2% increase, with the number of tourists rising from 31,647 to 43,093. The increase was even more substantial for West Africa, which saw a 50% rise (from 10,460 to 15,686) during the same period. East and Central Africa had a 29.6% increase (from 18,327 to 23,749), while North Africa had a 27.9% increase (from 2,860 to 3,658).

It’s worth noting that the number of tourists in quarter four of 2023 surpassed the pre-pandemic levels, indicating that the ‘other’ African countries region has fully recovered from the impact of COVID-19. A year-on-year comparison for quarter four (see Annexure F on pages 35 to 36) shows that the number of tourists from ‘other’ African countries increased by 41.1%, rising from 30,536 in quarter four of 2022 to 43,093 in quarter four of 2023. East and Central Africa had the highest increase of 51.2% (from 15,704 to 23,749), followed by West Africa with a 36.5% increase (from 11,491 to 15,686), and North Africa with a 9.5% increase (from 3,341 to 3,658).

Number of tourists from ‘other’ African countries by month: 2019 – 2023Number of tourists from ‘other’ African countries by month: 2019 – 2023

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence (continued)

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence (continued)

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence (continued)

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence (continued)

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence (concluded)

Number of tourists’ difference between December 2022 and December 2023 by country of residence (concluded)

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023 (continued)

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023 (continued)

– Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023 (continued)

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023 (continued)

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023 (concluded)

Number of tourists by country of residence and mode of travel, December 2023 (concluded)

In December 2023, South Africa’s ports of entry/exit welcomed a total of 3,478,783 travelers, including arrivals, departures, and transits. These travelers were classified into two categories – South African residents and foreign travelers. Out of the total number of travelers, 1,094,176 were South African residents while 2,384,607 were foreign travelers. Among the foreign travelers, there were 1,183,035 arrivals, comprising of 22,990 non-visitors and 1,160,045 visitors. The visitors were further divided into 297,585 same-day visitors and 862,460 overnight visitors, also known as tourists. Among the tourists, 205,684 were from overseas, 639,816 were from SADC countries, 15,951 were from ‘other’ African countries, and the country of residence of 1,009 tourists was unspecified.

 

Source of Information is Stats SA 



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