Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tourism Growth in South Africa in spite of recession

Those of us who make a living from tourism in Cape Town have known instinctively for some time that better days are ahead and that there is an evident growth in the number of visitors to our city. After a dismal 2008, we were gratified to be almost fully booked for the December holiday period, but this is attributable mainly to internal tourism. This is an important part of our market but no real barometer of the prospects for growth in international tourism.

After a relatively slow January we were amazed to find that we were inundated with enquiries for the months February to April, and our occupancy rates soared to better than we had experienced in our 8 years of doing business in Noordhoek. Quite a high percentage of our guests during these three months were from Europe and the UK. Winter is usually a slow period for accommodation in Cape Town, but the enquiries for the World Cup came flooding in, brightening prospects for the winter. Unlike many other establishments in the Cape Town South Peninsula, who are reporting very few bookings because of the distance from the city and the stadium; our bookings for June and July, thanks to the World Cup, will brighten these winter months.

It came as no surprise then to note that the prestigious Visa credit card organisation has confirmed this real growth in information just published on their website : I am sure that all tour operators and owners of accommodation establishments will be heartened and encouraged by their findings. According to the website:

South Africa saw a 34 percent increase in inbound tourism spending during the first quarter of 2010, and anticipates additional growth opportunities around the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, according to Tourism Outlook: South Africa, an annual report released today by Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) that analyzes Visa cardholder spending for the past two years.

VisaVue® Travel data indicates that South Africa weathered the economic headwinds which impacted international tourism during 2009 better than most countries around the world. While many countries saw double-digit drops in inbound tourism spending, Visa cardholder spending by international visitors to South Africa decreased only 2.7 percent from $1.84 billion in 2008 to $1.79 billion in 2009. Despite a challenging climate in 2009, 2010 has already shown reasons for the country’s continued optimism. During the first quarter of 2010, Visa cardholder spending increased to nearly $566 million, up from $423 million during the first quarter of 2009.

The top contributors to South Africa’s inbound tourism spending in 2009 include: The United Kingdom (26 percent), United States (15 percent), Mozambique (5 percent), Germany (4 percent) and France (4 percent). While travellers from Western Europe and the U.S. continue to be the strongest contributors to South African tourism, significant increases in spending by cardholders from emerging markets is indicative of South Africa’s growing stature as a tourism destination. Visa data revealed double- and triple-digit growth in spending by cardholders originating from: Malawi (168 percent), Mozambique (118 percent), Angola (115 percent), China (28 percent) and Botswana (18 percent).

Since 2007 we have espoused the view that the World Cup should not be seen as the culmination of an enormous amount of hard work and publicity by all concerned but as the beginning of opportunity to showcase our beautiful country to the millions of all fans who will watch the matches on TV which will bring an increase in the number of international tourists. The Visa website shares this view and has said that

As host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup,TM South Africa is uniquely positioned to further enhance its visibility globally. The tournament will provide South Africa with a significant opportunity to showcase its unique assets and culture to the world and attract visitors and tourism revenues for months and years to come. This year alone, South Africa expects to welcome more than 370,0001 international visitors for this global competition. The month-long 2010 FIFA World Cup™ is expected to add 93 billion rand to the South Africa economy, translating to a 0.54 percent boost to gross domestic product, a significant contribution given that the total South Africa GDP growth in 2010 is estimated at 2.0 to 2.5 percent2.

We certainly hold the view that our people’s unbridled enthusiasm, warm African welcome and undisputed evidence that we have the ability to receive and entertain large numbers of international tourists, host events and have our visitors depart as ambassadors whose South African holiday experience will be shared with friends and family, to create a lasting favourable image of South Africa as an exciting, safe and affordable international destination for a future holiday.

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