Foreign arrivals in South Africa reached their highest level ever in 2013 as the country’s international tourist numbers approached the 10-million mark, the Department of Tourism announced last week.(Image: South African Tourism)Brand South Africa reporterAccording to the latest figures from Statistics SA, 14 860 216 foreign visitors arrived in South Africa last year, a 10.5% increase over 2012. Of these, 9.6-million were tourists, translating to a 4.7% year-on-year increase in international (including the rest of Africa) tourist arrivals, and a 7.1% increase in overseas (excluding Africa) tourist arrivals.South Africa’s international tourist arrivals grew at an annual average growth rate of 7.4% between 2011 and 2013, well above the global average of 4.5% during this period, the department said.“Overall, South Africa recorded 428 596 more tourists in 2013 than we did in 2012,” outgoing Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said in a statement.“Following excellent growth in 2012, when tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 10.2%, which was more than two-and-a-half times the global average, we are pleased to report that tourist arrival numbers to South Africa grew by a further 4.7% in 2013,” Van Schalkwyk said.“South Africa’s tourism industry continues to show good growth, and we remain confident in the ongoing performance and sustainability of the sector.”Positive growth from all regionsTourist arrivals to South Africa showed positive growth from all regions in 2013, the department said, including good growth out of Europe, its largest overseas market for tourists.European tourist arrivals increased by 7% year-on-year to 1 494 978 in 2013, with double-digit growth from Germany (14.2%), France (10.3%) and Italy (10.6%).A total of 304 090 German tourists visited South Africa in 2013, firmly entrenching its status as South Africa’s third-largest tourist source market. Arrivals from France, South Africa’s fifth-biggest overseas source market, grew to 134 840, while Italian arrivals reached 67 790.However, South Africa’s largest overseas source market, the UK, grew by a modest 1% to 442 523 tourist arrivals in 2013.Air arrivals from Africa on the increaseArrivals from the rest of Africa grew by 4% year-on-year to 6 889 389 in 2013, with arrivals by air growing by 12%.“Travel is becoming ever more accessible for Africa’s rapidly growing middle class, and we are certainly seeing this reflected in the growing number of African air arrivals to South Africa,” Van Schalkwyk said.Nigeria, the largest African air market for South Africa’s tourist arrivals, grew by 15.4% to 84 589 arrivals.“We expect our first fully fledged South African Tourism office on the continent, which we opened in Lagos at the beginning of this year, to result in continued growth in arrivals from this market of growing importance, and from the west African region as a whole,” Van Schalkwyk said.A total of 417 582 North American arrivals were recorded in 2013, up from 393 446 in 2012, while tourists accounted for 348 646 arrivals in 2013, reflecting 6.7% growth on the 326 643 tourists that visited the country in 2012.“The US market remains a major focus of our global marketing efforts and we are heartened by the continued good growth we have seen out of this market in recent years,” Van Schalkwyk said.Asia, Central and South AmericaAsia and Central and South America continued to record good growth on top of the exceptional levels witnessed in 2012, in which these markets grew by 34% and 37% respectively.A total of 435 076 Asian tourist arrivals were recorded in 2013, a 9.2% increase on the 2012 numbers. China, South Africa’s fourth-largest source market for tourist arrivals for the second year in a row, continued to perform, growing by 14.7% to reach 151 847 tourist arrivals in 2013. Arrivals out of India tempered in 2013, growing by 5.5% to reach 112 672 arrivals.Central and South American tourist arrivals numbers grew by 8% to reach 129 463. Brazil remains by far the biggest market out of this region growing by close to 5.6% to reach 82 802 tourist arrivals.South African Tourism is increasing its marketing efforts in Brazil, having appointed a marketing agency in the country earlier this year and will, for the first time ever, take a delegation of South African exhibitors to the ABAV travel trade show in Sao Paulo, the largest travel trade fair in the Americas.“We remain excited by the potential offered by emerging markets,” Van Schalkwyk said. “We are working closely with our partners in the industry to better market the destination in these regions and to make South Africa a more accessible destination for travellers from these countries.”Australasian tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 4.0% in 2013, with 148 660 tourist arrivals recorded.Contribution to the economyAccording to Statistics SA’s latest figures for tourism receipts and job creation, South Africa’s tourism sector continues to increase its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and job creation.According to figures for the period ending December 2012, direct tourism contribution to GDP grew from R83.5-billion in 2011 to R93.3-billion or 3% of GDP in 2012. At the same time, tourism contributed approximately 617 287 direct jobs in 2012, amounting to about 4.6% of direct employment in the country, up from over 591 785 direct jobs in 2011.Van Schalkwyk said ongoing growth in all the markets in which South Africa actively markets itself was proof that the country’s marketing strategy was delivering the desired results.“The reality is that each year our invitation to come and visit South Africa, land of incredible wildlife, diverse experiences and most notably, warm and welcoming people, is being accepted by an ever growing number of people from around the world.“Two decades into our democracy, I am proud of what this industry has achieved and confident of its ongoing ability to contribute to the growth and development of South Africa.”In President Jacob Zuma’s new Cabinet, announced on Sunday, Derek Hanekom replaced Van Schalkwyk as minister of tourism. Hanekom was sworn in as the new minister on Monday.Source: Statistics South Africa, South African Tourism, Brand South AfricaWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.