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South Africa International Tourism to Reach Pre-pandemic Levels.
Tourist arrivals in South Africa demonstrated a positive trend, with improvements in the numbers recorded from month to month during the period spanning 2021 to 2023. In December 2023, 3,5 million travellers were recorded at South African ports of entry/exit, surpassing the figures for both November 2023, which stood at 2,6 million, and December 2022, at 2,9 million.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the first UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of the year showed there were an estimated 1.3 billion international tourist arrivals in 2023, representing 88% of pre-pandemic levels. As world tourism rebounds, South Africa is seeing a similar trend.

In 2021, the number of international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) was 77,9% lower than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, declining from 10,23 million tourists in 2019 to 2,26 in 2021. In 2022, there was a slight recovery in the number of tourists (approximately 5,70 million) at 44,3% lower than pre-pandemic levels. At 8,48 million tourists in 2023, there was a notable improvement, where the total tourist arrivals were 17,1% below the pre-pandemic levels, moving from 10,23 million in 2019 to 8,48 million in 2023. However, the December 2023 number (862 460) remains 41,8% lower than the pre-pandemic figure (1 481 183) recorded in 2019. 





Regional changes in tourist arrivals
“Other” African countries have shown a notable recovery by exceeding the pre-pandemic levels by 11,9% from 38 501 tourists in Q4 of 2019 to 43 093 tourists in Q4 of 2023. There is, however, a possibility for a complete recovery for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and overseas region, as overseas tourist arrivals have reached 78,5% of 2019 levels and SADC has reached 90,2%.




A year-on-year comparison between 2022 and 2023 for quarter four shows that the number of overseas tourists increased by 17,8% (from 501 627 in quarter four of 2022 to 591 011 in quarter four of 2023). Comparisons between the fourth quarters of 2022 and 2023 show that the number of SADC tourists increased by 32,5% (from 1 273 947 in quarter four of 2022 to 1 687 754 in quarter four of 2023)
Tourists from ‘other’ African countries increased by 41,1% (from 30 536 in quarter four of 2022 to 43 093 in quarter four of 2023) year-on-year. East and Central Africa had the largest increase of 51,2% (from 15 704 in quarter four of 2022 to 23 749 in quarter four of 2023), followed by West Africa which increased by 36,5% (from 11 491 in quarter four of 2022 to 15 686 in quarter four of 2023) and North Africa which increased by 9,5% (from 3 341 in quarter four of 2022 to 3 658 in quarter four of 2023).
Purpose and average number of day tourists spent in South Africa

In December 2023, the majority of tourists (97,9%) came for holidays whilst businesspersons, students and medical treatment constituted 1,9%; 0,2%, and less than 0,1% respectively. On average, tourists from overseas and ‘other’ African countries spent more days (about five to seven days per month) in the country compared to SADC residents who spent an average of two days in a month. On average, tourists from overseas spend more days in the warmer months (around seven days).
In the recovery phase, the tourism industry is witnessing a gradual resurgence, after it faced unprecedented challenges during the outbreak.
For more information, download the full report here.
Tags:South Africa International Tourism to Reach Pre-pandemic Levels.
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