Pretoria — Tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 10.5% for the first six months of 2012, more than double the global average of 5% for the same period.
According to the most recent tourism figures, tourist numbers to South Africa increased by an impressive 10.5% during the first half of 2012, which is double the global tourism growth rate of 5%.
"Stats SA's tourism figures indicate that South Africa experienced an excellent first half of the year, attracting 4 416 373 tourists to the country between January and June 2012, compared to 3 996 760 tourist arrivals for the same period in 2011," said the Department of Tourism in a statement.
The tourism industry experienced particularly strong growth in overseas tourist arrivals, recording 17.1% growth in arrivals from outside the African continent.
A total of 1 163 477 overseas tourist arrivals were recorded for the first six months of 2012, compared to 993 364 tourist arrivals for the corresponding period in 2011.
"Despite the global economic downturn, our focused marketing efforts and the hard work of everyone in the tourism industry are paying dividends," said Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
"Although the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) does predict a slowdown in global arrivals in the second half of this year, we are delighted with our very strong start in 2012, and are confident that it will be a year worth celebrating for us as far as the tourism industry is concerned," he added.
For South African tourism, regional Africa as a whole has been one of the strongest performers so far this year, with tourist arrivals from the region growing by 8.3% over the first six months of 2012.
"We are very encouraged to see that our carefully formulated tourism growth strategy to increase tourist arrivals to South Africa is yielding the desired results, with excellent growth achieved in the markets where we are actively marketing Destination South Africa, and good returns being realised in markets that we have identified as sources of strong tourism potential for our country," the minister said.
Growth in tourist arrivals for the first six months of 2012 has been strong in all regions, with particularly strong growth from emerging markets, with Asia growing by 40.7% and Central and South America by 54.4%.
For the first time, China is one of South Africa's top five source markets of overseas tourists, overtaking France as the country's fourth-largest overseas source market.
A total of 60 272 Chinese visitors came to South Africa in the first half of 2012, which represents a massive 68.4% growth compared to the first half of 2011, when South Africa received only 35 796 Chinese arrivals.
"The launch of SAA's direct flight between Beijing and Johannesburg in January this year has contributed to growth from this market, helping to meet some of the obvious demand for Destination South Africa in China," said Van Schalkwyk.
South Africa is also reaping significant benefits from its marketing efforts and strong trade relations work in other emerging markets, including India and Brazil, with arrivals from India continuing its steep upward growth trajectory.
South Africa recorded 21.1% growth in arrivals from India for the first six months of this year, and a phenomenal 68.4% growth in arrivals from Brazil.