Growth in South Africa's tourism sector from its Chinese market boomed in 2012, increasing by 63.5% between January and September, making China the country's fourth-biggest overseas tourist market.
Over 96 000 Chinese tourists visited South Africa between January and September, up from the 59 187 who visited over the same period in 2011.
"China is now one of South Africa's most important and valued partners for tourist arrivals and a market the South African government is committed to investing strongly in," the Tourism Department said in a statement on Wednesday.
To build on the relationship between the two countries, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk left for a media roadshow of China on Wednesday. His activities will include sharing details on South African Tourism's 2013 marketing plans in China.
"The major growth in tourist numbers is a strong indicator of the strengthening relations between the two countries, as Chinese tourists warm in greater numbers to South Africa's scenic beauty, friendly and welcoming people and the variety of wonderful experiences South Africa offers," the department said.
"Since our country took its place among Brazil, Russia, India and China in the BRICS in 2011, we have witnessed an increase in trade relations between China and South Africa, with considerable Chinese investment in South Africa and an increase in interest, awareness and understanding between our two countries," Van Schalkwyk said.
The increase also follows South African Tourism's launch of promotional activities to promote brand-awareness, as well as the hosting of its 2012 annual trade workshops and participation in tourism exhibitions in China.
"In 2012 we concluded joint marketing agreements with seven trade and marketing partners in China to build education and understanding of our destination here in China, to package and promote a larger variety of products and experiences and to make South Africa as affordable and accessible as possible for Chinese travelers," Van Schalkwyk said.
"In January 2012 we also saw the introduction of non-stop flights between Johannesburg and Beijing as part of a code share agreement between South African Airways and Air China, providing Chinese tourists with convenient access to South Africa."
The introduction of two new visa application centres in China has also enhanced the attractiveness of South Africa as a destination.
"We are confident of continuing our exciting growth in a market set to become one of the world's most important tourism markets in the future," he said.