Johannesburg – The struggling tourism industry has recorded its highest performance growth in four years as a result of an increase in the number of domestic tourists who visited the country’s key attractions during the festive season.
The Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) said yesterday that its figures for 2015 showed the industry grew more than 20 points in the fourth quarter compared with a similar period in 2014.
The council said the industry achieved a better-than-expected score of 106.5 points in the fourth quarter compared with an anticipated but more subdued score of 94.2 during the same period in 2014. But it warned that the outlook for the first quarter of 2016 would be slightly below the acceptable 100 level, falling to 94.2 points.
TBCSA chief executive Mmatsatsi Ramawela said domestic tourism had outperformed overseas visitors despite a weak exchange rate that could have served as a stimulus for inbound tourists.
Ramawela said the last months of the year had proved to be the money spinner for the industry. “The festive season is typically one of our busiest times, presenting the trade with the opportunity to do some good business when many people, particularly locals, take some time off to travel,” Ramawela said.
“After a tough three quarters of trade, we’ve been anxiously looking towards the festive period for some welcomed reprieve in the market.”
The tourism industry took a huge knock last year following the introduction of controversial visa regulations in June, which required among other things that foreigners who wanted to visit South Africa apply for visas in person at South African embassies abroad. The regulations also demanded that parents travelling in or out of South Africa with minors be in possession of an unabridged birth certificate.
A leading hotelier in Cape Town said yesterday that while it expected an increase in the number of foreign visitors at this time of the year, the bookings were low as potential tourists remained confused about the rules.
“We have not seen a high volume of bookings from our potential clients overseas,” said the hotelier, who refused to be named.