An expert believes tourism could make a significant impact on unemployment in South Africa, with visitors returning to local shores.
The numbers of tourists arriving in South Africa has seen an upward trajectory this week as compared to the same period, between January and May last year.
This was released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) which revealed that tourist arrivals and stays across the country have grown by over 480%.
According to the stats, this is off the back of the reported 61.6% year-on-year increase in tourist accommodation income in May.
“South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sector is recovering steadily and while we still face a few hurdles, we are well and truly ready for the rebound,” said Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa’s (Fedhasa) national chairperson, Rosemary Anderson.
She said that chaos at airports across some key source markets is not making international travel easy, but long-haul visitors are determined to make the journey.
“According to hospitality benchmarking firm, STR, the upward May trajectory we have seen in the accommodation space increased in June, but we are still under 50% occupancies nationally,” said Anderson.
She added that the year-to-date figures are looking much healthier than last year. “We’ve gone from a national occupancy in 2021 of 31% to 50%, with the clear winners in terms of higher occupancies being KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape,” she said.
According to Anderson, the expectation is that inbound visitors returning to shores, accommodation establishments in international tourist strongholds such as the Western Cape will increase.
“With the airlift capacity from the US and other key source markets in Europe, the opportunity exists for Western Cape to increase its occupancies; perhaps by providing an even more compelling offer for swallows and remote workers.
“South Africa has for many years been a destination of choice for more mature visitors who choose to spend the Northern Hemisphere winter in sunnier surrounds. It is also consistently cited as a favourable destination for remote workers; however our visa system does not cater to these types of travellers,” Anderson explained.
She said if South Africa wants tourism to make a significant impact on unemployment, it has the potential to do so. It’s time to start thinking out the box and waive visas for certain key markets, as well as create special visas for visitors who stay longer term and fund their stay themselves.
“Furthermore we have a long way to go to introduce a world-class e-visa system which has been on the cards for some time. It really is time to stop talking and to start actively removing red tape to grow South Africa’s tourism sector,” Anderson concluded.