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BRIC tourists to South Africa still down a quarter from 2013
August 16, 2018, 9:11 am

BRIC tourist numbers to South Africa rose by 6.1% in 2017, but still 23.4% below 2013 levels

South African recently hosted tourism exhibitors from 23 African countries [PREUSS]

The release of the Tourism 2017 report by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) this week showed that although there was a strong rebound in 2016 and 2017, the country was still suffering from the misguided imposition of more stringent visa requirements in October 2014, as the number of overseas tourists from South Africa’s BRICS partners, remained below their 2013 levels.

The release of the report also highlighted Stats SA’s resource constraints as its budget has been cut by R400 million in the previous fiscal year. The Tourism report this year was released more than four months later than the 2015 report, which was released on April 4 2016.

New visa regulations from October 2014 that required an in-person visit for biometric data to South African consulates for visitors from non-visa exempt countries such as China, Russia and India had an impact, but there were other factors at play as only one (The Netherlands) of the Top Ten overseas source countries showed an increase in 2014 compared with 2013.

The visa requirements were relaxed and the capacity to process them was improved in 2015 and 2016 in a belated attempt to mitigate the effects on the tourism industry.

As ten tourists are estimated to create one job, the 84 110 drop in BRIC tourist numbers from 359,429 in 2013 to 275,319 in 2017 has cost some 8,000 jobs at a time when the unemployment rate exceeds 27 per cent.

The Department of Home Affairs administers the visa requirements. Several countries such as Brazil and most European countries are exempt from visas provided they stay less than 90 days. Visas are not issued at South African ports of entry, and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas before allowing passengers to board. If a visitor arrives without a visa, immigration officials are obliged to put the visitor onto a flight back to the country of origin.

South African hotel groups such as Southern Sun said the removal of South Africa from Chinese tour operator brochures due to the biometric requirements probably explained the 62 per cent plunge in Chinese tourists between November 2013 and November 2014. In 2017 there was a 17 per cent decline to 97, 069, which meant that the 2017 number was more than a third lower than the 2013 total of 151,053.

India overtook China as the leading BRIC source country in 2014 even though India is also not a visa exempt country, as tourists from India travel far less in tour groups, but rather as families and friends, but there was still a 23.6 per cent decline to 85 639 in 2014.

In 2016, there was a 21.7 per cent rebound and Tourism South Africa in 2017 launched a major campaign in India to ensure that Indian tourists to South Africa exceed 100,000 in 2017. The actual number of tourists arriving from India in 2017 was 97,921, which was a 2.7% increase on 2016.

Although Russian tourist arrivals surged by 50.9 per cent in 2017, they remain 7.5 per cent below the 2013 level.

The truly outstanding growth came from Brazil with a phenomenal 74.7% increase in 2017, but despite this impressive growth, they are still 18.1% below the 2013 level.

Helmo Preuss in Cape Town, South Africa for The BRICS Post

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