The number of international tourist arrivals to South Africa in 2020 is expected to decline by at least 40% to 6.1 million for the year according to the latest data released today (July 22) by the Strategic Insights and Analysis (SIA) unit of SA Tourism.

This comes after the tourism body reported a 10.2% decline in total arrivals between January and March 2020, compared with the corresponding period in 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had brought the tourism industry to a standstill, even before the South African government instituted the national state of disaster at the end of March,” said SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona.

Measuring the impact of lockdown on international tourist arrivals, SA Tourism has calculated that the total foreign direct spend in the first quarter of this year (January to March) was approximately R19.4 billion (€1bn), representing a 24% decline from the five-year high of R25.7 billion (€1.3bn) recorded during the same period in 2019.

In the first quarter, transport accounted for the highest spend by international tourists, at R5 billion (€260m), followed by accommodation at R3.5 billion (€180m). The biggest decline in spend behaviour was shopping, which dipped to R3 billion (€150m), from R5 billion (€260m).

Europe is South Africa’s largest source market with 404 912 arrivals in the first quarter – more than half originating from the UK (120 000) and Germany (98 000). The number of visitors declined by 13% but the decrease of 37.5% in spend to R7.9 billion (€410m) was significant as the Europeans are the biggest spenders at an average of R21 600 (€1 136) a trip.

Not surprisingly, the largest percentage decrease of 34% in visitors was Asia, the second-biggest spenders at R20 200 (€1 052) on average.

Visitors from North America declined by 20% to 82 173, with a corresponding 28.2% decrease in expenditure to R1.8 billion (€947 370).

Australasia and Central and South America each contributed a spend of R0.5 billion (€26m), with New Zealand and Brazil recording the fastest growth in numbers at 30.4% and 6.1% respectively.

Africa; which accounts for the second largest total rand value of R7.8 billion (€409m); only decreased by 1.4% in the same period. Tourists from Africa, travelling by land and air, increased their average spend by 9.7% to R4 400 (€231).

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