Over the past several years headlines proclaiming excellent tourism growth have been common, and the perception of the average man on the street is that tourism is booming. I believe this is largely down to PR from the Dept. of Tourism who quote the gross number of all foreign arrivals, neglecting to mention that 90% of South Africa’s arrivals are from neighbouring SADC countries.I’ve done an exercise recently, looking into the tourism stats focusing on our target market. The statistic that we chose to isolate is that of “overseas arrivals”, which includes all non-African arrivals. I believe this is much more reflective of our general market.Unfortunately this does not make for as much good news as the Dept of Tourism would have you believe. I was surprised to find out that overseas arrivals peaked in 2013 and have been declining steadily since.Based on 12 month averages, October 2015 is the worst 12 month average that we have recorded (since our records start in October 2010) and it is 19% off the peak 12 months average (achieved in January 2014).
No one can give firm reasons for these falling tourism numbers, but contributing factors include:
the change of requirements for travellers with children (this impacted our larger villas severely this season)
changing visa requirements with respect to biometric visas (travel from some of the fastest growing markets was massively impacted)
the effect of the Ebola virus
bad press from the xenophobic attacks
load shedding concerns
Whatever the reasons the fact is that South Africa experienced a 6.6% decline in overseas arrivals in 2015 (despite the global tourism industry growing by 4.4%).
The good news is that November 2015 was the first month in over two years that saw significant year on year growth (+6.4%). Although it is too soon to say, it looks as though tourism may be growing again.The extreme devaluation of the rand over the past twelve months can only help the industry, and the Ministry of Home Affairs appears to be softening its stance with respect to the visa issues.Within the industry vacation rentals have also experienced growing acceptance, as the existing traditional hotel booking portals have expanded to include vacation rental properties, and as new vacation rental sites have exploded into prominence.We’re cautiously optimistic that 2016 will be a year of firm growth for South African tourism. Within that, we are very excited about the impact that all the new listing channels with have (in combination with our dynamic pricing), both on increased revenues and reduced commissions.