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South Africa recorded a total of 9591828 visitor arrivals last year. This was 5,5 percent up on 2007's 9090881 total arrivals.
In the context of the current global financial crisis, South African Tourism is encouraged by this growth and remains optimistic that the destination will achieve its target of 10 million arrivals in 2010.
Strong growth from regional markets over the 12 months (7 percent) and from markets abroad in the first half of the year (8,8 percent) offset declines in foreign visitor growth during the second half of the year.
"These data are evidence of the value of strong domestic and regional markets," says South African Tourism chief executive, Moeketsi Mosola. "South Africa, like many of its competitor destinations, relies on neighbouring markets and on domestic tourism when conditions restrict long haul visitors."
Arrivals from the continent grew 7 percent last year with Mozambique (13,2 percent), Angola (15,3 percent) and Swaziland (4,7 percent) continuing to show strong growth. However, arrivals were down from many of the overseas markets. German arrivals declined by 6,5 percent; the Netherlands by 0,7 percent; China by 14,9 percent; and Britain by 2,5 percent. However, bucking this trend was encouraging growth in arrivals from France (11,2 percent up); India (up by 0,2 percent); Italy (1,3 percent up); the US (3,8 percent up); and Australia (4,8 percent up).
South Africa's arrivals figures are in line with predictions by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) that the global industry would stagnate or even decline in the second half of 2008. This trend will continue, the UNWTO says, until the volatile world economy recovers.
Though Mosola was guarded about the outlook for the rest of this year, he said the big events that South Africa will host in the coming months were sure to positively impact visitor growth. "The British Lions tour to South Africa, the Confederations Cup in June, and the 2010 Fifa World Cup will boost arrivals figures and will be a boon to the South African industry.
"There has been unprecedented and encouraging demand for 2010 Fifa World Cup tickets, giving us every indication that we will see hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to South Africa for the World Cup."