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Africa Hits Full International Tourism Recovery, as Seasonality Shift

Author: Selene Brophy - 30 May 2024

International tourist arrivals to Africa have exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the first quarter of 2024. 

The latest  UN Tourism Barometer data shows that while the continent was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, its tourism sector has seen a stronger-than-anticipated recovery, overshadowing the rate of recovery for international markets.   

Visitors to Africa exceeded pre-pandemic levels by 5% in the first quarter of 2024, compared to quarter 1 in 2019, with a 13% growth more than in Q1 2023.

Long-haul travel to North Africa’s Egypt and Morocco and safari hotspots like Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa continue to pique the interest of international travellers.  

Several African destinations reported growth in international tourism receipts in the first quarter of 2024 compared to 2019. Tanzania saw a 62% increase, Mauritius 46%, and Morocco 44%, highlighting the continent’s significant contribution to global tourism recovery.

 

 

South Africa’s Tourism Confidence Spotlighted

South Africa has further top African country rankings in the 2024 Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) by the World Economic Forum.

In 2023, South Africa welcomed close to 8.5 million international visitors, of whom 6.4 million were from the African continent. This represents a significant increase of 48.9% compared to 2022 arrivals.

During the first quarter of 2024 – January to March—South Africa welcomed 2.4 million visitors from the rest of the world, a 15.4% increase compared with the same period in 2023. Africa continues to lead as the key inbound market with 1.8 million tourist arrivals from the rest of the African continent  between January and March 2024, representing 74.5% of all arrivals.

South Africa’s rise in the 2024 Travel and Tourism Development Index, moving up seven places, weighed the country’s strengths in price competitiveness, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) readiness, natural resources, and the socio-economic impact. 

Tourism Minister Patricia De Lille commenting in a statement about the Index ranking said, “We remain committed to significantly increasing arrival numbers and enhancing the tourism sector’s performance. While the sector already contributes substantially to our GDP and job creation, there is much more potential to unlock.” 

Confidence in the growth of international tourists to South Africa remains high, according to Discover Africa Safaris co-founder Andre Van Kets. 

“Safari operators are seeing serious intent from key international markets to book and plan transformational travel experiences,” said Van Kets. “Following Africa’s recent Travel Indaba word from suppliers is that rate increases for 2025 are averaging at 10%, and while this is in line with inflationary adjustments currently at 7%, it shows further confidence that the luxury safari sector remains bullish for future bookings.”  

The head of product at the online travel planning company, Murielle Vegezzi, underscored the continued changes to seasonality and how that will drive growing tourism numbers across the continent and the world. 

“Seasonality is changing, and we’re definitely seeing that. Bookings are no longer concentrated in the peak periods, which further shows the intent to travel is high, even during the off-peak or shoulder seasons,” said Vegezzi.

Growth in International Markets for South Africa:

  • Americas Tourist arrivals grew by 12.4% compared to the same period in 2023: 118,194 (January to March 2024)
  • Europe Tourist arrivals grew by 8.6% compared to the same period in 2023: 420,727 (January to March 2024):

United Kingdom: 125,420 tourists (+5.3% growth)

– Germany: 98,954 tourists (+9.9% growth) 

Netherlands: 37,548 tourists (+9.9% growth)

– Russia: 9,329 tourists (+9.6% growth)

  • Asia Tourist arrivals grew by 25.4% compared to the same period in 2023: 49,741 (January to March 2024):  

– China: 11,017 tourists (+82% growth)

– India: 16,209 tourists (-0.9% growth)

  • Middle East:

– Saudi Arabia: 2,387 arrivals (+31.7% growth)

– United Arab Emirates: 321 arrivals 

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