The 2021 July unrest and the floods in KwaZulu-Natal last month have piled on the pressure on South Africa’s tourism industry which took devastating blows during the peak of Covid-19, leading to losses amounting to billions of rands due to hard lockdowns and strict travel regulations.
But the sector is starting to show sparks of recovery, said Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu when she tabled her department’s budget in the National Assembly on Thursday.
To back up her optimism, Sisulu pointed to a massive increase in international arrivals.
“According to Airports Company South Africa, air travel to and from South Africa has reached its highest levels of activity since the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost 2.3-million [people walked] through OR Tambo [airport], Cape Town, and Durban in March, up to 70% from the previous year. Recovery is being bolstered by international arrivals,” she said.
She said the international airlines cannot keep up with the demand for travel to and from South Africa, resulting in inflexibly high airfares that had been made even worse by soaring fuel prices.
“Cape Town International Airport’s total passenger activity has increased to 66% of levels last seen in the first quarter of 2019.
“January and February this year saw strong growth in arrivals from the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Switzerland – 549% up in 2022 versus 2021 from our top 10 source markets [according to Statistics SA).”
The minister said South Africa’s tourism, which is among top African destinations that experienced the biggest drop in international arrivals in 2021, has been one of the most profitable activities, contributing billions of rands to the local economy.
It also contributes to job creation and small business development.
“Last week we announced that during our attendance at the Arabian Travel Market, SA Tourism signed a memorandum of understanding with Emirates Airlines to grow the tourism market in South Africa.
“Air travel is a key pillar for South Africa’s tourism recovery, and we expect this will boost visitor arrivals. It will promote tourism and inbound traffic to South Africa from key markets across the Emirates network,” she added.
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