SA Statistics has released the January 2013 tourism arrival statistics, and it is clear that our tourism industry is in trouble, the traditional source markets of the UK and Europe strongly down relative to the same month a year before, and American arrivals showing a minimal increase, as reported by Southern African Tourism Update. Two of the BRICS countries, India and Brazil, continue to show strong growth. In total tourism numbers declined by 4% to 202548 in January 2013, relative to a year ago.
The 19% decline in UK tourists is no surprise, as we have picked up the dramatic demise of UK tourists in the past two summers, due to that country’s economic recession, but still is ranked top as source country at 34393. America is the second largest source market, with 21330 arrivals. German tourists numbered 21101, a surprising decline of 6%. France is in 6th place as a source country, with a slight decline in its arrivals. The Netherlands, another important source market. showed a decline of 18%, and is now in 8th place.
The decline in the UK arrivals is confirmed in an article in Breaking Travel News, which showed that UK travelers would be affected by the exchange rate in most countries, given the weak pound sterling, affecting their travel costs to the USA, Australia, and Europe. Countries in which British travelers will not suffer the exchange rate so badly are Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa. However, the higher cost of flights to these countries may cancel out the benefit of the lower exchange rates.
China surprisingly showed its first decline, by 4 %, and is ranked 4th on the tourism arrivals list, while arrivals from Brazil jumped by close to 13%. Given tour operator Colin Bell’s discovery that the tourism arrival statistics include transit passengers, spending at least 24 hours in our country to be defined as such, it is interesting to note that about 40% of the Chinese and Brazil ‘tourist’ arrivals were in fact transit passengers travelling to another country from South Africa. This does not apply to Indian tourists, the 15% increase in arrivals from this country reflecting the great work which is being done by SA Tourism in that country. Its head, Hanneli Slabber, has just been recognised as Safari India National Tourism ‘Best Professional in Marketing’.
These depressing tourism arrival statistics were announced after Marthinus van Schalkwyk, national Minister of Tourism, shared at Indaba earlier this month that South Africa’s digital marketing activities have reached 1 billion people, reports themovechannel.com. ‘Our video, banner and text adverts were displayed to the targeted audiences over 1,1 billion times’, in addition to marketing programs with CNN, National Geographic, Expedia, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and WAYN.com. The Minister may not understand that duplication of exposure of South Africa’s advertising message would reduce the audience size. The value of South Africa’s editorial coverage in international media is estimated at R4,6 billion.
Minister van Schalkwyk has reacted to the news that a development bank is being set up by the BRICS countries, and has said that it ‘will boost tourism among the nations’. The increased business trips related to setting up the development bank will be ‘prompting other tourists to follow suit’, the Tourism Minister said, according to The Telegraph. A Goldman Sachs report shows that the BRICS countries generated half the global economic growth in the last ten years. Currently inter BRICS trade is valued at $230 billion, and is estimated to double in the next two years.
Minister van Schalkwyk was invited to lead a new United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) commission on tourism and development, at a meeting yesterday of its Executive Council in Belgrade, working with a working group of France, Germany, Kenya, Jamaica, Egypt, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Mauritania, and Belgium, reports the Southern African Tourism Update.
We appeal again to Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro to market Cape Town and the Western Cape nationally and internationally, to counter the frighteningly low bookings for June and July, one of the worst winter seasons we have seen.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage