Tourism from traditional source markets has dropped by more than 10% since 2008!

S A Tourism and Marthinus van Schalkwyk, our Minister of Tourism, are not being truthful in the tourism statistics they provide regularly, says tourism operator Colin Bell, writing in Southern African Tourism Update earlier this week.

Bell’s critical commentary will receive strong support from the tourist industry, which wonders how SA Tourism generates its statistics, which do not reflect the reality of what tourism operators are experiencing.

Bell compared the arrival statistics of the January – April period between 2003 and 2012, and from 2008 and 2012, and found:

*   tourism arrivals from the UK, France and Holland declined by 10 – 13 % in the past four years, a stronger decline than that over the past nine years, which ranged from 7 – 10 % for the same countries.

*   tourism arrivals from Germany have declined the least, at 2,5% in the past four years, and showed an increase of 2% in the past nine years.

*   only the tourism arrivals from the USA have shown an increase, up by a staggering 75% over the past nine years, but only increasing by 12% in the past four years, showing that the growth is slowing down dramatically. Bell questions the accuracy of this information, finding that American tourists may only be using Johannesburg as a gateway into other African countries, yet are counted as tourists, a problem that could get worse as SAA makes Johannesburg a hub for its flights into South Africa and Africa.

*   71% of all international tourism arrivals are from the UK, Germany, USA, France, and Holland.

*   long-haul tourists are spending less time in our country, down from 10 days in 2003 to 8 days currently

*   Long-haul tourists are generally focusing the visit on one province only, compared to being more likely to add a second one to their itinerary nine years ago.  The Western Cape is the province predominantly visited, with Mpumalanga added by some, for the Kruger Park.

The cumulative effect of fewer international tourists staying for a shorter period is affecting lodges in the rural areas in particular, Bell believes, making them unsustainable, and leading to the threat of ‘enormous numbers of people have been or are about to be retrenched‘.

Referring to Minister van Schalkwyk’s announcement of a 10,5% increase in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2012, Bell questioned the Minister’s statement that ‘traditional markets recovered the lost ground of the period 2008 – 2011 and bounced back to reach positive growth in the early part of the year’, information which Bell disputes.

We have analysed our Whale Cottage Portfolio statistics, and have seen a far more radical decline in UK visitor numbers in the past year, and expect this for the summer of 2012/2013 too.  The German market is showing a promising growth in bookings, and so too Scandinavian bookings are strong for summer.  We do not see enquiries from the USA, and few from France and Holland, despite direct flights to Cape Town from both countries. The majority of our bookings will be from South Africans in the forthcoming summer season.

We salute Bell for asking pertinent questions of SA Tourism and our Tourism Minister.  We have asked similar questions of Grant Pascoe, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, who regularly misleads the industry with overstated tourism performance information.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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