The continued debate about a further relaxation of visa requirements for international visitors to South Africa may impact on the country’s forecast tourism growth, Pietro Calicchio, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) Hospitality Industry Leader for Southern Africa, said, as the number of foreign visitors to South Africa is set to increase by 5.3% in 2018.
Foreign visitors willing to travel to South Africa for, among others, tourism, holidays, medical care, research and studies, have long been complaining about the ‘sophisticated’ visa conditions imposed by South African embassies abroad, which include filling forms that look like booklets.
Callichio’s statement could serve as a stark reminder to the government that tourism is one of the largest contributors to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and that it needs to do something about its ‘communist era’ visa conditions.
Besides, the sword of xenophobic violence still hangs heavily on South Africa, which scares away foreign tourists, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, which appears to supply the bulk of visitors in South Africa.
PwC said in its latest report that two million Zimbabweans – the largest number – visited South Africa in 2017, followed by Lesotho at 1.8 million and Mozambique at 1.3 million.
However, ‘xenophobic’ rhetoric from some politicians – like all foreigners must leave or face the music – is believed to be making matters worse for tourism, which needs a huge dose of foreign visitors to keep growing.
About 19.5 million international travellers are expected to visit South Africa by 2022, a 4% compound annual increase from 16 million in 2017, the PwC report revealed.
After jumping 38% in 2016, visitors from China to South Africa fell 17% in 2017, while travellers from India rose a modest 2.7% in 2017, well below the 21.7% increase recorded in 2016, according to the PwC’s 8th edition of the Hotels Outlook: 2018-2022 report.
Of non-African countries, the UK is still the largest source of visitors to South Africa at 447 901 in 2017, contributing to the overall growth of 7.2% in visitors from non-African countries in 2017.