Warren Robertson
2 minute read
20 Mar 2019
9:42 am

SA set to lose ranking as no. 1 tourism destination on the continent

Warren Robertson

SA's decline is Egypt's gain as things could change as early as 2020.

If tourism growth patterns remain as they are, it will be Egypt and not South Africa that is ranked as the largest tourist destination on the African continent by next year. While South Africa still clings to the top of the rankings for this year, its dismal performance relative to its arch-continental rivals will see it lose that position by early 2020 unless something changes dramatically.

New stats released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) show that South Africa’s Travel and Tourism GDP shrank by 1.9% in the past year to $32.1 billion (R464.8 billion) while Egypt’s travel and tourism sector became the fastest growing in North Africa, increasing by 16.5% to lift the country to a $29.6 billion (R428 billion) gain to the country’s economy.

Those growth figures put Egypt well above the global growth average for 2018 of 3.9% and South Africa lagging dismally behind.

Egypt’s steady rebound over the past few years has been linked to the improved security infrastructure, which has helped to attract international visitors back to the country’s shores, and has allowed major travel companies to restart operations in popular destinations such as Sharm el Sheik, said the WTTC in a statement.

What’s more, 2018 represents the second year of record growth for Egypt. In 2017, the industry’s growth rate was a substantial 54.8% for the country.

Even more impressive in terms of growth in tourism in Ethiopia, which stands out not only as Africa’s fastest growing travel economy but indeed the world’s, growing by 48.6% last year to be worth $7.4 billion (R107 billion). Notably, international travel and tourism spending made up a massive 61.0% of exports in the country. This stunning growth can be attributed, in part, to Ethiopia’s improved connectivity as a regional transport hub and to recent visa relaxation policies.

South Africa’s decline is particularly stark when viewed next to the fact that travel and tourism in Africa is booming, growing 5.6% in 2018 compared to the global average of 3.9% and the broader African economy rate of 3.2%. This places Africa as the second-fastest growing tourism region behind only Asia-Pacific.

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