Cape Town – South Africa’s tourism sector expects strong growth in 2016 after some strict new visa rules that reduced the number of arrivals in the previous year were lifted, the Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Tuesday.
The African country had relaxed some of the visa rules it introduced in October 2014, dropping a requirement for visitors to apply for visas in person at South African embassies.
Hanekom told parliament that “in January, over one million tourists arrived in South Africa, 15 per cent more than in January last year.
“February brought an incredible 18 per cent increase.”
The minister added that while the Chinese market was showing signs of recovery, obtaining visas in India still took too long.
South Africa’s tourism sector is considered as one of the main drivers of employment and economic growth in that country.
Sandy white beaches, rolling vineyards and attractions like Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Robben Island, where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela spent nearly two decades in jail, draw visitors from all over the world.
According to the National Treasury, tourism’s direct contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) was 103.6 billion rand ($7.15 billion) in 2013, about 2.9 per cent of GDP.
The sector directly employs 655,609 people or 4.4 per cent of total employment.
“Tourism is recovering rapidly from last year’s decline. 2016 promises to be a year of strong growth for tourism in South Africa,” Hanekom said. (Reuters/NAN)