A panel of 10 travel experts have told Britain’s Financial Times that South Africa is one of the destinations to watch in 2016, with several factors – the England cricket tour, more diverse destinations in the country, the upcoming release of a sequel to Nelson Mandela’s autobiography – pointing to heightened interest and tourism numbers.
The other areas around the world the newspaper’s panel said to watch included Sri Lanka, Peru, Kyrgyzstan, Greenland, Cuba and Brazil.
At the same time, a recent news report said that South Africa, which was long seen as a safari and beach destination, has become much more diversified.
“Traditionally, visitors have come for the wildlife, the natural beauty and the sunshine,” according to Patrick Collins on Moneyweb. “More recently, sports tourism and business tourism have taken hold as well.”
This week, for instance, the BMW South African Open kicks off the European Tour for 2016 in Johannesburg.
Adds Collins, “And, in the Western Cape, wine tourism is also quickly becoming a major attraction. The wine farms have always been there and people have always visited them to taste their produce, but more and more estates are appreciating that it need not end there.”
In its report, the Financial Times said, “The Ebola outbreak of 2014 devastated the travel industry across Africa, even in countries thousands of miles from the nearest case. ‘It cut our bookings in half — it was worse than the Gulf war, 9/11, anything we’ve had in the last 20 years,’ says Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa, a specialist that arranges holidays across the continent.
“2015 saw only modest recovery, with few operators on the ground investing in new camps or hotels, but the signs for the coming year are far more encouraging. Expert Africa reports a 45 percent increase in forward bookings compared with this point last year, driven in part by pent-up demand from people who cancelled trips in the second half of 2014 and 2015.
“Bookings for South Africa and Namibia are also being encouraged by the devaluation in the rand (to which the Namibian dollar is pegged): at the start of 2015 one pound sterling bought 17.5 rand; it now buys about 22.5 rand.
“’We did some calculations and found that, not including flights, costs on the ground are now the same as they were 10 years ago,” says McIntyre.
“The current England cricket tour could help inspire further interest, as will the publication by Pan MacMillan of the next part of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography (scheduled for 2016, though a date has yet to be announced).”
The Southern African Tourism Services Association said in a news report today that tourism figures to the country have been hit over the December peak season because of the recent visa regulations introduced by the government.
According to the report, the association, which represents inbound tourism services companies, said it had received information from the British press and some travellers who were turned away at various airports because they did not meet the visa requirements, particularly the birth certificate requirement.
In December, the Department of Home Affairs denied claims that several families a day were being turned away at foreign airports because of insufficient documentation required by the stringent new visa rules.