South Africa: Major factor for the country

Tourism - including MICE - accounts for almost one in ten jobs in the rainbow nation. And this figure is set to increase over the next few years.

Rainbow nation South Africa. (Photo: South African Tourism)
Rainbow nation South Africa. (Photo: South African Tourism)

South Africa celebrates 25 years of democracy in 2019. This was a milestone, which also paved the way to a booming tourism industry. In 1993, South Africa received only 3.4 million tourists, contributing 4.6 percent to the national economy. The number of international arrivals has tripled since then, reaching 10.47 million in 2018. Taking the entire value chain into account, the total contribution of the travel industry amounts to 12.5 billion rand (800 million euros or 8.9 per cent of the gross domestic product). Recently, tourism directly and indirectly supported around 1.5 million jobs, 9.5 percent of total employment. By 2028 the number is expected to grow to 2.1 million jobs. The MICE sector also contributes increasingly to direct and indirect employment with trade fairs, congresses and corporate events becoming ever more popular.

South Africa is ideal for incentives - if only because of its magnificent landscape. Safaris, excursions to the wine-growing region around Stellenbosch and other spectacular options are possible. This is where MICE tourism and “normal” tourism come together. 25 years after the end of apartheid, South Africa has first-class offerings and intends to significantly increase the number of tourist arrivals from Europe and other countries in the future. South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom believes his country is well prepared for further growth. “Since 1994, ten UNESCO world heritage sites, seven new national parks and three cross-border protected areas have been created,” says Hanekom. “At 25.1 million units we offer a wide array of accommodation options.” They range from first-class luxury hotels through charming bed & breakfasts to hostels for backpackers. South Africa also boasts a good reachability, the minister points out. “More than 40 international airlines fly to South Africa in addition to our national carrier South African Airways.” 

South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom believes his country is well prepared for further growth. (Photo: South African Tourism)
South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom believes his country is well prepared for further growth. (Photo: South African Tourism)

The safety of international guests was and still is an issue. Potential (MICE) visitors often feel uneasy as a result. Derek Hanekom underlines that these fears are being taken seriously. The South African government is continuously working to make the country even safer. This includes special plans for popular holiday regions, including the use of 1,450 safety monitors. At the same time, he stresses that the tourist hotspots are safe in every respect. They include the Kruger National Park, Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island and the Drakensberg Mountains, to name but a few - and of course the event centres. Minister Hanekom offers a positive outlook: “I am confident that we will lay the foundation for solid and sustainable growth in 2019,” he emphasises. “My aim is to strengthen the cooperation between the public and private sectors.” That would boost tourism and thus create the jobs the country so urgently needs. The South African Tourism Board ( is in charge of marketing South Africa world-wide as a tourist destination.

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 2/2019


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