South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says despite the trying economic times, South Africa continues to attract record numbers of tourists into the country.
“It goes without saying that as we move forward, one of the major attraction for tourists is our national parks, nature reserves and marine protected areas,” the Minister said.
Speaking at the SANParks Tourism Investment Summit held in Sandton, Minister Molewa said the tourism sector is not just a major contributor towards the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP), but it is also a source of investment and job creation, especially in the rural areas.
Earlier this year, the Department of Tourism said the number of tourists arriving in South Africa every month has shot through the one million mark for the first time since 2009.
In January this year, 1, 012, 641 tourists arrived in South Africa, 15.4 per cent more than January last year. Month-to-month growth in arrivals began improving prospects for the sector in October last year.
“Our National Development Plan (NDP) highlights tourism as a sector where millions of jobs can be created, small businesses can be developed, and spin-off investments can take place as more and more tourists visit South Africa.
“We aim to focus our efforts on harnessing the potential of the sector, not only to increase its contribution to GDP growth, but also to enhance and develop the skills of those working in the tourism industry,” the Minister said.
In the 2016/17 financial year, six million people visited the 19 parks that are managed by SANParks.
In 2016, over 10 million tourist arrivals recorded in South Africa representing a 13 per cent increase from the previous year.
Minister Molewa said the National Parks don’t just play a conservation role, they also provide business and investment opportunities.
“These investment opportunities are part and parcel of our strategy for the sustainable financing of our national parks. The returns from SANParks’ tourism arm are significant contributors to the sustainability of its conservation activities,” Minister Molewa said.
Minister Molewa explained that the NDP calls for emphasis to be placed on increasing the number of tourists entering the country.
Positive growth was recorded from all regions in January 2016, with arrivals from Asia improving by a staggering 45.6 per cent and overseas markets recording a total growth of 16.2 per cent , compared with arrivals in January 2015.