Overseas Arrivals to South Africa (Jan to April 2017 vs Jan to April 2018)

The halcyon days of strong international arrivals in 2016 and 2017 are a distant memory. Most SATSA members are reporting a marked decline in business going forward. The official arrival stats are in for January to April this year compared with 2017. Overseas arrivals are down 1,5%. Our largest market, the United Kingdom is down 5%. Germany, which has shown incredibly robust growth over the past two years, is now in the red – down by 0,16%. Please see table for selected markets.


Interestingly our main long-haul competitor, Australia, continues to show impressive growth, off a much higher base (they get three times the arrivals we do – and have a stronger exchange rate) – overseas arrivals are up by 6,2%.

While historical data is useful, it is far more interesting to look ahead. SATSA, through our strong partnership with WESGRO, can make available results from a survey we undertook with 18 leading hotel groups and DMCs earlier this year in March. The consensus was between a 30 – 50% decline in forward bookings to September 2018.

We are also able to share with members some data from ForwardKeys, which tracks forward bookings into Cape Town. Given that most tourists include Cape Town on their itineraries, this offers a good proxy and barometer of the country’s forward bookings. What makes this data particularly useful is it differentiates between key source markets.

Bookings are down 8% for July, flat for August, 1% up for September, down 4% for both October and November and a worrying 9% down for December. Please click here  for more detailed graphs.

Why is this of value? Many businesses tend to operate in their own space. When the going is good, all is well. However, when the numbers start to tank, it is vital that you are able to situate your business in the industry context. Some companies have external shareholders and it is useful to be able to present an industry perspective to these constituencies.

The fact that the water crisis messaging went viral internationally at the peak booking decision time in our main source markets of North America and Europe in January to March, was a key driver in the decline we’re now experiencing. This was compounded by negative messaging around Listeriosis and the ‘land grab’ question. Underpinning these is a continuing strong Rand. The US dollar has appreciated 11,6% in the period April 2017 to April 2018. This puts even more focus on working with our government partners to synergise our respective resources and to remove self-imposed barriers to growth.

We will continue to push for these.

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