In December, when compared to the previous year’s figures, arrivals for foreign travellers dropped by a staggering 82.1%
THE COVID-19 pandemic has had such a severe impact on tourism that authorities say visitor numbers dwindled to figures similar to 30 years ago when South Africa barely registered on the international travel map.
Meanwhile, SA Tourism said 50,000 tourism businesses had either temporarily or permanently closed.
The latest report released by Statistics SA into traveller movements showed that for December, when compared to the previous year’s figures, arrivals for foreign travellers dropped by a staggering 82.1% from more than 1.5 million in 2019 to about 280,000.
Numbers of South Africans travelling in and out of the country also declined, with arrivals of locals dropping by 76.3% and departures decreasing by 78.3%.
Stats SA’s report showed that the tourist accommodation industry decreased by 57.7% in December compared to the previous year. About 935,085 local and foreign travellers passed through the country’s entry points.
Management at the Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) indicated that for December, 403,506 domestic travellers and 49,415 international travellers were processed. Of the international travellers, just over 30,000 were arrivals and 19,116 were departing.
January figures did not see significant changes other than showing 21,102 passengers leaving the country and 11,290 arriving.
“Our passenger numbers showed promising signs of recovery at the start of December. The second Covid-19 wave, new restrictions and the new variant here and across the world slowed passenger movements and airlines reduced flights, cancelled or suspended operations,” said CTIA’s acting general manager, Mark Maclean.
But he remained hopeful.
“The continued easing of restrictions and the vaccination drive across the world will continue to stimulate air travel. We continue to work with all our partners and stakeholders to ensure that we remain ready to welcome passengers back to our airport and city and that we remain a preferred destination.”
While airlines like Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have temporarily suspended their services, Qatar Airways recently announced that they would be increasing flight frequency to seven weekly flights out of Cape Town to Doha.
Speaking at the launch of a new project to entice travellers to visit South Africa this week, SA Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona said a lot needed to be done to revive the industry.
Ntshona said nearly 50,000 tourism businesses had either temporarily or permanently closed.