CAPE TOWN, May 17 (Xinhua) -- The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Africa declined by 17 percent last year, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Thursday.
He did not elaborate on why fewer Chinese tourists visited South Africa. But strict visa requirements and security concerns are believed to be the main factors that discourage Chinese tourists from visiting the country.
"One of the most effective ways to increase tourist arrivals is to make it easier for people to travel to our country," Hanekom said in his Budget Vote Speech in Parliament.
India, which is one of South Africa's top 10 source markets, hardly grew at all, the minister said.
This was disturbing although the number of tourists from other countries grew, he said.
"If we are serious about doubling our numbers, we will have to find ways to make it easier for travellers to visit our country," Hanekom said.
During the period, visitors from North America grew by over 7 percent, Germany by 12 percent, France by 27 percent, and Brazil by 75 percent, according to Hanekom.
A simple analysis of the arrival figures for 2017 shows that while visitor numbers from visa exempt countries grew impressively, the opposite is true for visa requiring countries.
In 2017, after the decision that visas would no longer be required for Russian tourists, Russian visitors increased by 52 percent, according to Hanekom.
"In sharp contrast to this, after we imposed a visa requirement on New Zealand, the numbers dropped by 24 percent," he said.
Last year 10.3 million tourists visited South Africa. Overseas arrivals grew year on year by 7.6 percent, according to Hanekom.
Tourism is now the world's fastest growing industry with over 1.3 billion people travelling internationally. In South Africa tourism has outpaced other sectors, contributing about 9 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product.
With 1.6 million people employed across the value chain, tourism stands out as a beacon of hope for the millions of people who are without jobs and incomes, Hanekom said.