UNWTO statistics show that Africa (+8%) enjoyed a strong rebound in 2016 after two troubled years, adding 4 million arrivals to reach 58 million. Sub-Saharan Africa (+11%) led growth, while a gradual recovery started in North Africa (+3%). The Middle East received 54 million international tourist arrivals in 2016. Arrivals decreased an estimated 4% with mixed results among the region’s destinations.


The United Arab Emirates saw a rise in all key visitor markets in 2016, with India still topping the list and Saudis in second position in terms of visitor numbers to Dubai. The biggest rise in percentage terms was from Chinese visitors, up 20% year-on-year to 540,000, now in 7th place.


A weak Rand in 2016 combined with simplified conditions to obtain a tourist visa had a positive impact for tourism in South Africa last year. The country saw tourist arrivals jumping by double digit figures and surpassing the 10-million visitors’ mark.

2015 had been a bad year for tourism activities in South Africa as total arrivals of overseas tourists fell from 9.5 million in 2014 to 8.9 million in 2015. However, 2016 has seen a wave of optimism with a welcome turn around. According to the latest release from South Africa Office of Statistics (Stats SA), total arrivals to the country passed the 10-million mark, representing a growth of 12.8%. Arrivals from Overseas markets progressed even stronger, jumping by 18% compared to 2015 to reach a total of 2.53 million travellers. Europe remains South Africa largest overseas source with a market share of 61% – equivalent to over 1.5 million visitors.

According to Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, the more than encouraging figure relies on a few positive factors: the weak rand currency – it stood last year on average at ZAR16 to 17 for one Euro and at ZAR15 to 16 to one US dollar, the end of the Ebola disease from the African continent and last but not least the easing of visa restrictions, had all positive effects.

In 2015, South Africa new visa regulations indeed caused an industry storm, as embassies and consulates required that prospective tourists submit travel documents in person as well as unabridged birth certificates for children travelling with them. Some 20,000 travellers were consequently denied aircraft boarding on their way to South Africa while the effect on potential travellers was obvious, especially for China and India.

Photo: Wadi Bani Khalid, Sharqiyah region, Muscat, Oman © Richard Bartz