Hospitality and tourism in South Africa

Hotel School | 02 January 2013

While your noses are in-the-books, studying for your hospitality or tourism qualification, the last thing on your mind is probably how the hospitality and tourism industry is faring. But knowing a little of what’s happening in the industry can be useful when it comes to looking for tourism and hospitality employment opportunities.

South African Tourism © Eva Rinaldi I on Flickr

There’s no doubt that the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament was a milestone for the South African tourism and hospitality industry. Hotels were extended, infrastructure developed, and hospitality professionals were primed in preparation for this massive and historic event – and it paid off, with more than 300,000 tourists visiting South Africa during the World Cup!

Although many questioned whether this momentum could be sustained long-term and they proved to be right – for a time at least. But the good news is that hospitality and tourism is on the rise, which bodes well for the future.

A South African tourism snapshot

According to Statistics South Africa, nearly 8.4 million tourists came to South Africa in 2011, which is an increase of 3.3% on the previous year. Most tourists to South Africa – nearly 72% – hail from neighbouring Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.

Travelers from outside Africa make up 26% of visitors with the remaining numbers made up of travelers from non-SADC African countries. In the overseas tourist category, South Africa still draws most of our visitors from the USA and Europe – the UK and Germany in particular. However, visitors from China and India are rapidly increasing.

Given that the biggest tourist group comes from SADC countries, 70% of tourists’ enter South Africa via road with the remaining 30% by air travel. In addition to this, nearly 95% of visitors to South Africa are holiday makers, with the remaining 5% here for business or study purposes.

Kruger National Park © Krug6 I on Flickr

Top destinations in South Africa

The South African Yearbook says that the top South African tourists destinations are:

  • Cape Town
  • The Western Cape Wine Routes
  • The Garden Route
  • The Kruger National Park
  • Durban
  • KwaZulu-Natal Game Parks
  • Johannesburg
  • Mpumalanga

The average foreign tourist spends R8, 900.00 during their stay in South Africa. In addition to accommodation and food, tourists are spending their money on lifestyle, culture, and adventure-related activities – such as, safaris and golf – as well as shopping. African visitors to the country particularly enjoy shopping.

Is South African benefitting from tourism?

“Yes,” according to economist Kevin Lings , as recently quoted in the Business Day. He pointed out that the amount of cash received from tourism in 2012 had increased by R10.6 billion, or 14%, year on year which is a healthy situation in anyone’s books!

On the back of healthy numbers of tourists visiting the country, the hotel and hospitality industry is faring similarly well. In fact, the South African hospitality industry is doing better than that of America, Europe, and Asia. This is according to CEO of Pam Golding Hospitality, Joop Demes, in a recent interview with the Business Day. Says Demes, potential growth in Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) – how sales are measured – could be as much as 15%. Hotel room revenue is similarly expected to increase by 8.7%.

In a tough global economic climate, increases such as these are encouraging. While it’s generally accepted that there’s an oversupply of five-star hotels, particularly in Cape Town, opportunities exist in value-for-money hotels and guest houses in the most visited areas of the country, as well as eating establishments catering for Asian tourists, particularly Chinese and Indian travelers.

For those interested in looking further afield,” says Demes, “there are considerable hospitality opportunities in the rest of Africa, particularly for branded hotels and for developing affordable holiday resorts throughout the continent.”

Good news all round for hospitality graduates and aspiring hoteliers! 


hospitality and tourism
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hospitality graduates
Hospitality Industry
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South Africa's hotel industry
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