Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom. Picture: SOWETAN
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom. Picture: SOWETAN

Tourism minister Derek Hanekom is bullish about the prospects for overseas tourism in 2019 now that the drought in Cape Town is over and the restrictive travel requirements for minors have been eased for some countries.

These two factors will probably result in no growth in overseas tourist arrivals in 2018 compared to 2017, the minister said in an interview on Friday. This was the trend until the end of October for which there were statistics, while industry sources have indicated that overseas tourist arrivals in November and December had been fair, but not exceptional.

The stagnant growth in 2018 comes despite the extremely strong increase in tourist numbers from Brazil and Argentina during the year, as well as increases from the US and Canada. Without the drought, there would have been even higher growth from these countries, Hanekom said.

In 2017 overseas tourist arrivals grew by 7.2% to 2.7-million.

Hanekom said that a concerted drive will be made in 2019 to increase the number of tourists from India and China, as both countries offer huge growth prospects but had performed sluggishly in the recent past. He was positive about future trends, but warned that the 2019 national and provincial elections could put a slight damper on this.

The drought in Cape Town, and especially the doomsday warnings about “day zero” caused many tourists to stay away this year, as did the onerous requirements for unabridged birth certificates for minors travelling to SA.

“The drought affected, in quite a big way, the numbers of people coming to Cape Town, including those coming from high-sending countries mostly in Europe, such as the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and a few others. It was quite dramatic in the second half of this year,” Hanekom said.

The onerous requirements for documents for children were lifted by way of regulations published in the government gazette with effect from December 1.

The relaxation, however, only applies to foreign travelers coming to SA with children from visa-exempt countries, such as the UK, US, France, Germany, and not South Africans travelling abroad. The requirement for unabridged birth certificates will still be in place for minors travelling with adults from countries for which visas are required.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za