These are the countries where most of South Africa’s tourists are coming from right now

 ·19 Jun 2023

Tourism in South Africa is quickly accelerating back to pre-Covid 2019 levels, and while most of South Africa’s visitors are from neighbouring countries, as well as Germany and the United Kingdom, there has been an uptick in interest from Asian countries over the last couple of months.

According to the latest tourism data for the first quarter of 2023,  the number of international arrivals in the country compared to the same period in 2022 increased by 102.5%.

Although this increase is still considering the after-effects of the pandemic – with tourist numbers still 21.5% lower than in the same period in 2019 – minister of Tourism Patricia De Lille noted that the industry is gaining ground rapidly.

She noted that tourism brings large amounts of foreign income into the South African economy. Over the first quarter of this year, foreign direct spending soared to R25.3 billion – a 143.9% increase compared to Q1 2022.

Where South Africa’s tourists come from

According to the tourism data, the majority of international visitors were from Africa, with 1.6 million arrivals, followed by Europe, with 387,000 and the Americas, with 104,000 visitors.

“Tourists from Europe contributed the most spending of R10.8 billion, followed by Africa with a collective spend of R9.3 billion.”

“The overall foreign spending figure for Q1 this year is tantalizingly close to the R25.6 billion spent between January and March 2019 and showcases the industry’s unwavering resilience,” said the minister.

Bordering countries, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique, reflected impressive spending growth, reaching a total of R4.4 billion (50% higher than 2019) and R1.1 billion (12% higher than 2019), respectively.

Spending from UK visitors did, however, decrease by 27% to R3.2 billion, while visitors from the USA contributed R2.6 billion, a 28% increase from 2019.

The top source markets and travel trends, according to the department, included people visiting from the following countries in the first three months of this year:

  1. Zimbabwe
  2. Mozambique
  3. Lesotho
  4. Eswatini
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Germany
  7. USA
  8. Botswana
  9. Namibia
  10. Netherlands

Interestingly, during a parliamentary Q&A, the Department of Home Affairs was asked how many tourist visa applications it had received from 1 April to 11 May 2023 – revealing the countries with the most interest in travelling to South Africa.

According to the department, there have been 1,648 visa applications over the period. Of these visa applications, 1,535 were finalised.

Surprisingly, Asian countries – China, Pakistan, and India – saw the most applications, accounting for 35% of all finalised tourism visas between 1 April and 11 May.

China accounted for 12.8% of these applications, with 198 visas, Pakistan is second with 197 visas (12.7%), and India is third with 143 (9.3%).

The table below shows the top 20 countries and the total number of tourist visas issued over the period, as outlined by the Department of Home Affairs.

PositionCountryNo. of visas
1China 198
4United States92
6Saudi Arabia78
7United Kingdom63
9Russian Federation53
16Dem. Rep. of the Congo29

Read: Big jump in South Africans looking to emigrate – here’s why, and where they want to go

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter