International tourist arrivals continue to increase in SA

white airplane parked during daytime, tourist arrivals
Photo by Anna Gru on Unsplash

International tourist arrivals from January to November 2023 totalled 7.6 million, representing a remarkable 51.8% increase when compared with the same period in 2022. 

This is according to the latest Statistics South Africa figures on international arrivals, which the Department of Tourism said shows the South African tourism sector’s rising momentum.

While recovery towards pre-COVID-19 numbers is encouraging, the department said this performance is 17.6% lower compared to the same period in 2019.

However, the department believes that South Africa remains an attractive destination for both domestic and international travellers. 

“The numbers show that the tourism sector is successfully driving travel to South Africa while shaping cultural exchanges and contributing to inclusive economic growth,” the department said.


During the first 11 months of 2023, South Africa welcomed 5.8 million visitors from the rest of Africa, marking a significant 75.5% of all arrivals, compared to the same period in 2022. 

Zimbabwe and Kenya stood out for their remarkable growth.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe saw an exceptional 77.5% increase in tourist arrivals, totalling 1.9 million, while Kenya recorded a 94.2% surge, reaching 37 414 arrivals for January to November this year compared to the same period last year.

Minister of Tourism, Patricia De Lille, noted Kenya’s remarkable performance, which could be attributed to the strategic decision by government to simplify the visa regime earlier this year as well, as targeted and effective insights-driven marketing campaigns. 

“Overall, through focused marketing, various collaborations and leveraging various strategic opportunities by the Department of Tourism, South African Tourism and the broader tourism sector, we have been able to achieve these very impressive results on the continent,” she said.


Tourist arrivals from the Americas this year registered at 411 254, reflecting a 44.1% growth compared to the same period in 2022. 

The United States contributed the most, with 320 948 arrivals, marking a 39.5% increase compared to the same period in 2022.

“The US remains a top international source market for South Africa and has been recording robust steady growth in arrivals in 2023.” 

Based on December projections, De Lille said they anticipate recording pre-pandemic arrivals, well ahead of the forecasted recovery mooted for the 2024/2025 financial year.  


With 1.1 million tourist arrivals, Europe contributed to 14.6% of the total arrivals, during the first 11 months of 2023. 

The data mark a 43.2% increase when compared to the same period last year.

The United Kingdom remains the top European source market, with 315 054 tourists choosing South Africa marking a 30.4% growth. 

Germany experienced a 47.9% increase in arrivals, amounting to 219 971 tourists, followed by the Netherlands, which saw an increase of 48.4% amounting to 117 948 tourist arrivals from this country. 

Meanwhile, the Minister said Russia exhibited a “dramatic” growth of 83.9%, contributing 25 116 arrivals.


In the same period, the Asian markets also showed significant growth, with a total 182 497 arrivals from the region, representing an astounding 72.6% when compared to the same period last year. 

In this region, India led the way with 73 037 tourists, a 46.3% growth, closely followed by China, which saw a massive 215.7% surge, amounting to 34 669 arrivals.

“The reopening of the Chinese market and the initiation of direct flight routes have catalysed a resurgence in arrivals, highlighting the vast potential and significance of this market to South African tourism,” the Minister said.

Middle East 

The Middle East saw a robust increase, with 51 779 arrivals in the same period – a 37.5% growth when compared to the same period in 2022. 

South Africa received 15 507 arrivals from Saudi Arabia, marking an increase of 40.9%. 

In addition, the United Arab Emirates showed a remarkable 114.2% growth, accounting for 6 360 arrivals.

“I am committed to working with all partners and government colleagues to unlock barriers such as visa regulations, safety concerns and limited air access and airlift so that we can grow our sector and meaningfully contribute to our country’s economy,” De Lille said.

SA Government Logo


All SA Government related articles on this website