Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Tourist arrivals to South Africa increased 10.4% between January and October last year compared with the same period in 2011, helped by a growing number of German visitors, according to the Department of Tourism.

Germany was one of the key traditional overseas markets for travel to South Africa, with the US and the UK at the top of the pile, the department said.

Over the 10-month period, 7.5m tourists arrived compared with 6.8m for the same period in 2011. The number of German tourists increased 12.2% to 204,247.

Tourism has been identified by the government as one of six priority sectors to achieve economic growth and attract investment, and South Africa intends to attract 15m arrivals a year by 2020 to grow tourism’s contribution to the economy and job creation.

The department has also targeted emerging economies to develop South Africa’s tourism base.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said last month that the government wanted to grow the number of tourists from India to more than 100,000 per year by 2014 from the 79,000 who visited between January and September last year.

Meanwhile, in January, Mr van Schalkwyk said the number of inbound tourists from China grew 63.5% between January and September last year, and the world’s second-largest economy was now South Africa’s fourth-biggest overseas tourist market.

Over the nine-month period, 96,747 Chinese tourists travelled to South Africa.

Mr van Schalkwyk said during his visit to the ITB trade show in Berlin on Wednesday that positive growth from the traditional markets, and from Europe in particular, "gives us confidence that the work we are doing to grow tourist arrivals is paying dividends".

"South Africa has every reason to feel confident about the state of its tourism industry," he said. "Credit should go to the tourism industry for creatively and constructively working together to grow tourism to South Africa. It is also important that we ensure that every new tourist who arrives in our country is given the best possible experience, as word of mouth remains one of our most important marketing tools."

Mr van Schalkwyk said the growth of arrivals from Germany needed to be maintained.

To inspire and motivate German travellers, South African Tourism continued to intensify its marketing initiatives with German tour operators, and approached travel agents individually to educate them about the destination, he said.