Tourism has been identified as one of the key economic sectors with excellent potential for growth.
The Department of Tourism aims to increase the industry's
contribution to the economy from R189 billion in 2009 to
R499 billion by 2020.
The department aims to increase the number of foreign
tourist arrivals from seven million in 2009 to 15 million by
2020 and the number of domestic tourists from 14,6 million
to 18 million. It is expected to create some 225 000 new jobs
There were 3,7 million travellers (a 2% increase) moving
in and out of South Africa in December 2011, compared to
the same period in 2010. Of these, over 2,5 million were
foreigners and 1,2 million were locals. These numbers include
both arrivals and departures.
The majority of visitors came from Southern African
Development Community countries, but there was also
steady inflow from the United Kingdom, the United States of
America and Germany.
Most of the movement into and out of the country was
through OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg;
Cape Town International Airport; the Beit Bridge border post
between South Africa and Zimbabwe; the Lebombo border
post into Mozambique; Ficksburg and Maseru Bridge into
Lesotho; Oshoek and Golela into Swaziland; and Kopfontein
and Ramatlabama into Botswana.
South Africa's tourism sector will be boosted significantly
by the 200 international events confirmed to take place in
the country over the next five years, which include meetings
and conferences that are expected to attract about 300 000
delegates. The potential economic impact of these meetings and conferences is expected to be R1,6 billion. The country's
major cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban
will host most of the upcoming meetings and conferences.
In March 2011, the Department of Tourism launched the
National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) [PDF].
The strategy is a sector-wide plan and includes deliverables for all major role players in the tourism sector. Its core objectives are to grow the tourism sector's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), achieve transformation, provide people development and decent jobs and entrench a culture of travel among South Africans.
The key focus areas of the NTSS are:
- arrivals – the strategy will direct the achievement of
increased numbers of tourists to South Africa by, among
other things, working towards increasing the number of
foreign tourist arrivals to 15 million in 2020
- GDP – the aim is to increase tourism's contribution to
the GDP from an estimated R189,4 billion in 2009 to
R499 billion by 2020
- job creation – the tourism sector is committed to consolidating
its efforts to create 225 000 jobs by 2020.
To achieve these three overarching objectives, the NTSS will
focus on the following:
- Domestic tourism development – The department and its
partners would like to promote a culture of travel among
South Africans. Through the NTSS, government aims to
increase the number of domestic trips from 30,9 million in
2009 to 54 million by 2020.
- Regional tourism development – It is becoming increasingly
important that South Africa continues with its visible contribution
to regional development, and the strategy is aimed
at growing the value of regional tourism by establishing
five South African Tourism (SAT) offices on the continent
by 2020. Statistics indicates that within Africa there are markets that South Africa has not taken full advantage of in
terms of the numbers of outbound tourists.
- Emerging markets – South Africa has joined the BRIC
countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), giving it
a competitive advantage on a number of economic
development endeavours. The number of outbound tourists
from these markets in 2010 was more than 5,4 million from
Brazil, more than 35 million from Russia, more than 12
million from India and more than 31 million from China.
- Business events – The emerging international approach
to growing tourism, and business tourism in particular,
is an increased focus on business events. Business
events include meetings, expos, incentives, congresses,
conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs. South Africa has
already secured 200 international conferences for the next five years, which is estimated to attract 300 000 delegates
and provide an economic boost of more than R1,6 billion.
Some of the programmes the department will implement in
its efforts to create a skills base and job opportunities for the
industry, especially for young people, are the:
- Chefs Youth Training Project, with an intake of 800
unemployed young people over a three-year period, and a
budget of R25 million for the first year.
- Hospitality Youth Initiative, which is a training and experiential
placement project for unemployed youth. The initial
target of 300 was increased to a total intake of 800. The
budget of R7 million was given additional funding of
- Tourism Buddies Youth Project, which is a tourism and
hospitality training and experiential placement programme
with a total intake of 975 youth to be trained nationally and
a budget of R39 million. The department is expecting to extend this nnual project to 2012/13 depending on its
performance, availability of funding and demand.
In September 2011, the Minister of Tourism, Mr Marthinus
van Schalkwyk, launched the National Minimum Standards
for Responsible Tourism in Knysna. Responsible tourism is
about creating better places for people to live in, and better
places to visit.
South Africa's natural environment is one of its greatest
tourism resources, and therefore the tourism industry needs
to be actively involved in conserving and rotecting it.
These standards serve to:
- establish a common understanding of the minimum criteria
for responsible tourism
- promote responsible tourism in the tourism sector, including
accommodation, hospitality and travel distribution
- establish the minimum criteria for certification of the
sustainability of organisations in the tourism sector.
In this regard, the Minister announced the establishment of
National Convention Bureau.
It is expected that this bureau will have a significant effect
in terms of, among other things, consolidating, coordinating
and strengthening the department's efforts to attract meetings
and conventions to South Africa. The bureau was established
under the auspices of SAT and became operational in April
- Foreign visitors should check before arriving whether a visa is required. Visas are free of charge.
- Visitors must have at least one blank page in their passports.
- Tourists must have return or onward tickets.
- Visitors from yellow-fever areas must have proof of inoculation.
- Foreign tourists may have their value-added tax refunded upon departure.
- For safety, emergency and other information, tourists can phone 083 123 2345 (24 hours a day) when they are in South Africa.
Tourism in the provinces
The Western Cape continues to be one of the destinations most favoured by foreigners.
Some attractions in Cape Town are:
Table Mountain is a popular site for visitors and provides a majestic backdrop to the vibrant and friendly "Mother City". The top of the mountain can be reached by an ultramodern cableway.
Newlands is home to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
Cape Point, part of the Table Mountain National Park, offers many drives, walks, picnic spots and a licensed restaurant.
The park has a marine protected area encompassing almost 1 000 km2.
Hout Bay is well known for its colourful working harbour, seafood outlets, round-the-bay trips to the nearby seal island, and a harbour-front emporium that attracts many visitors.
The wine routes outside Cape Town offer the chance to taste first-class wines in arguably the most beautiful winelands in the world.
Superb accommodation is available in historic towns such as Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, as well as on many
estates and farms.
The Garden Route has well-developed tourist infrastructure, spectacular scenery and a temperate climate, making the region popular all year round.
Not to be missed
- The city of George is at the heart of the Garden Route and the mecca of golf in the southern Cape. It is home to the renowned Fancourt Country Club and Golf Estate.
- Knysna, nestling on an estuary, is one of South Africa's favourite destinations, famous for its indigenous forests, lakes and beaches.
- Just 29 km from Oudtshoorn, the ostrich-feather capital of the world, at the start of the Cango Valley lie the Cango Caves, the only show caves in Africa that offer a choice of tours in various languages. The remarkable caves are a series of 30 spectacular subterranean limestone caverns. The cave system is 5,3 km long.
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The Central Karoo forms part of one of the world's most interesting and unique arid zones. This ancient, fossil-rich land, with the richest desert flora in the world, also has the world's largest variety of succulents.
Read more on Western Cape tourism.
- Matjiesfontein, a tiny railway village in the Karoo, offers tourists a peek into the splendour of colonial Victorian South Africa.
- Prince Albert is a well-preserved town, which nestles at the foot of the Swartberg mountains. The Fransie Pienaar Museum offers interesting cultural-history displays, a fossil room and an exhibit of gold-mining activities in the 19th century.
- The museum in Beaufort West, birthplace of heart surgeon Prof. Chris Barnard, depicts the story of the world's first heart transplant. The Karoo National Park on the outskirts of the town is also worth a visit.
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The Augrabies Falls National Park, with its magnificent falls pressing through a narrow rock ravine, remains the main attraction of the Northern Cape. Game drives reveal a variety of birdlife and animals such as klipspringer, steenbok, wild cats and otters.
- The Kimberley Mine Museum is South Africa's largest full-scale open-air museum. Underground mine tours are a big attraction. The Freddy Tate Golf Museum at the Kimberley Golf Club was the first golfing museum in Africa. The Kimberley Ghost Trail has become a popular tourist attraction.
- The Robert Sobukwe House in Galeshewe was once the residence of Robert Sobukwe, an important figure in South African history and a major role player in the rise of African political consciousness.
- The Orange River Wine Cellars Coop in Upington offers wine-tastings and cellar tours. The South African Dried Fruit Cooperative is the second-largest in the world.
- Moffat's Mission in Kuruman is a tranquil place, featuring the house of missionary Robert Moffat, whose son-in-law was explorer David Livingstone.
- Namaqualand, the land of the Nama and San people, puts on a spectacular show in spring when its floral splendour covers vast tracts of desert in a riot of colour.
- A cultural centre at Wildebeestkuil outside Kimberley features !Xun and Khwe artwork for sale and a tour of rock engravings by these indigenous people.
- The 100-m high, 9-km long and 2-km wide white sand dune at the Witsand Nature Reserve near Postmasburg should not be missed.
Read more on Northern Cape tourism.
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In the capital, Bloemfontein, the Eerste Raadsaal (First Parliament Building) was built in 1849 as a school and is the city's oldest surviving building that is still in its original condition. It is still used as the seat of the Provincial Legislature.
The National Women's Memorial is a sandstone obelisk, 36,5 m high, which commemorates the women and children who died in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer/South African War.
- Clarens is surrounded by spectacular scenery and boasts many art galleries.
- The Golden Gate Highlands National Park outside Clarens has beautiful sandstone rock formations.
- The King's Park Rose Garden in Bloemfontein boasts more than 4 000 rose bushes.
- The Vredefort Dome, a world heritage site, is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world. It was formed about two billion years ago when a giant meteorite hit Earth.
Read more on the Free State tourism.
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The Eastern Cape is the only province in South Africa, and one of the few places on Earth, where all seven biomes (major vegetation types) converge.
What to see and do
- The rugged beauty of the Wild Coast, including Hole-inthe-Wall.
- Port Elizabeth, the sunshine capital of the Eastern Cape, with its friendly people and excellent beaches.
- The Red Location Museum of the People's Struggle in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth – winner of several international awards.
- The Tsitsikamma National Park (now part of the Garden Route Park), and forests and rivers in the area.
- East London, South Africa's only river port, originally established as a supply port to serve the British military headquarters at King William's Town.
- The village of Qunu, where former President Mandela grew up and which now features the Nelson Mandela Museum.
- The world's highest bungee jump (216 m) at the Bloukrans Bridge over the Storms River.
- Varied game reserves, including:
Read more on Eastern Cape Tourism and Eastern Cape parks.
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Limpopo is well endowed with cultural diversity, historical sites and tourist attractions, and is an excellent destination for get-away-from-it-all luxury holidays in the bush.
Not to be missed
- The Mokopane vicinity has several nature reserves. The
Arend Dieperink Museum offers a fine cultural-historical
collection, while the Makapan caves are famous for their
fossils. The Makapan Valley is the only cultural-heritage
site of its kind. It reflects the history of the Ndebele people
and resistance wars dating back 151 years. The fossil
hominid sites of Sterkfontein include Makapan Valley.
- With its outstanding game reserves, the Thabazimbi district
is one of the fastest-growing ecotourism areas in South
- Bela-Bela is well known among South Africans, and
increasingly foreigners, for its hot-water springs, fun water
slides and scenery.
- The Waterberg mountain range is rich in indigenous trees,
streams, springs, wetlands, birdlife and dramatic vistas.
- The Modjadji Nature Reserve, north of Tzaneen, is named
after the legendary Rain Queen, Modjadji, who inspired
Rider Haggard's She.
- Phalaborwa has one of the country's top-rated golf courses – just watch out for animals on the fairways.
- The Schoemansdal Voortrekker Town and Museum, a short
drive west of Makhado, are built on the site of an original
Voortrekker village and depict their lifestyle in the mid-18th century.
- The Big Tree in the Mutale district is one of the largest
known baobabs in southern Africa.
Read more on Limpopo tourism and parks.
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The province abounds with attractions, including wild animals
and fun nights at the famous Sun City and Lost City resorts, which offer, among other things, gambling, golf and an artificial
- The Historic Route of Mafikeng includes the town of Mafikeng, which was besieged by the Boers during the
Anglo-Boer/South African War.
- The Groot Marico region, mampoer (moonshine) country, is
associated with author Herman Charles Bosman.
- The Hartbeespoort Dam and surrounds are popular for
weekend outings, yachting and golf.
- The Pilanesberg National Park supports over 7 000 head of
game, including the Big Five, and 350 bird species.
- The Taung Skull Fossil Site is an extension of the
Sterkfontein hominid sites. The site marks the place where the celebrated Taung skull – a specimen of the species
Australopithecus africanus – was found in 1924.
- Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa's largest
game reserves, is home to 66 large mammal species,
including the Big Five, and about 300 resident and migrant
More on North West tourism.
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Mpumalanga – the place where the sun rises – lies in the north-eastern part of South Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the east and the Kingdom of Swaziland to the south-east. Scenic beauty and wildlife are abundant.
- Historical sites and villages, old wagon routes and monuments
mark the lives of the characters who came to Mpumalanga seeking their fortune. The town of Pilgrim's Rest is a living
monument reflecting the region's gold-fever period.
- The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve near Graskop
has striking rock formations and a rich diversity of plants.
- Within the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, the Bourke's
Luck potholes were formed by river erosion and the action of
flood water. The spectacular Blyde River Canyon is a 26-km
long gorge carved out of the face of the escarpment. It is the
world's third-largest canyon and the only green canyon.
- The region includes the southern section of the Kruger
National Park, which draws a million visitors yearly.
- An annual frog-watching festival is held at Chrissiesmeer,
South Africa's largest freshwater lake.
- Dullstroom is popular with trout- and fly-fishing enthusiasts.
Read more on Mpumalanga tourism.
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Gauteng, the economic heart of southern Africa, offers a
vibrant business environment and many tourist attractions,
including a rainbow of ecological and cultural diversity.
- The Vaal Dam covers some 300 km2 and is a popular venue
for water sport. Numerous resorts line the shore. The dam
is also popular with birders and anglers.
- The Sterkfontein caves near Krugersdorp are the site of the
discovery of the skull of the famous Mrs Ples, an estimated
2,5-million-year-old hominid fossil; and Little Foot, an
almost complete hominid skeleton of more than 3,3 million
- The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden has a 70-m
high waterfall, stunning indigenous plant displays and a
breeding pair of black eagles.
- There is a ring of hills a kilometre in diameter and 100 m
high just 40 km north of Pretoria. These hills are the walls
of the Tswaing Meteorite Crater, left by an asteroid 200 000
- The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria is considered
one of the 10 best in the world.
- The Constitution Hill Precinct is set to become one of South Africa's most popular landmarks.
- The old mining town of Cullinan is where the world's biggest
diamond, the 3 106-carat Cullinan diamond, was found.
- A guided tour of Soweto leaves a lasting impression of this
vast community's life and struggle against apartheid.
- The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg tells the story
of the legacy of apartheid through photographs, film and
- The Union Buildings in Pretoria was the venue for the
inauguration of presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki
and Jacob Zuma.
Read more on Gauteng tourism.
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Also known as the Zulu Kingdom, KwaZulu-Natal is a
combination of natural wonders, fascinating culture and ultramodern
Durban's Golden Mile skirts the main beaches of the Indian
Ocean. Drawcards include an amusement centre, paddling
pools, paved walkways and fountains.
- The uShaka Marine World theme park comprises an
oceanarium, dolphinarium and oceanographic research
institute situated on Durban's Point.
- Spot dolphins or laze the days away on the coastline between the Umdloti and Tugela rivers – the Dolphin Coast.
- The Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, one of the largest game parks in South Africa, is home to the Big Five, as well as cheetah and wild dogs.
- The eMakhosini Valley, birthplace of King Shaka, and
the Valley of Zulu Kings give visitors insight into the Zulu nation's history and culture.
- The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of the highest
forested dunes in the world, and has an abundance of fish
- The Royal Natal National Park offers many scenic
highlights, including the Amphitheatre, Mont-aux-Sources
and the Tugela falls.
- The Battlefields Route in northern KwaZulu-Natal has the
highest concentration of battlefields and related military
sites in South Africa.
- Every year around June or July, millions of sardines leave
their home on the Agulhas banks and move up to the coast
of Mozambique. Thousands of dolphins, Cape gannets,
sharks and game fish follow the "sardine run" northwards.
Read more about KwaZulu-Natal tourism.
Things to see and do in South Africa
Just a few of the attractions that make South Africa an
- breathtaking Cape Town with its laid-back, welcoming
attitude and vibrant nightlife, nestling at the foot of Table
- Cape Point
- the delights of Sun City and the Lost City, and many
other first-rate casino resorts walking in the spectacular Drakensberg mountains
- the chance to learn how to say "hello" in the country's 11
- the country's Blue Flag beaches
- the variety of national parks and transfrontier conservation
- eight world heritage sites
- the lilac-breasted roller, the blue crane and the other 900
bird species to be spotted in southern Africa
- the Big Five and other wild animals found in the many parks
and game reserves
- the strange halfmens (half-human) and the exotic
baobab, just some of South Africa's many amazing trees
- battlefields on which imperial Britain fought Zulus,
Xhosas and Boers
- the dazzling floral displays which carpet Namaqualand
- the mountains, forests and beaches of the Garden Route
- the silence and solitude of the Karoo's wide-open spaces
- country hospitality (and home cooking) in hundreds of
picturesque towns and villages across South Africa
- the endless golden beaches of the Eastern Cape
- fly-fishing in stunning scenery with first-class accommodation
- fabulous golf courses that produced the likes of Gary
Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen
- an array of cultural villages, arts festivals, rock paintings
- the adrenaline rush of the many adventure-tourism
opportunities available in the country.
World heritage sites
South Africa has eight world heritage sites, namely:
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