Tourism numbers to rebound
THE NUMBER of Chinese visitors to the Western Cape is expected to increase again next year, following the relaxation of stringent visa requirements that saw arrivals fall by a third.
James Milne of Wesgro, the province’s trade promotion agency, said that after meeting 20 major Chinese tourism operators at a networking event in Beijing, their response to the changes had been “very positive”. Milne was in China as part of a trade delegation.
Late last month, the government announced it was scrapping the mandatory unabridged birth certificate requirement for foreign visitors travelling with children, in an effort to boost arrival numbers. It would also set up biometric testing at airports. The change was welcomed by Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde, whose portfolio includes tourism. Winde said at the time the revisions would “go some way to reversing the downward trends we’ve seen”.
While the change was also welcomed by the local tourism industry, members have since grumbled about the slow pace of implementing the new regulations.
The number of Chinese travellers visiting the province took two big hits in the past two years, with the first caused by last year’s Ebola outbreak in west Africa. While no cases were reported in southern Africa, the disease led to a 31 percent drop in Chinese visitor numbers, as travellers chose to avoid the continent.
According to South African Tourism, while 70 295 Chinese travellers (including from Hong Kong) visited the province in 2013, only 48 365 came last year. And the figures for this year are equally grim, having decreased due to the need for unabridged birth certificates for people travelling with children: only 17 282 Chinese visitors came to the Western Cape in the first six months of the year.
Numbers from Asian countries also declined, including from South Korea. Some 3 350 Koreans visited the province last year, a 28 percent decline from 2013, when 4 640 were recorded.