Xenophobia: Will South Africa Still Get Six Million African Tourists This Year?

Xenophobia: Will South Africa Still Get Six Million African Tourists This Year?

In the wake of xenophobic attacks in South Africa in April several countries have issued warnings to their citizens against traveling to the country. This, experts say, will hurt the country’s tourism sector that support one in every half-a-dozen jobs.

Xenophobic attacks targeting African immigrants in Africa’s second largest economy, started in Durban and spread to the country’s business hub Johannesburg, killing at least seven people and displacing thousands from their homes.

In a similar wave of violence over 60 people were killed in 2008.

Unlike in 2008, this time African countries, which contribute six million out of about eight million tourists visiting South Africa each year, joined the UK, US, Australia and China in issuing travel advisories to the country.

African traveller

South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom is scheduled to African tourism ministers ahead of an international trade fair in the country, where he is widely expected to urge them to encourage their citizens to travel south.

According to government data, 9.5 million tourists came to South Africa in 2013 with those from African countries accounting for seven in every ten visitors.

In December 2014 alone, nearly 700,000 African tourists came to holiday in the country, compared to about 150,000 travelers from Europe, 32,000 from North America and 16,000 from Asia.

Source: Statistics South Africa
Source: Statistics South Africa

“South Africa will be hurt economically even months after the wave of violence died down,” Isaac Matshego, an economist at Nedbank, told Xinhua.

Although on average African travelers’ spending power might not be as much as Americans’ or Europeans’, their sheer numbers compensate for what they lack in terms of spending nights in top rated rooms at four and five star hotels.

With Xenophobic attackers targeting this African demographic their numbers are likely to dwindle this year.

Twice Bitten

Already Mozambique has said it will boycott this year’s Tourism Indaba which starts in Durban on Saturday, after one of their citizen, Emmanuel Sithole, was brutally killed on camera in Alexandra township, near Sandton.

Sithole’s killing brought home the horror of the attacks to the world. Another Mozambican, Ernesto Nhaumauve, was the face of the xenophobic attacks in 2008, when he was beaten, stabbed and set alight in Ramaphosa informal settlement.

Some delegates from other African countries as well as the US and UK have also cancelled their bookings, citing fear for xenophobic attacks, Xinhua reported.

According to a statement released by the North West University, South Africa’s reputation as “an idyllic and historically significant destination has suffered” a serious dent due to lack of progress on socioeconomic issues‚ coupled with a high unemployment rate and poor service delivery.

“The picture painted by reports such as the GPI [Global Peace Index] and global news coverage about the recent xenophobic attacks …  has made SA exceedingly difficult to market as an inviting tourist destination‚” the university said.