Domestic tourism down as economy droops

Statistics SA statistician general Pali Lehohla.
Statistics SA statistician general Pali Lehohla.

Cape Town – A reprioritisation of consumer spending and economic stagnation has resulted in a decline in domestic tourism in the past two years, Statistics South Africa said on Monday.

Figures for domestic tourism within the borders of South Africa in 2016, announced by statistician general Pali Lehohla, show the total number of day trips undertaken dropped from 44.3 million in 2015 to 39.4 million in 2016.

Similarly, overnight trips declined from 45.4 million in 2015 to 43 million in 2016.

The highest number of trips took place in December.

Lehohla pointed out that a rise in unemployment and poverty in the past few years has had an impact on travel in the country.

Unemployment climbed from 4.4 million in 2008 to 6.2 million in 2017; if discouraged work seekers are taken into account, this figure is over 9 million.

In addition, about 13.8 million South Africans were living below the food poverty line in in 2015.

Total spending on day trips fell from R25bn in 2015 to R23bn. Spending on overnight trips, however, increased in the period – from R62bn in 2015 to R63bn in 2016. This was largely driven by increased spending in the higher living standard grouping, as individuals from lower living standard groups were feeling the pinch, Lehohla said.

The biggest spending during day trips was recorded in Gauteng, while the highest overnight expenditure took place in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Another trend Stats SA identified in the survey was that most tourists and travellers used unpaid accommodation when travelling and stayed with friends and relatives. More than 80% of overnight travellers stayed at their destination for an average of one week.

Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape were the most popular destinations for day travellers, while overnight tourists mostly visited Limpopo, Gauteng and KZN.

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