"Last year we grew at more than double the world average - 10.5 percent for January to November 2012, compared to a global average growth of four percent," he said at an awards ceremony in New York, according to a copy of his speech.
"With growth rates of more than double the world average and quadruple the world average if one takes overseas visitors into account, we can look back very favourably on 2012."
He said tourism remained stable in South Africa in the midst of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis.
"South Africa is indeed a unique and varied destination which offers tourist experiences that suit every taste and budget," Van Schalkwyk said.
"Visitors to South Africa stand in awe of how much this country has to offer, which includes the variety of experiences, the value for money, our world-class tourism infrastructure, and of course our culturally-diverse people."
He said 2013 was a special year for South Africa, as it had entered its 20th year of democracy.
"Irrespective of what news agencies may tell you, South Africa still remains a story of hope, a story of inspiration, and a story of the future," Van Schalkwyk said.
"That's why more and more people want to come to our country and see it for themselves."