Tourism remains key to South Africa's economic development strategy and the substantial growth in tourist arrivals is testament to how dedication to marketing Destination SA is paying off, says Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Tourist arrival figures have gone up by 14.8 per cent this year compared with 2015, Molewa said here Tuesday when she chaired a media briefing by the International Co-operation, Trade and Security cluster of ministries to give an update on the cluster's Programme of Action (PoA) to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP).

"Marketing South Africa as a premier domestic and international tourist destination has been central to our economic diplomacy efforts," Molewa said, adding that the improvement in tourism statistics had been attributed to the work of the country's more than 120 diplomatic missions, who worked together with Brand South Africa to improve the tourism arrival figures.

Statistics from the Department of Tourism in September showed that 822,416 tourist arrivals were recorded for July 2016, up by 89,525 tourist compared with the same month last year, bringing total tourist arrivals for the first seven months of 2016 to 5,791,504, an increase of 751,388 over the same period last year.

Molewa said the growth in tourism resulted partly from innovative marketing strategies and the tourism incentives given to small businesses. The operational environment for tourism had also improved.

"We have had an improvement of economic diplomacy, regional integration, peacekeeping and building resilience in our country's economy," Molewa said, adding that it was encouraging that during the first months of 2016, about 39.3 billion Rand (about 2.88 billion US dollars) in foreign direct spending in South Africa was achieved.


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