- South Africa is on course to hit 10 million international tourists by 2010, environment affairs and tourism minister disclosed.
Marthinus van Schalkwyk made the disclosure at the launch of Tourism Month in the North West. He said the target could possible be achieved in 2009.
"There is no doubt that South Africa is one of the most sought after destinations in the world, and the figures continue to prove this again and again," Mr. Schalkwyk said.
"In 2007 we really boomed growing faster than the international average, and tourism arrival figures for the first five months of 2008 grew by 7.6%."
Between January and May 2008, the country's tourist arrivals grew by 7.6%. This increase represents almost four million more tourists in Africa's economic powerhouse.
Interestingly, the French market has recorded the highest growth with 20.5%, although South African Airways is yet to launch direct flight routes to Paris, Mr. van Schalkwyk said.
"Europe is experiencing positive growth of 7.4%. Italy and the Netherlands grew by 9.1% and 9.5% respectively while Germany saw good recovery with 5.1% growth.
"Arrivals from the Americas have shown consistent annual growth since 2002 and this year there were over 26,000 more visitors arriving from the United States," he said. This represents an increase of 13.6% over the same period in 2007.
The minister described the Chinese and Indian markets which grew at 17.4% and 16.2%, respectively, as very important.
He said there has been a growth in the African travel base, with air arrivals from Kenya and Nigeria growing by 19.5% while land markets registered 6.4% growth.
"Compared to the figure of less than 600,000 foreign visitors in 1994, the long term growth we have seen is truly something to celebrate," Schalkwyk said.
However, the chief executive officer of South African Tourism Moeketsi Mosola warned that the industry should pay more attention to reducing carbon emissions considering the fact that international visitors were increasingly aware of environment issues.
"There is a growing global trend to support businesses and services that demonstrate environmental responsibility. It makes good business sense, and it is a sound ethical and moral choice, to operate in an environmentally responsible way in this, and in any, industry," he said.
He said there is need for the industry players to be aware that travel was a "carbon expensive activity."
"A round trip for one person from the United Kingdom to Johannesburg, for example, created about 1,500 kgs of carbon dioxide," he said.
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