Current Tourism Stats Are Meaningless

29th August 2012

The crux of the problem is that many of these good news articles flow from Statistics SA’s tourism arrival numbers. From what I am seeing on the ground, I do not believe that there will be any meaningful growth in hospitality occupancies and rates in the next few years unless Stats SA can provide more accurate and meaningful incoming tourist arrival data and SA Tourism can dramatically improve on their abysmal international marketing efforts.
Can anyone imagine running a large business without accurate numbers?  Yet, the tourism stakeholders have to rely on flawed data to run their businesses. The tourism arrival statistics trotted out by Stats SA and used by the Minister and SA Tourism to glowingly trumpeting their “successes” do not paint the accurate picture of what is happening in South Africa. The Minister and the SA Tourism officials have a vested interest in proclaiming the current tourism arrival statistics that make them look good. In my view, these optimistic tourism arrival stats and projections are only successful in keeping the Minister and SA Tourism staff in their well-paid jobs while those who desperately need the jobs are being retrenched because we do not have nearly enough genuine tourist arrivals.
Until SA Tourism starts to effectively market SA abroad and Stats SA starts to deliver reliable and accurate tourism data that details the true number of actual bed nights spent in the country by genuine foreign visitors, the tourism industry will continue to not deliver on its potential and yet another great opportunity to uplift all our peoples, especially those in the rural areas, will be lost.
To remedy the problems, SA Tourism needs to employ capable and experienced people in their foreign offices who have proven selling careers coupled with the drive to dramatically increase tourism arrivals from their destinations.

Listed below are just of few of the issues that slant our tourism arrival statistics, which need to be fixed to make our arrival statistics accurate and meaningful so that businesses and our tourism authorities can plan where to effectively spend their marketing time and money:

•    Tourism arrivals are only counted in total numbers and the most important statistic, the visitors length of stay in SA remains an unknown.

•    One Lesotho shopper who travels to South Africa 100 times a year is counted as 100 tourists.

•    One American who is travelling to Botswana / East Africa on their safari can be counted as two tourists – once on arrival from the USA and then duplicated when travelling back into SA from Africa before flying back home.

•    We have no idea if the 43,000 British “tourists” who visited SA in March 2012 are actually from Britain as we do not measure the country of residence of our arrivals.  A large number of these UK “tourists” could have been expats living in our neighbouring countries visiting SA on shopping trips – or many could be permanent residents of countries like Singapore or UAE.  How can you create successful marketing campaigns if you do not know where your customer lives?  

•    How many Oriental “tourists” are construction workers transiting through Johannesburg en-route to countries elsewhere in Africa? These same “tourists” are counted a second time when they head home again at the end of their contracts.

•    How many of our “tourists” are ex-South Africans visiting family?
These are just a few of many issues that distort our arrival numbers and render our tourism arrival statistics ineffective. Tourism statistics should be collected on departure (like they do very successfully in Australia) where key questions are asked and answers gained via an easily read bar-card that will deliver quick, accurate statistics within weeks after month end and allow all stakeholders to learn who is travelling into SA and why. Once we know these numbers accurately, then surveys conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and other institutions will be able to predict our future potential with more accuracy.

Sourced from: Tourism Update