Statistics South Africa has recently revealed that last year, international tourist arrivals in South Africa increased by 18% from 2015. The leading source markets were the United Kingdom, United States and Germany, with significant growth in visitors from China and India. Tourist arrivals from African markets also rose by 11% with the highest number of arrivals coming from Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Mozambique.

Premier Hotels & Resorts’ Sales & Marketing Manager, Grant Sandham, attributes the escalation in international tourists to long-haul travellers who had planned to visit South America, opting instead for South Africa in light of the Zika virus outbreak. He says: “This is coupled with our country’s favourable exchange rate and abundant natural beauty.”

He shares that in line with these figures, the Group noted substantial growth in the international leisure market, with the majority of its overseas guests coming from the United States, England, Germany and Austria. There was also an increase in the number of visitors from China and India.

The company’s Brand Manager, Alan Campbell, believes that these tourists chose to stay at Premier Hotels & Resorts because of its “World Class Africa” positioning. “At each of our 16 properties around the country guests get to enjoy an authentic African experience, from the dining experience to the décor. This is becoming increasingly important to international travellers. They don’t want to travel to a foreign country just to end up eating at the same chain fast-food restaurants they have at home. They want to try the local cuisine and return home having experienced everything a destination has to offer. What makes Premier Hotels & Resorts unique is that we are not a division of an international group, we are a home-grown hospitality business that embraces its South African roots and the unique experiences that the country provides.”

He notes too the surge in international traffic to the company’s website and social media platforms. “In the past, people would go to a travel agent. Now, with South Africa starting to position itself internationally, they are more comfortable engaging with local businesses in an online environment.”

In terms of the hotel chain’s guests from other African countries, Campbell reveals that there has been a notable increase. “Half of these visitors came into the country to visit family and the remainder for business, with the bulk arriving from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Botswana.” Regarding those who entered the country for work, Campbell says: “South Africa remains a commercial hub. Despite issues such as government policy and last year’s lowered investor confidence, I think that the country will remain an appealing international investment destination for many years to come.”

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said the robust performance of the tourism sector in 2016 indicates its resilience and its enduring capacity to support jobs, a characteristic of the sector that is especially important for South Africa.

Premier Hotels & Resorts currently supports 1 600 jobs and has set itself a target of generating an additional 400 in the near future. In addition, the company believes in creating employment externally and does so through the use of an array of service providers ranging from audio-visual equipment suppliers to event planners. Campbell states: “We believe that our contribution to employment should extend beyond our own employees to other environments.”

Premier Hotels & Resorts enjoyed a bountiful 2016 and I think that is indicative of a strong market. The exchange rate, while advantageous for foreign tourists, put pressure on locals’ pockets, which led to an increase in the number of domestic leisure trips as opposed to international travels. In addition, business regained some confidence which had a positive impact on conferencing. I sense that both trends will continue in 2017 and anticipate this year to be quite buoyant,” concludes Campbell.

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