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Tourism in South Africa

Tourism in South Africa

South Africa recorded a total of four million tourists in 2020, ranking 45th in the world in absolute terms.

Without including the size of a country, such a ranking list may not be very meaningful. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of South Africa, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.065 tourists per resident, South Africa ranked 137th in the world. In Southern Africa, it ranked 5th.

South Africa generated around 2.72 billion US Dollar in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 0.65 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 88 percent of all international tourism receipts in Southern Africa.

A global comparison can be found here › International tourism


Back to overview: South Africa

The most popular city in South Africa for international travelers is Johannesburg. In 2019 it reached the 59th place of the world's most popular cities with 4.21 million tourists.

Tourism in South AfricaOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2020 spent about 591 US Dollars.

Development of the tourism sector in South Africa from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in South Africa each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g. crew members of ships or flights are also not considered as tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 5 countries in Southern Africa.

Tourists per year in South Africa

Revenues in tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 2.65 billion USD, or about 1.5 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 4.68 million tourists at that time and roughly 567 USD per person. Within 25 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, sales took up $9.06 billion billion, 2.3 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $613 on their vacation in South Africa.

In 2020, tourist receipts plummeted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the $9.06 billion billion (2019), only $2.72 billion billion remained. This is a 70 percent decrease in South Africa.

Tourism receipts in South Africa per year

All data for South Africa in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
20203.89 m2.72 bn $0.81 %699 $
201914.80 m9.06 bn $2.3 %613 $
201815.00 m9.79 bn $2.4 %652 $
201714.98 m9.71 bn $2.5 %648 $
201615.12 m8.81 bn $2.7 %582 $
201513.95 m9.14 bn $2.6 %655 $
201414.53 m10.48 bn $2.8 %722 $
201314.32 m10.47 bn $2.6 %731 $
201213.07 m11.20 bn $2.6 %857 $
201112.10 m10.71 bn $2.3 %885 $
201011.30 m10.31 bn $2.5 %912 $
20099.53 m8.68 bn $2.6 %911 $
20089.73 m9.18 bn $2.9 %943 $
20079.21 m10.23 bn $3.1 %1,111 $
20068.51 m9.21 bn $3.0 %1,083 $
20057.52 m8.63 bn $3.0 %1,148 $
20046.82 m7.57 bn $3.0 %1,111 $
20036.64 m6.67 bn $3.4 %1,005 $
20026.55 m3.70 bn $2.9 %564 $
20015.91 m3.26 bn $2.4 %551 $
20006.00 m3.34 bn $2.2 %556 $
19996.03 m3.41 bn $2.2 %565 $
19985.90 m3.42 bn $2.2 %580 $
19975.17 m3.42 bn $2.0 %662 $
19965.19 m3.14 bn $1.9 %605 $
19954.68 m2.65 bn $1.5 %567 $


Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The WTO additionally points out that in some countries the number of tourists is only counted at airports, in others also at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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