South Africa ranks 55th globally in terms of tourism development

  • South Africa has been ranked 55th among 119 nations in terms of tourism development by the World Economic Forum.
  • The Department of Tourism has framed it as a win as SA ranks highest among African nations.
  • With tourism a key part of SA’s economy, ranking 55th should not be celebrated.

This week South Africa’s Department of Tourism is beaming following the release of the Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) 2024 by the World Economic Forum.

South Africa specifically ranked 55th globally in relation to 119 regions that were assessed for the report, with local government also highlighting the fact that SA was the highest ranking African nation in the TTDI 2024.

“We are extremely pleased with this ranking as it affirms our commitment and work to elevate the significance and contribution of the tourism sector in South Africa,” Minister of Tourism Patricia de Lille, noted in a briefing. “The tourism sector has achieved robust growth over the past year and this is due to closer partnerships and collaborations with the private sector to grow tourism to its full potential,” she added.

Image sourced from the TTDI 2024 report.

South Africa has seen its ranking rise seven places compared to last year’s report, scoring high in terms of price competitiveness, ICT readiness, natural resources and travel, and tourism socio-economic impact for the 2024 edition.

The price competitiveness aspect may be a plus in terms of our ranking, but the reason for this is based on how poorly the Rand exchange rate is to the US dollar.

Interestingly, however, information gleaned by Statista for tourists in SA between 2021 and 2023 sees the most incomings from African countries. This matches with figures shared by the Tourism department, which says close to 8.5 million international visitors headed to SA in 2023, of which 6.4 million were from the African continent.

This is in stark contrast to pre-COVID numbers, which saw the UK, US, Germany, France, and the Netherlands ranking highest in terms of visitor entry data for 2019, per GoWithGuide.

As for the start of 2024, numbers are on the up too, according to the department. Here it explained that during the first quarter of 2024 (January to March), 2.4 million visitors entered SA from the rest of the world, which represents a 15.4 percent increase when compared with the same period in 2023. 

“We are delighted by the growth and our mission remains to exponentially grow arrival numbers and the overall performance of the tourism sector. The sector already makes a significant contribution to South Africa’s GDP and job creation efforts but there is still so much more to be done. We have been working closer with the private sector and we are bearing fruit,” said De Lille.

“I want to acknowledge and thank the tourism private sector stakeholders for all their hard work and collaborating with government to grow this exciting and important sector. The South Africa tourism sector’s greatest asset is our people and we will continue working to grow tourism’s contribution to the prosperity of people and the planet” the minister concluded.

With the national elections around the corner, and many people anxious regarding the uncertainty of what will happen thereafter, it looks like one of the country’s most important commodities is getting the attention it deserves.

That said, given how key tourism is to SA, ranking higher needs to be a priority.

You can download key statistics from, and read the report in full, here.

[Image – CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED GovernmentZA on Flickr]


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