Travellers returned to SA in droves in March, latest stats show – even from the US
- Traveller numbers surged dramatically in March, the latest border data from StatSA shows.
- Border crossings hit 600,000, compared to well under 400,000 the month before.
- Many of the tourists in South Africa came from neighbouring countries, but the USA still ranked high as a source of travellers.
- President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday did not announce new travel restrictions, but stressed the need for South Africans to limit themselves to essential travel only.
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New data from Statistics South Africa shows a spike in travel in and out of the country in March, as travel restrictions lightened, even while global travel remained severely constrained.
On Sunday night President Cyril Ramaphosa put considerable emphasis on the need for South Africans to reduce travel to essential trips only, in anticipation of a third wave of coronavirus infections, though he announced no new restrictions.
Over 600,000 travellers passed through the country’s borders in March 2021, compared to about 386,000 in February, data from the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) immigration offices at all ports of entry shows.
The numbers show a deep decline in travellers in and out of the country between March 2020 and March 2021, as travel bans stopped cross-border travel except in exceptional circumstances. But in February, government’s decision to reopen 20 of its 53 land borders to neighbouring countries saw a sudden return, then a surge in numbers in March.
The vast majority of visitors to the country in February and March were from the SADC region – and over 75% of them drove here.
International travel in and out of the country has been allowed subject to strict conditions and limited airports, since November 2020.
Overall, the data shows the drastic decline in the movement of people, both South African and foreign, in and out of the country since the start of the pandemic.
The number of arrivals for SA residents into the country decreased by 66.9% from March 2020 to March 2021 (314,022 to 103,933). Departures decreased by 60.9% over the year and, and transits decreased by 87.6%.
For foreign travellers, arrivals decreased by 74.2% over the year (863,232 to 223,135). Departures decreased by 78.7% (905,186 to 193,117) and transits decreased by 84.8%).
But from February to March 2021, the number of travellers, mostly tourists, moving through the country’s borders, spiked.
For SA residents, arrivals increased by 60%. Departures increased by 66.2% and transits increased by 8.9%. For foreign travellers, arrivals increased by 63.5%.
The DHA recorded the vast majority of travellers in March 2021 as tourists, at 85.3% – though still a far cry from the 535,000 tourists who arrived in March 2020.
The majority of tourists who came to SA in March were from Mozambique. Despite its concerns about the Covid-19 variant found in SA, the number of tourists from the USA still saw it among the top ten countries visiting SA.
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