Joburg welcomes record 4,57 mil visitors, still faces job seeker influx problem

Joburg saw the most international visits of any African city last year. Photo: Pixabay.

Not only is Johannesburg South Africa’s economic hub, it also attracted the most international travellers, who ended up spending US$2.56 billion (R34.5 billion) in the City of Gold last year.

This is parallel to the influx of people moving to the city, growing its population by thousands each year.

Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index ranked Joburg the most populous destination city on the continent, welcoming 4.57 million international overnight visitors last year. This is an impressive 24 per cent increase in the previous year’s 3.69 million visitors.

Anton van der Merwe, head of market development at Mastercard, South Africa said, “[Joburg] has shown the highest year-on-year growth in visitor numbers of all the African cities ranked in the 2016 index, illustrating that its mix of shopping centres, iconic attractions and tourism offerings is clearly hitting the mark with international travellers.

“Significantly, Joburg also reported a four per cent increase in international expenditure from 2015 – much greater than South Africa’s GDP growth of 0,3 per cent in 2016. This indicates that Johannesburg is well positioned to be an engine of broad economic growth for the country.”

The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks the world’s top 132 destination cities in terms of visitor volume and spend for the 2016 calendar year. It also provides insight on the fastest growing destination cities and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend their money around the world.

Van der Merwe said some 78 per cent of Johannesburg’s international overnight visitors in 2016 travelled from the middle and east Africa region.

Joburg’s Executive Mayor, Herman Mashaba said travel and tourism are increasingly important pillars of Johannesburg’s economy, with growth in this sector creating jobs and prosperity for our residents.

“Johannesburg’s malls, restaurants, trade conferences, expos and sporting and cultural events add up to a compelling tourism package that continues to attract international visitors – both from neighbouring African countries and abroad.”

Van der Merwe said cities that apply technology to simplify services and connect people with their passion points can become true destination cities and realize the benefits of increased visitors and greater spending.

But Joburg also faces the challenges of a 10 per cent influx of new residents every year. Many come to Joburg seeking work, but with about 50 per cent of youth unemployed, the outlook is bleak. A greater need for low-cost housing and densification is putting pressure on developers. The City has, however, put forth incentives for developers who plan to build close to key transportation and business nodes and in the inner city.

By growing Johannesburg’s economy by five per cent in 2021, Mashaba said the administration is working hard to turn this around.


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