Johannesburg in South Africa has emerged as the most popular destination city in Africa for the fifth consecutive year, according to the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, released on December 4.
The City of Gold attracted 4.05 million international overnight visitors in 2017, followed closely by Marrakech in Morocco, welcoming 3.93 million international overnight visitors last year. Polokwane (South Africa) received 1.88 million visitors, Cape Town received 1.73 million, and Djerba (Tunisia) welcomed 1.65 million visitors, representing the top five African cities ranked in the index.
Johannesburg also recorded the highest international overnight visitor expenditure among African cities, with travellers spending US$2.14bn in 2017. On average, international visitors stayed, on average, 11 nights and spent US$48 per day in Johannesburg; with shopping accounting for more than 50% of their total spend.
“The City of Gold has once again topped the ranks of this year’s African index, with its mix of shopping and tourism offerings still hitting the mark with international travellers,” says Mark Elliott, Division President of MasterCard Southern Africa. “The ranking is significant for Joburg’s economic prospects as visitor expenditure contributes an important source of revenue to the retail, hospitality, restaurant and cultural sectors.”
The MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index ranks the world’s top 162 destination cities in terms of visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year. It also provides insight on the fastest growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world. This year’s Index ranks 23 major African cities including Cairo (Egypt), Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria), Casablanca (Morocco), Durban (South Africa), Tunis (Tunisia), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Accra (Ghana), Kampala (Uganda), Maputo (Mozambique) and Dakar (Senegal), among others.
According to the City of Johannesburg, the index rating affirms Johannesburg’s position as the major economic and cultural hub in Africa.
“Johannesburg is one of the continent’s most significant metropolises for business, trade, investment and leisure,” says Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor. “The Index re-affirms Johannesburg’s status as a destination that continues to attract international overnight visitors each year due to its continually evolving tourism offerings – from popular shopping destinations and our world-class malls to a wide range of lifestyle, sporting and business events.”
Cape Town and Polokwane ranked third and sixth in terms of the African cities with the highest international overnight visitor expenditure in 2017, with visitors spending US$1.62bn and US$760 million respectively. While visitors to Cape Town stayed on average 12 nights and spent US$75 per day on average, travellers to Polokwane stayed for a shorter period (on average 4 nights), but spent more per day (US$95). Shopping is also a drawcard for visitors to both Cape Town and Polokwane, accounting for 22% and 60% of their total spend respectively.
Cape Town attracted the largest proportion of long-haul visitors in South Africa, with travellers coming from the United Kingdom (14.4%), Germany (12.4%), United States (10.9%), and France (6.6%). Cape Town’s highest number of African visitors came from Namibia (6.2%). Polokwane’s top three countries of origin were Zimbabwe (77.7%), Botswana (6.9%), and the US (2.5%).
“International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists. The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience,” says Elliott. “We’re partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place.”