South Africa has once again proved to be a firm favourite among international tourists as the sector in January recorded an increase in the number of visitors compared with the same month a year ago.
Figures released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Monday show that overseas tourist numbers rose from 14% to 245 074 in January 2017, compared with January 2016.
Visitors from France (34.1%), Sweden (28.6%) and China (28.3%) contributed to the rise.
Tourism contributes about 9% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and was allocated an extra R494 million in the 2017 Budget to help the sector grow.
In March 2016, there were 1 435 879 foreign arrivals to South Africa. In January 2015, visitor numbers fell 6.8%, with many citing the introduction of the new visa regulations as the reason for the dip. Home Affairs introduced the regulations in an effort to curb child trafficking.
After strong objection from the tourism industry, Home Affairs relaxed some of the regulations in February 2016.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has welcomed the growth in tourist numbers, saying it was a positive start to 2017.
According to the Department of Tourism, during the first months of 2016, up to R39.3 billion in foreign direct spend was achieved in South Africa.